Tennessee lawmakers gave final approval on Wednesday to a nearly $ 900 million spending package aimed at paving the way for Ford Motor Company’s $ 5.6 billion investment in an electric vehicle plant and batteries in western Tennessee.
The bills, proposed by Gov. Bill Lee’s administration and amended by lawmakers during the three-day special session this week, would establish an authority overseeing the development of the Memphis regional megasite in Haywood County, would distribute 500 million dollars in incentives to Ford and would spend $ 384 million on infrastructure projects, workforce development, authority spending and other services.
The legislation received overwhelming support from the legislature on Wednesday.
But the Ford deal was not without debate as lawmakers scrambled to put their own imprint on the legislative package.
Throughout the three-day session, House and Senate lawmakers argued that the legislature should strengthen the power of the government agency due to fears that it wields too much authority, while increasing the power of the government agency. amount of the remuneration of the members of the board of directors.
Under the legislation, the agency will have a wide range of powers over contracts, land acquisition, management of water services and more. For example, the board of directors will have the power to use the eminent domain – a power given to government entities to seize private land without the owners’ consent, provided they are fairly remunerated.
The agreement will be subject to clawback provisions already in state law. The Ministry of Community and Economic Development has the power to recover funds if Ford does not keep its promise, and the agency must publish any report related to the funds.
Ford plans to create around 5,800 jobs at the site as part of the development plans.
Several amendments giving local counties some control over the project and the board of directors and applying restrictions on union activities have died on House soil.
Rep Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, unsuccessful proposed an amendment this would force the council to go through local governments to seize private land, subject the authority to legislative review and annual audit by the state comptroller’s office, and force workers to vote by secret ballot for unionize, among other things.
Ford officials said the plant’s decision to unionize would be up to workers.
Cepicky, along with Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro and Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, voted against the Ford package.
In the Senate, the Senses. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, Mark Pody, R-Lebanon and Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield voted against the legislation. Senator Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, then voted against the Senate conforming to the House’s version of the bill.
The total cost will exceed $ 884 million in the following years
The $ 884 million package includes a $ 500 million grant to Ford. Another $ 138.2 million, channeled through the Ministry of Community and Economic Development, would help pay for infrastructure work, structural demolition and more.
Additionally, the state will spend $ 40 million to build a Tennessee College of Applied Technology near the megasite to provide skilled workers for the electric vehicle plant. Another $ 200 million will go to the Department of Transportation for road construction, and $ 5 million will be used to fund legal services.
The cost of the authority’s first year, which is part of the $ 884 million package, is now $ 745,100, up from $ 675,000 previously estimated.
Eleven members now govern the Megasite Authority of West Tennessee, compared to seven originally proposed. They include the governor ex officio, two persons appointed by the governor, two by the speaker of the House, two by the lieutenant governor, one person jointly appointed by the two presidents and the commissioners for economic and community development, finance and administration and general services. These commissioners could also appoint someone in their place.
Appointed members will earn $ 2,000 per month for the first three years since the creation of the authority, while ex officio officers will only receive travel reimbursements.
The governor can appoint the first CEO to manage the site, but the CEO serves at the pleasure of the board. The salary for this position is $ 175,000 with almost $ 34,000 in benefits.
The State will have to assume the operating costs of the authority in the years to come, according to the tax note attached to the legislation. The authorization will cost about $ 1 million each year in the second and third years, and the cost will rise to over $ 900,000 in the fourth year and $ 870,000 the following year.
This is a developing story.
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