What’s mission critical? Business groups take issue with bill to change property tax appeals

A bill to change the way the state handles appeals of property assessments is raising red flags among members of the state’s business community.

The state Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business argue the proposal sponsored by Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) and Rep. Esther Helton (R-East Ridge) will result in higher property taxes. It’s the sort of bill that would usually draw a lot of debate between various interests, but the closure of the Capitol complex to the public means there has been no expert testimony or ability for advocates to speak with members about the measure.

The business groups question whether the proposal falls under the heading of mission critical legislation that needs to be passed before the General Assembly goes on at least a two-month break due to the spread of the coronavirus. Similar concerns are being raised about bills seeking to govern election registration drives and to grant local governments more leeway on public meetings requirements.

Here’s the letter sent by the business associations to House members this morning:

Good morning, Members of the House Local Government Committee.

NFIB asks for your vote of NO on HB 2348 by Rep. Helton. We share the following concerns with regards to transparency and open debate and the potential impact on Tennessee taxpayers.

  • The bill is NOT listed on the posted public calendar for today’s 8 a.m. hearing but is listed as being scheduled for today under the actual bill page, at the time of this email transmission.
  • Because of understandable restrictions placed on access to public buildings, you will not be hearing arguments either from proponents or opponents on this very substantive bill today that impacts property-owning taxpayers and local governments.
  • We disagree with some who say the legislation is “mission essential” to pass now. This debate has been ongoing since last fall and can wait until you hear from experts when session reconvenes later this year.
  • The Senate amendment was only adopted yesterday, with no testimony from interested parties and experts on both sides. The House amendment adopted in subcommittee is still not on the state website as of this morning.
  • The vote will undo Tennessee law that has been in existence since 1984 (Laurel Hill Apartments), under which the full State Board ruled “as a matter of law, property in Tennessee is required to be valued and equalized according to ‘Market Value Theory.’ … Property is to be appraised annually at full market value and equalized by application of the appropriate appraisal ratio.”
  • Many taxpayers will see significantly higher property tax rates, if this bill passes, which arguably will be viewed by some as a backdoor tax increase.

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