Voters in Memphis, Millington and unincorporated Shelby County will decide in November if there should be a half-cent countywide sales tax increase to help fund the county’s public schools, reports The Commercial Appeal On Monday the Shelby County Commission overrode Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s veto of a sales-tax referendum, with an eight-vote majority.
The deciding vote was cast by Commissioner Melvin Burgess, an employee of Memphis City Schools, who received an opinion from the county attorney’s office that it was not necessary to recuse himself from voting.
“We all want a world-class education system and you have to pay,” Burgess said in support of his vote. “I believe it is our duty to put that question to the people,” he said of the referendum.
Commissioners previously had approved the referendum by seven votes at a meeting Burgess didn’t attend. Eight votes are required on the 13-member commission to override a mayoral veto.
Luttrell has insisted for weeks that a countywide sales-tax increase to fund schools was premature. The override vote was no “great surprise,” he said.
“Now it goes to the voters and the voters will make the ultimate decision,” Luttrell said.
State Rep. Brenda Gilmore says she’ll propose legislation to repeal a law enacted during the last legislative session that overrode a Nashville city ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation by businesses that contract with Nashville city government, reports The Tennessean. The sponsor of the override bill, Rep. Glen Casada, says that’s not going to happen. The Nashville Democrat will join state and local gay rights activists and Metro Council members today to introduce legislation that she hopes will restore local rights to ban discrimination, even if those laws are stricter than the state’s.
Local officials are still fuming over the state legislature’s decision to push through a law that invalidated a local regulation that banned city contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“It was Metro Council and Davidson County’s wishes that people who do business with Metro government would have the same values and honor their commitments not to discriminate against anyone, and I think my colleagues should recognize that,” Gilmore said. “And just as they don’t want federal government interfering in state government, we shouldn’t interfere with our local government.”
….It remains to be seen whether Gilmore’s proposal has a chance in a Republican-dominated General Assembly that nullified the Metro law less than six months ago. Casada, at least, thinks not.
“I don’t think they’re going to give that bill a second glance,” he said. “Thousand and thousand and thousands of bills get introduced each legislative session, and I’ll remind you that HB 600 passed on bipartisan support. … (Tennessee lawmakers) understand the importance of having a uniform code of conduct for business in these difficult economic times.”
But the new bill’s supporters hope to at least start a dialogue on the issue of gay rights and local control.
Nashville’s City Council delayed a vote on whether to call for the resignation of embattled Davidson County Court Clerk John Arriola Tuesday night, says the City Paper, but did act on a couple of other calls. • The Metro Council voted 23-10 to approve a non-binding memorializing resolution to honor local high school students who protested the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill during the state legislative session.
The resolution, sponsored by Councilman Jamie Hollin, came six weeks after a similar measure failed at the behest of two conservative colleagues, igniting a verbal tirade from Hollin.
• The council voted 26-9 to approve a non-binding memorializing resolution sponsored by Councilwoman Kristine LaLonde that requests the Metro Department of Law file an amicus brief in support of an ongoing suit over the constitutionality of the state’s Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act.
The law, passed this year by the Republican-dominated state legislature, nullified Metro’s nondiscrimination law that required city contractors to provide employment protections for gay, lesbian and transgender employees.
Jeff Woods’ interview with Gov. Bill Haslam, as reported in question-and-answer format today, focused mostly on gay rights and the governor’s approval of a bill that overrode Nashville’s law prohibiting city contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
An excerpt (with Woods’ comments in bold): Let’s get real here. Business regulation, that’s not what this is about. You’re trying to make the point that I have some deep, inbred hostility toward gays. If that’s where you’re going, the answer is no. This is not a business issue. It’s a conservative Christian issue. I disagree. It is a business issue in the sense that businesses keep having regulations put on them. Let’s say I’m a Muslim subcontractor who wants to work on the convention center, and I feel very strong that regulation shouldn’t be placed on me. Is that a Christian conservative issue? The Family Action Council was the main impetus behind that bill. In fact, they were the only ones behind the bill. I can’t go back to what Glen Casada was thinking. I can’t go there. But that wasn’t the hand I was dealt. Let me ask you generally about social conservative issues. A trend is developing. You are saying one thing and doing another. You do what the social conservatives want you to do, but you say things that will please everyone else. Like what? On this gay issue, you said, ‘I’m for businesses adopting nondiscrimination polices.’ But you signed the bill.
I don’t think that’s saying one thing and doing another. If I’m running a business, I’m going to go out and hire the best people I can, period. On the other hand, I don’t know that I necessarily want the local city council telling me my HR practices. I don’t think that’s saying one thing and doing another at all.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that local governments shouldn’t go beyond federal or state anti-discrimination requirements to protect gays and lesbians in the work force, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
“I don’t think many Tennesseans feel like we don’t have enough mandates on businesses,” Haslam said after he signed legislation that prohibits local governments from creating anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than the state’s rules. “This had the concurrence of 70 percent of the Legislature.”
Despite opposition from some businesses and Chambers of Commerce, Haslam said he doesn’t think the measure will hurt the state’s business or visitor recruitment.
The law overrules a Nashville ordinance that prohibited companies that discriminate because of sexual orientation or gender identity from receiving city contracts. Nashville is among nearly 100 cities nationwide that have adopted such measures to protect gays and lesbians.
The state attorney general’s office says there’s nothing unconstitutional about a proposed state law to override a Nashville city ordinance prohibiting city contractors from practicing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Here’s the short version of the two questions posed by Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, and the answers provided by Attorney General Bob Cooper: Question 1. If enacted, would this bill (HB600) contravene the authority of local governments to designate the terms of their contracts according to locally acceptable standards and practices, as provided in Tenn. Code Ann. § 6-2-201? Answer 1: Nothing in the bill conflicts with the general contracting authority given cities incorporated under the mayor-aldermanic form of government in Tenn. Code Ann. § 6-2-201. Under principles of statutory construction, the law, if enacted, would control over any more general or earlier enacted statute that might conflict with it. Question 2. Is the retroactive application of the bill to existing, lawfully enacted ordinances and resolutions by local governments unconstitutional? Answer 2: No. The authority of cities and counties is subject to change by the General Assembly A city, county, or private citizen has no constitutionally protected right in an existing ordinance or resolution that contravenes state law. Any impact of the bill on any existing contracts would not substantially impair the value of the contract to the private party.
Full Opinion HERE.
Republican legislative leaders say they see nothing wrong with passing laws to override local government decisions, while Democrats say the stance is both hypocritical and dictatorial.
Senate Republicans voted last week to set up a school voucher system in the state’s four largest counties, including Knox, even though school officials in all four counties oppose the idea.
The move is the latest to override local officials’ preferences in a session in which the first bill passed this year by the Republican super-majority blocked plans by Memphis City Schools to merge into Shelby County’s school system.
Another prominent example is a bill, HB600, poised for final passage as early as this week that overrides a Nashville city ordinance barring companies that contract with city government from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has said he would support amending the bill to also block local governments from imposing local minimum-wage requirements on city contractors, as Memphis does now. (A separate bill, HB1498 by House Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel, would block cities from paying more than the state’s “prevailing wage” on any project where any amount of state money is involved. It passed the House, 67-24.).
There are multiple other measures that have gained less attention, including a bill, SB773, that restricts municipal governments’ authority to enter into cooperative purchasing agreements and another that blocks local ordinances authorizing construction of powder storage facilities, HB371.