Lawmaker’s bill would make I-69 work a crime

On January 27, 2010, in News 2010, by Mark Norris

East Tennessean fears loss of state sovereignty

By Richard Locker,
January 27, 2010

NASHVILLE — An East Tennessee lawmaker has filed a bill to make it a criminal act for the state to contract for any work on any portion of Interstate 69 or any other highway project designed to link Canada, the United States and Mexico.

The design, and in some places the construction, of Interstate 69 is slowly moving along in West Tennessee.

But Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, has filed House Bill 2785 to make it a Class E felony under the state’s criminal code for any officer of the Tennessee Department of Transportation to enter knowingly into any contract for work on I-69.

West Tennessee supporters of I-69 see it as a major new highway and economic development corridor for the Mid-South.

Hill said Tuesday that the bill is a “placeholder” for an amendment he will draft later, after his research is complete, that will rewrite the bill to address what it really is about.

“The whole purpose is to keep our state sovereignty intact,” said Hill, whose district is 480 miles from Memphis. “I’m not against the roads. I’m against ceding over our state sovereignty to international authority.”

Hill, one of the General Assembly’s most conservative members, said the international authority he is concerned about is the Strategic Partnership for Prosperity — an initiative that, according to its Web site, was launched by former President George W. Bush and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts “to increase security and enhance prosperity among the three nations through greater cooperation.”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville — whose district encompasses most of I-69’s proposed route through West Tennessee — said the interstate “is very important to the nation’s transportation infrastructure, international concerns aside.”

Asked whether he believes the bill has a chance of winning legislative approval, Norris replied, “Oh, of course not.”

Shelby County Dist. Atty Gen. Bill Gibbons, who is running for governor, issued a statement today strongly condemning the bill.

Said Gibbons: “This proposed bill is a serious threat to West Tennessee job creation. The number one thing that state government can do to attract jobs in West Tennessee is to help provide the basic infrastructure that businesses will need to relocate here. The completion of I-69, the Haywood County megasite, and the Northwest Tennessee port are major pieces of my economic development plan. The bill to criminilize state employees for doing their job is wrong and reflects a fundamental disregard for the economic condition in which rural West Tennessee finds itself,” Gibbons said.


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