Bill would nullify Nashville local labor preference

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Williamson County senator who endorsed the losing candidate in the Nashville mayor’s election last week has filed a bill seeking to nullify a local hiring requirement approved by the city’s voters.

Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin filed the bill (SB1434) on Monday to overturn Nashville’s charter amendment and to ban any other community from enacting a similar measure. Johnson endorsed hedge fund manager David Fox in the mayoral run-off election held Thursday. Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry, who supports the local hire provision, beat Fox by 10 percentage points.

The ballot measure earned 58 percent of the vote in Nashville’s general election in August. It requires contractors on public construction projects worth more than $100,000 to assign at least 40 percent of work hours to employees who live within the city. It also mandates that 10 percent of worker hours go to low-income residents of the city.

“More than half of workers in Middle Tennessee reside in another county,” Johnson said in his announcement of the legislation being filed. “This amendment discriminates against thousands of workers who commute short distances from adjoining counties.”

Johnson’s bill is the latest effort by the Republican-dominated Legislature to overrule local elected officials.

State lawmakers in 2011 enacted a bill to overturn Nashville’s ordinance requiring businesses seeking to do business with the city to ban discrimination against gay and lesbian employees. And last year, they passed a bill to allow the State Board of Education to overrule local elected school boards in the state’s four largest counties if they reject applications by charter school operators.

The local hire provision was pushed by the Laborers’ International Union of North America and a social justice group called Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, which argued that local tax dollars should be used to create jobs for local residents.

The measure was opposed by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and by term-limited Mayor Karl Deal, a Democrat who argued it would increase costs to government. Critics also note that the requirement doesn’t apply to out-of-state businesses.

Johnson called the measure “misguided.”

“It will result in increased costs to taxpayers in a wide variety of ways, including less competition for contracts, delayed construction projects, and greater administrative costs,” he said. “But most of all, it has a chilling effect on the economic growth and development of this area and Tennessee as a whole.”

Note: This updates, expands and replaces previous post.