Tag Archives: government

GOP Legislators Waging Political War Against Nashville?

Andrea Zelinski has a thoughtful article on the Republican Legislature’s focus Nashville. An excerpt:
Some say the conflict is political, the product of Republican majorities trying to dismantle one of the state’s last institutions of Democratic power. Others say it’s the result of a shift in values reflected in a legislature that is more conservative than the city it does business in. Some go further, saying the city has developed so much power and influence that a clearer focus is needed to ensure the success of the state as a whole.
The one thing everybody agrees on? Don’t expect the attention on Nashville to let up.
…”I think they view it as the last bastion they have to beat down,” said Rep. Mike Turner, an Old Hickory Democrat and the party’s caucus chairman, who characterized the situation as “open season on Nashville.
“Basically all the things they don’t like with America, they see it in Nashville,” he said. “And I think all the things that’s good about America is represented in Nashville. I think they have some issues with it.”
…(W)hen lawmakers sent a bill to the governor that would undo the city’s rules ensuring prevailing wage standards for contractors doing city business…Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s prepared to sign, although added it’s a tricky issue.
“That’s a very fine line for me,” said Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor who adds that he’s sensitive to preserving local authority. The difference here, he said, is lawmakers have made the case to him that Metro’s current practice has effects beyond Davidson County.
That bill came at the hands of Rep. Glen Casada, a high-ranking House Republican leader from Franklin. The point of the bill was to standardize laws across the state, he said, and Metro Nashville mandating a standard wage in Davidson County could force unaffordable costs on companies doing business across the Tennessee.
“They are expanding their reach in areas they don’t belong,” said Casada about Metro’s government. “So a lot of legislators say, ‘city of Nashville, you can’t tell business that they have to pay a certain wage to do business with you in your town. We want all laws to be the same all across the state.’
“We look at it from a macro sense, the whole state, all 95 counties. The city of Nashville and the city of Memphis are looking at it from their perspective only. But their actions have ripple effects across the state, and so I think you’re seeing a butting of wills on direction.”
It amounts to a turf war, he said, and it seems to be more intense this year.
“The cities are just becoming very influential nationwide,” he said, “and so, Nashville is doing what they think is best. The problem is what they think is best, it flexes and comes up upon what state business is.”
“They’re expanding. They’re reaching areas they don’t belong,” he added.

Bill Would Impose Statewide Moratorium on Annexation Until 2015

A statewide moratorium on annexation of new areas into cities would be in place until June 30, 2015, under legislation approved by a Senate committee Tuesday, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
That’s intended to give provide a “time out” while officials do a comprehensive study of the issue.
Senate State and Local Government Committee members unanimously approved the compromise, which would halt all current annexation efforts by ordinance as of April 1. It now goes to the Calendar Committee where it will be scheduled for the Senate floor.
Senate sponsor Bo Watson, R-Hixson, later acknowledged, “I don’t have the votes to get this for cities will be studied by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The moratorium was put into the bill out of concerns cities were jumping in to annex territory now out of fears lawmakers would soon make it next to impossible except in cases of where property owners ask to be annexed.

Bill to Seal Handgun Carry Records Clears Senate Panel

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to seal Tennessee’s handgun carry permit records from public scrutiny is advancing in the Legislature.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 8-0 on Tuesday and is headed for a vote by the full Senate. The companion bill was approved 84-10 in the House last month.
Both versions of the bill would allow for the media and Safety Department to confirm whether someone who had run afoul of the law was a permit holder, but only by providing a legal document or other record “that indicates the named person is not eligible to possess a handgun carry permit.”
The legislation doesn’t create an exception for political operatives and lobbying groups to obtain the entire set of names and addresses.

No More Local Control Over Wages, Benefits in Construction Projects

Legislation headed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk would prohibit local municipalities from requiring private employers to adopt prevailing wages for employers — thus nullifying a 16-year-old Nashville law that guarantees these rates for contracted workers on city construction projects, reports The Tennessean.
The Republican-backed bill (HB501), sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, cleared the Senate by a 24-6 vote Thursday, largely along party lines, with all nay votes coming from the chamber’s handful of Democrats.
Conservative Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville was the lone Democratic senator to vote for the Republican-backed legislation, while newly elected Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, voted present.
A spokesman for the Republican governor said Haslam would review the legislation like he does all bills. Past statements from Haslam have indicated skepticism of so-called “living wage” ordinances but also deference to local governments on whether to adopt them.
…”Living wages are about fairness and stability,” Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry said, adding: “By taking away yet another tool that Metro government has, the legislature is making it more difficult for the building and construction trades to earn a living.”
In addition to targeting wages, the bill would prevent local governments from requiring companies to ensure health insurance benefits and leave policies that are different from state policy. Metro’s ordinance does not require that.

See also the Commercial Appeal story. An excerpt:
City officials and Memphis Democratic legislators said the bill is another example of Republicans, from the suburbs and elsewhere, targeting Memphis and to a lesser degree Nashville. The legislature last year overturned a Nashville local ordinance that forbade city contractors from discriminating against employees who are gay, despite the business community’s support for the local law.
“This is another pre-emption bill. If you think a community is smart enough to decide whether they want wine in grocery stores then I think you ought to consider them smart enough to set their wages and contracts,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis, alluding to a separate bill to allow wine sales in grocery stores if approved by local referendums.

