published Monday, December 5th, 2011

Hamilton County officials to present 2012 state priorities today

Hamilton County officials will meet with their state delegation today to propose legislative changes for next year's session of the General Assembly.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger released a draft of his priority list to county commissioners Thursday for comment. The lunch meeting to discuss the list will be at 11:30 a.m. at the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Commissioner Warren Mackey criticized Coppinger's inclusion of a request to "oppose mandatory collective bargaining between local governments and labor unions."

"The government ought to serve people and not the people serve the government," Mackey said.

"It's the 'mandatory' collective bargaining I'm opposed to," Coppinger said. "We keep an open line of communication with our employees."

Plus, the change wouldn't affect any general county government workers, he said, because they are not unionized.

Commissioner Joe Graham signaled his support for the collective bargaining request.

"I think people should be able to bargain on their own," he said.

Mackey responded, "You're not for the working people of this state."

Graham also recommended that the commission ask the state to classify pseudoephedrine -- a major ingredient in methamphetamine -- as a controlled substance, which would make it available by prescription only. Other states have taken the step and seen a drastic reduction in methamphetamine production and the costs associated with it, he said.

Currently under Tennessee law, anyone who buys a product that contains pseudoephedrine -- usually cold-relief products -- must show a driver's license and be put in a statewide database that restricts the amount of pseudoephedrine a person can buy at one time or over the course of a month.

Coppinger said the county's top priorities are its request for full funding of the state's Basic Education Program and payment to cover the increasing costs of housing state inmates in the county jail.

"Those are things the county taxpayer has to step up significantly to help fund," Coppinger said. "We're very cognizant of the fact that the state has financial issues as well."

Other county officeholders plan to make requests.

County Trustee Bill Hullander is asking the state to stop requiring counties to purchase properties not sold when they're auctioned off for delinquent property taxes. Currently the county must buy and then manage leftover tax sale properties.

"We're wanting to have it just be optional to buy the property," he said.

Some properties, which the county must buy at the cost of the amount of back taxes due, end up costing counties money or becoming liabilities, Hullander said.

In those situations, counties should be able to leave the property with its delinquent property owner, he said.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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