Legislators believe in controlling the locals?

Legislators recently have moved toward authorizing beer consumption on some downtown Nashville sidewalks while moving against allowing the so-called Amp mass transit project pushed by the city’s mayor. This has inspired a Michael Cass essay:

State lawmakers believe in local control — except when they believe in controlling the locals.

That would seem to be the message out of the General Assembly last week. Just as a Nashville mass transit project was gaining momentum, House Republicans decided to play engineer for a day and gave the city a little unfriendly design guidance. Around the same time, news emerged that a few GOP legislators had responded bizarrely, maybe frighteningly, to two women’s questions about a plan to stop cities from banning guns in local parks.

But it wasn’t just a Republican thing. Two Nashville Democrats sponsored legislation to let downtown bars sell to-go cups of liquor and beer, which the Metro Council said would “endanger the public safety and ultimately harm downtown businesses.”

Council members would have to OK the idea of portable booze on city streets, so they would have ultimate control of that particular situation. But you wouldn’t know it from the way the “enabling legislation” was introduced: without their knowledge.

…Republicans routinely rage against the federal machine, demanding more state control and fewer mandates like the Affordable Care Act. But they don’t always practice what they preach.

Three years ago, after the Metro Council voted to require city contractors to pledge not to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the General Assembly passed its own bill negating the move. In 2012, Republicans introduced bills that would have dramatically affected planning and zoning across the state.

…Opposing state funding for the project — Metro has said it will need $35 million but hasn’t asked for it yet — is one thing. But frustrated Amp backers say telling a city how to design a project is getting deep in the weeds of local growth policy.

“This is a local issue with regional implications, and those solutions need to be created here,” said Ralph Schulz, president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “This community is having a healthy debate, and that’s where the debate ought to be.”

But if things keep moving the same way, lawmakers might try to dictate the color of the buses — or the to-go cups.