Saturday, February 04, 2023

First of several Tennessee bills aimed at Nashville government advances

By Jon Styf, The Center Square, Feb 2, 2023 -  A bill that would reduce Nashville’s Metro Council from 40 to 20 voting members was approved by a House subcommittee and now is headed to the House Local Government Committee.

A fiscal note on the bill said it will save Nashville $425,000 in the first year and $510,000 in the years after based on council members' salaries.

House sponsor Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, said during subcommittee meetings that the goal of House Bill 48 was to minimize city governments, noting that only Chicago and New York City have larger councils than Nashville.

“Forty is an exceptional outlier,” Lamberth said. ”Anything over 20 doesn’t work well.”

Rep. Sam McKenzie, D-Knoxville, pointed out that Nashville has a metropolitan government that serves both Nashville and Davidson County, comparing it to the 50 representatives in total that serve the cities and county in Blount County. But Lamberth said he believed that counties were much different.

Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman spoke at the committee meeting, saying that Nashville has had 40 members since April 1963 and a vote to lower the council to 27 members in 2015 failed with 62% of residents voting against it.

Shulman said that, if the bill passes, it could extend council terms by one year before it passes.

“If the terms are extended and it does turn out to be illegal, then anything we pass during that year may be illegal,” Shulman said.

Lamberth added an amendment to the bill that would allow cities to change rules by majority vote to reach the maximum of 20 members by elections in August 2024.

The bill is one of several aimed at Nashville after the Metro Council rejected an agreement to host the 2024 Republican National Convention, which will be held in Milwaukee.

House Bill 1176, separately, would change how the Nashville airport authority board is determined, giving state leaders the job of deciding 10 of the 11 board members with the House speaker and Senate speaker each selecting four members and the governor selecting two.

House Bill 1197, meanwhile, would allow each speaker to appoint three members and the governor to appoint four members of the 13 on the Metro Nashville Sports Authority. The mayor would appoint the other three.

Senate Bill 648 would end a fund created to pay off debt on the Music City Center in Nashville, ending several taxes that paid into the fund toward $625 million in bonds taken out on the convention center, which opened in 2013.

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