Knox Chamber Declares Nicely 'Hostile to Business'

The Knoxville Chamber has declared state Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, "hostile to business" because of a series of bills he has introduced this session.

Niceley has bills that would require Chamber meeting minutes to be public records, that all owners of an LLC selling or renting property to government be disclosed and that in purchasing of land taken by eminent domain the property owner be paid an appraised value equal to its eventual worth as rezoned industrial property rather than an appraisal at its current value. Niceley also has a bill allowing counties to vote on returning school superintendents to an elected office rather than having them appointed by school boards, something the Chamber has long opposed. (The superintendent legislation was requested by resolutions from the Knox County Commission and the Jefferson County Commission, the two counties Niceley represents.)

The declaration from the Chamber has been provoked primarily by another Niceley bill that forbids the use of public money to take farmland classified as Class I, II or III for an industrial use in counties where the air quality is rated as "non-attainment" by the EPA. This bill, designed to derail the Norfolk Southern intermodal facility in New Market, has been flagged for opposition by the Bredesen administration and has been protested by local governments in Jefferson County. Niceley has amended the bill to allow eminent domain if the County Commission approves it by a two-thirds majority and to clarify that it does not prevent public funds for a purchase if there is a willing seller.