Ford Motor Company wants to invest $5.6 billion into a West Tennessee factory that will build electric vehicles and the batteries that run them. Now Tennessee lawmakers have approved a $884 million package deal that should clear the way.
But controversy abounds, and not everybody is likely to be happy with what this means for their future.
What does the new bill do?
The bill, which was proposed by Gov. Bill Lee and finalized over a special three-day legislative session, would create a new regulatory authority to oversee the development of the Memphis Regional Megasite.
The legislation would also hand over about $500 million to Ford (as an incentive to bring more of the electric car industry to the state, along with jobs and other benefits). Further, about $384 million will be put toward repairing the state’s infrastructure, or expanding and improving it.
Many people (including some lawmakers) question, however, whether or not the new regulatory authority that this bill would create will have too much power. In particular, they are concerned about the yet-unnamed agency’s ability to invoke eminent domain to accomplish its development goals.
Why is this a problem?
Eminent domain allows the government to take private land in exchange for fair compensation (without the permission of the land’s owners) — but the new bill would put this power into a regulatory board that isn’t part of the government directly. Efforts to limit the board’s power to seize private land by requiring it to go through local governments and subjecting their actions to legislative reviews and annual audits by the state failed.
Even though a lot of people are happy about the prospect that the Ford development will bring new jobs and more wealth to the area, it may all come with a price that seems very dear to those who end up having their property taken.
Any eminent domain issue can get complicated, and it’s hard to understand your rights without experienced legal guidance.