House joins Senate to repeal Nashville local hiring law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Republican-controlled state House gave final approval Thursday to a bill nullifying a local hiring requirement approved by Nashville voters last year, sending the measure to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

The ballot measure that earned 58 percent of the vote in August 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 — and that 10 percent go to low-income residents.

But Republican in the Legislature were quick to bring legislation to block those rules, arguing that the local hiring requirement discriminates against workers living in surrounding counties.

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Pat Marsh of Shelbyville was approved on a 72-20 vote. The Senate earlier in the week passed the bill on a 27-5 vote. He said Nashville’s rules would lead to higher construction costs, building delays and more bureaucracy.

“This will ensure that Tennessee has consistent hiring policies and practices for the construction industry all across the state,” Marsh said.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said in a statement after the vote that she was disappointed in the Legislature for “overturning the will of the voters.”

Democratic Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville said the move sets “a horrible precedent” by undoing the result of an election.

“This bill takes totally away from Nashville its ability to maintain local control of its government,” Jones said. “This General Assembly wants to change our county charter. ”

“All this talk in the General Assembly about local control is nothing more than a lie,” she said.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said she was disappointed at the Legislature for “overturning the will of the voters.”

Marsh noted that Nashville’s local hiring rules cannot apply to out-of-state workers because of federal interstate commerce rules.

“If we don’t do this, do you know that workers from Franklin, Kentucky, could come work on projects in Metro Nashville, while workers from Franklin, Tennessee, would not be able to do it?” he said.

Marsh’s bill is the latest move by Republicans in the legislature to overrule local elected officials.

The state in 2011 enacted a law to overturn Nashville’s ordinance requiring businesses seeking to do business with the city to ban discrimination against gay and lesbian employees. And in 2014, lawmakers 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.