Sen. Jeff Mullis and Tennessee/Ga Water
Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) makes regular trips to Tennessee to talk about a myriad of issues. Forty-two percent of his district make the trip to Chattanooga everyday for work. Geography makes this an important issue for Sen. Mullis. It’s been his practice to spend time in Tennessee working on economic development for his constituents and to talk a little Georgia/Tennessee politics, including water policy. Water was not the purpose of this trip to Tennessee this month. However, in the wake of the passing of House Resolution 4 on the “accessing” of water from the Tennessee River, water talk was bound to come up.
Today, the AP wrote this about his most recent trip:
Ga. senator opposed to border resolution cheered
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee lawmakers gave rousing applause to welcome a Georgia senator who opposed a resolution calling for redrawing the border between the two states.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville introduced Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga, Ga., during a floor session on Wednesday.
Norris joked that Mullis was not in exile because of his position on the Georgia-Tennessee border dispute.
Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga gave Mullis a signed coffee cup of water to take back to Atlanta.
Georgia lawmakers argue that an 1818 survey misplaced what should have been the state line at 35th parallel. If Tennessee’s southern border stretched along the parallel, Georgia could take water from the Tennessee River.
The resolution calls for Georgia’s attorney general to sue if negotiations with Tennessee fail.
I caught up with Sen. Mullis right after the story ran. He told me, “My perspective is that when there is a disagreement, you should talk before litigation. I said from the beginning I was going to vote no and say nothing” He also stressed he works with Tennessee often and did not bring the water issue up on his recent trip.
Mullis said, “Speaker Ralston and I went up about a year a half ago and met with leadership and the Tennessee Deputy Governor, which is like the Chief of Staff in Georgia. They said that no one from Georgia has ever talked to us about it . We need to start talking first.”
I talked to Brad Carver of Hall, Booth, Smith law firm. Carver was the moving force behind the resolution. He’s happy the resolution passed. He hopes the Governor will sign it. He thinks it will open the door to a number of win-win negotiations between Georgia and Tennessee.
Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) also voted against the resolution. He says he thinks Carver is absolutely right and has a very good case to get the border to it’s historical and accurate 35th Parallel. The water dispute with Tennessee is born of a border dispute on the books since 1818.
Cowsert’s issue is with the relevance of dealing with this in the legislature. “We dealt with the 5 years ago and faced ridicule for dealing with something beyond the scope of legislative action,” Cowsert said. The legislature can’t file lawsuits, so HR 4 really has no teeth. He went on to say, “I am very confident we are on sound footing with the claim. It would be a slam dunk of a lawsuit. The legislature encouraged Governor Perdue to take action 5 years ago but in the midst of the Tri-State Water War, didn’t want to be provocative and that was the right decision at that time.”
House Resolution 4 passed overwhelmingly in both chambers of the Georgia Legislature. This resolution can go forward without the Governor’s signature, but the Governor is considering signing it. But this debate isn’t over and I tend to thing there needs to be some discussion between the Governors of Tennessee and Georgia, the Attorneys General of Tennessee and Georgia and the Congressional delegations of both states. That is where legally this will be solved.
More to come of this. Let’s have some water.
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