NASHVILLE — Two bills designed to help Sevier County rebound from the devastating November wildfires passed unanimously in the State Senate on Monday. Senate Bill 964, sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) gives local governments the authority to go on private property at the request of the property owner to clean up debris. Senate Bill 114 , sponsored by Sen. Overbey, Senator Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), allows a local governing body, by a two-thirds vote, to provide tax relief on real and personal property damaged by the wildfire.
The bills are the first proposals passed by the State Senate this year addressing the fires which began on a remote trail in the park before sweeping through Gatlinburg and other communities in Sevier County.
“Both bills are part of a multi-step plan to help Sevier County rebound and come back even stronger than before,” said Sen. Overbey.
The clean-up bill would help Gatlinburg get reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for removing debris on private residential property that is not low income, elderly or disabled. It would allow the city of Gatlinburg to clean up all private residences in a declared FEMA disaster area.
Overbey said, “There are a lot of out-of-state, out-of-town residences and it’s going to be important to the recovery effort to get everything cleaned up and back in order for tourism. This legislation will assist in the clean-up effort and allow for the city to get reimbursement from FEMA for that purpose.”
The tax relief bill is modeled after similar legislation which granted tax relief to victims of the 2010 floods in Nashville. The legislation calls for prorating the 2016 tax assessment for a homeowner’s real property or business owner’s personal property, if the property was damaged by 50% or more. It would not become effective until approved by a two-third vote of the local governing body of the county and/or city in which the property is located. If the tax computed for the 2016 tax year has been paid prior to the proration, the victim would receive a refund under the bill. The legislation is retroactive to January 1, 2016.
“This bill would provide a measure of tax relief to owners for property damaged in the disaster,” said Senator Overbey.
“We will continue to search for ways to help our Sevier County communities rebound from this disaster during the remainder of the 2017 legislative session,” Overbey concluded.