Bill Would Seal Handgun Permit Records — Except for Political Purposes and Lobbying

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An effort to seal Tennessee’s handgun carry permit records from public scrutiny would create an exception for political operatives and lobbying groups to still obtain the entire set of names and addresses.
Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that his bill is an effort to block the publication of handgun carry permit records on newspaper websites.
“We’re not trying to keep it where it’s not usable, but we want to keep it from being published,” he said.
Political operatives and advocacy groups want to be able to obtain the names and addresses of all 398,000 handgun carry permit holders so they can target them for fundraising and campaign mailings.
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said he ran into similar issues when he tried to pass similar legislation years ago.
“My biggest resistance came from members of my own party for this provision, who wanted to continue using it for political purposes,” he said.

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Effort Renewed to Close More Meetings of Local Officials

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Republican lawmaker who last year backed off a bill that would have allowed local officials to hold more closed-door meetings has renewed the effort, saying he’s asked county commissioners to bring him a proposal that has a chance of passing a key subcommittee.
Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin has a bill scheduled before the House State Government Subcommittee on Tuesday that could be amended to address local government officials’ call for a bill to allow them to meet privately as long as a quorum isn’t present.
Williamson County Commissioner Bob Barnwell, who also spearheaded a similar attempt last year, has written to local government colleagues around the state urging them to encourage state lawmakers to pass such a measure.
Casada told The Associated Press on Thursday that he advised commissioners a bill in that form won’t pass the subcommittee. He didn’t specify what changes should be made, but said he’s “still negotiating.”

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Supermajority Controlling ‘Little People’s Republic’ Local Government

Concerned with the prospect of a local government setting up what one leader called a “little people’s republic,” the Legislature’s Republican supermajority is moving on several fronts to assert state authority over cities and counties.
Some Democrats and local government officials decry the trend as an assault on local control and incongruous with Republican criticisms of the federal government for dictating to state governments.
“The level of contempt that this Republican majority has for local governments and working people is simply disgusting,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Old Hickory.
Turner’s remarks came after House approval Thursday of a bill (HB501) that declares local governments cannot put conditions on their contracts with businesses that require the businesses to pay more than minimum wages set by state or federal law, provide insurance or family leave. It also prohibits local governments from enforcing any ordinance on “wage theft,” wherein a company fails to live up to promises to pay a given wage or provide benefits.
The bill was approved 66-27 on a mostly party-line vote — Republicans for it, Democrats against — after a sometimes heated debate. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, may have best summed up the GOP view of such legislation.

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Bill Blocking Local Governments from Renaming Parks Goes to Gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to bar local governments from renaming parks or monuments honoring Tennessee’s military figures is headed to the governor for his consideration.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro was approved 26-3 by the Senate on Thursday. The companion bill passed the house 69-22 last month.
Sponsors say the legislation is aimed at preventing shifting views and changing “demographics” from erasing memorials to historical figures from the Civil War and other conflicts.
The bill would allow local governments seeking to change the names of parks to seek permission from the Tennessee Historical Commission.
Critics say it should be left to local governments to decide the naming of parks.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to review the legislation once it reaches his desk.

Nashville Mayor, Columnist Blast Bill ‘Devastating’ Metro Government

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean sees “devastating effects” on Metro government if the legislature approves “an ill-thought-out bill giving satellite cities including Forest Hills, Belle Meade and Oak Hill the power to create their own city services,” says Gail Kerr — and she agrees with him.
It’s an effort being pushed by three out-of-county state representatives who live miles from Nashville but who suddenly feel the need to dip in our Kool-Aid. Why? The likely motivation is because they want the financial campaign support of rich Republicans in those three areas. The sponsors are Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester, and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville. Alexander signed on only because the main backer, Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, has hit the limit of bills he can file.
It all started with a codes violation.
A house along Timberwood Road in Forest Hills burned down and neighbors grew frustrated when the owner wouldn’t make repairs. They thought Metro wasn’t cracking down fast enough. So Forest Hills officials decided to create their own court, a violation of the Metro Charter. Metro sued and Forest Hills lost. They are appealing. Officials in those upscale suburbs got together and went to their buddies in the legislature.

Legislators Cutting Away at Local Control

Local governments shouldn’t be allowed to play with knives, according to a bill pending before the General Assembly. And there are several pieces of legislation declaring, to one degree or another, that the federal government shouldn’t be trusted to handle guns.
Such measures, it seems, are part of a growing trend in Legislatorland to assert state supremacy. Dangerous devices may be cutting-edge issues in this regard, but it gets into some duller things as well. They might be more significant.
Now, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, has a point in his “knife rights” bill. If a national retailer is afraid to mail a blade longer than 4 inches into Tennessee, fearing criminal prosecution under state law, that law probably does need to be carved into better shape.
And if we allow citizens to possess rifles, shotguns and pistols, well, it doesn’t take piercing intellect to reason that legalizing ownership of a “switchblade” is not really slashing public safety concerns. Bell’s bill slices “4-inch blade” and “switchblade” provisions from current state law.
It also cuts local governments’ ability to enact ordinances that conflict with state knife laws. Bell says that if you leave Knoxville with a knife having a 4-inch blade in the car and drive to Clarksville, that’s fine, legally speaking, until you reach your destination, whereupon you are in violation of a local ordinance banning blades longer than 3 inches.

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