Pody: Impasse on hotel/motel tax for Expo Ctr.
AMELIA MORRISON HIPPS
Although he was not on the agenda, District 46 State Rep. Mark Pody gave the Wilson County Commission Monday night an update on the two private acts sent to the General Assembly regarding funding for the proposed Expo Center.
The Lebanon representative told the body that both pieces of legislation are on his plate and no other lawmakers’ plates at this time.
“I can't ask the senator to sign onto to something she has not seen or Rep. Lynn,” the Republican said referring to District 17 State Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and District 57 State Rep. Susan Lynn also of Mt. Juliet and both fellow Republicans.
“I am hoping to have the $1 surcharge filed sometime this week. There's a couple of issues that we're trying to work out for language, to make sure it's in proper form. I'm hoping to have that done within 48 to 72 hours,” he said.
However, Pody said at this point, the resolution passed by the county commission in December asking for the ability to raise the county’s hotel/motel tax up to 3 percent “would be a dead issue” if he were to introduce it now.
“The second one, the 3 percent, I believe that if it goes in right now, I don't have the votes in anyway to get it through,” he said.
He told the county commission that as of Monday, he believed very single legislator had received something from Hilton Hotels asking them to vote against the 3 percent.
“It’s being lobbied hard down there for us not to have it.”
Pody explained that he has talked with the lobbyists and the hotel/motel owners, and that all are concerned that if it passes, then next year the county commission would turn around and ask for another 1 percent and then another 1 percent, to the maximum allowed, the year after that.
“I've asked them if I were to tell them and give them my word saying, 'As long as I'm a legislator, no matter what was passed by this body, even it's two-thirds, I promise them I wouldn't carry it,’ if that would make a difference,” Pody said.
“However, I don't want to speak for you, because I've always said if you give me something with two-thirds, I would carry it,” he continued. “But I don't want to negotiate and have that tie you all up saying, ‘I'm not going to carry something, if we're in that position.’
“I'm talking to them every single day. As it stands right now, I simply don't have the votes at subcommittee to get it out at 3 percent.”
District 14 Commissioner Jeff Joines, who has spearheaded the effort to have the Expo Center built at the James A. Ward Agricultural Center, asked why Robertson County did not have trouble getting their hotel/motel tax raised from 5 to 8 percent last year.
“We have a resolution from Mt. Juliet, and that's down there as well, saying they're against it,” Pody said. “I don't believe Robertson County had any opposition when they were going through it.”
“So it's the opposition from Mt. Juliet that's knocking this in the head?” Joines asked.
“I'm saying we've got opposition from a lot of different parties,” Pody replied.
Joines then asked if Pody was looking for direction from the commissioners to go down and negotiate.
“I'm telling you I've already asked them if they would accept just 1 percent. They told me no. They said that they believe you would be right back next year with another 1 or 2 percent,” Pody said.
However, he said he could go back and say this would be the final one for the next 10 years. “I don’t have a lot more to negotiate. I don’t have a lot more to give. I don’t want to see this die. I want to do everything I possibly can to fulfill what this body has sent me to do. But I am at an impasse today,” Pody said.
“I think we're standing on the threshold of history here,” Joines said. “Never in the history of Wilson County have we not gotten a private act passed.”
He then asked County Attorney Mike Jennings if the commission had the ability to move the amount in the resolution from 3 to 1 percent maximum.
Jennings said they could if they suspended the rules and took a vote.
Pody added, “If you want me to continue to try and negotiate something different than what you sent me, it would have to come back here for your two-thirds vote.”
District 22 Commissioner Wendell Marlowe made a motion to suspend the rules, which was seconded by District 20 Commissioner Annette Stafford. The motion passed 19-5, with commissioners Chad Barnard of District 4, Frank Bush of District 8, Nathan Clariday of District 10, Jim Bradshaw of District 11 and Jason Brockman of District 16 all voting no.
With the same individuals voting the same way, the motion to allow Pody to negotiate passed 19-5.
Correspondent Amelia Morrison Hipps may be contacted at email@example.com.