Watson gave a brief overview of several bills that had recently been passed and discussed Corridor K.
“I passed a bill this last session that basically allows if your house or business was affected by the tornadoes, all of your sales tax will be refunded if you rebuild your business or house,” Watson said. “Very few people in Bradley County have taken advantage of this new bill.”
“If you know anybody who had their house torn down by the tornado, either the one back in 2011 or this past April, then tell them to contact my office so we can get them in contact with the right people for their sales tax.”
According to Watson, the Corridor K project will be 100 percent financed by Appalachian funds. He said he believed the project would benefit the whole of Southeast Tennessee, as well as North Carolina.
“The only thing we have to fight right now are the groups fighting for the squirrels, rocks, and trees,” Watson said.
A Kiwanis member asked Watson when he thought the project would be complete. Watson said he could not give a definitive answer.
“The reason these projects take so long is because people disagree about the cost of the property. Lines are changed and the matter is taken to court. When people go to court then the construction stops,” Watson said. “We haven’t even begun the lawsuits for the K Corridor.”
Watson said the lawsuits will go beyond the state.
“The money is there and all of the state officials are on board, but the feds are reneging because of the out-of-state groups who are upset,” Watson said.
Out of state groups include environmentalists from New York, California, and Maine, according to Watson. He said these groups are fighting the project at Tennessee Department of Transportation meetings.
“Call me old-fashioned, but if you don’t have any business here, then stay on the other side of the river,” Watson said. “... What business do you have here? Where were you when we had a rock slide?”
Further updates from Watson revealed the termination of the gift tax and lowering of the so-called death tax.
“We made history [this past year in Nashville]. It was the first time we have ever cut taxes the way we did,” Watson said. “You had to pay a gift tax on items over $13,000 you wanted to give away. This was ridiculous because you paid the tax on the item when you first purchased it. We’ve done away with that tax.”
Watson said the death tax will be slowly phased out over the next couple of years. He said bank matters often required baby steps to curve a huge and detrimental impact. Watson told the Kiwanis club a story that he said made many shake their heads in shock.
“Back in 2007, a lady called me and said, ‘Eric, how can a lady be teaching in the state of Georgia in Whitfield County who raped a 13-year-old kid in Bradley County?’ I said that’s impossible and she said, ‘Well there is a lady that went to court for raping a 13-year-old kid and she is still teaching.’”
Watson looked into the matter and discovered the caller was correct. He said the woman’s attorney discovered this was her first crime and had her sign a pretrial diversion.
According to Watson, a pretrial diversion basically says a person has never been in trouble and he or she will not get in trouble for the next 12 months. The teacher never went to court and the crime was wiped clean from her record.
“It took me four years, but this past year we passed a bill that says if you rape a kid you are not eligible for pretrial diversion. You will get 25 years minimum, plus an ankle bracelet on your foot for the rest of your life,” Watson said.
Watson closed by reminding the Kiwanians he was one of the only elected officials to still have his name in the phone book. He said people should feel free to call his office.
The Kiwanis Club will be hosting a “Pooches to Pedigrees” dog show this Saturday at the Tri-State Exhibition Center. Admission will be $1 per car with a contest entry fee of $5 per category. Registration will run from 9 to 10:15 a.m.