Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Nashville sues state over new council-slashing law

by Cassandra Stephenson, The Tennessean, March 13, 2023 - The Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill limiting city and Metro council sizes to 20 members last week. Gov. Bill Lee swiftly signed it into law. ...Metro Nashville attorneys argue the law violates the state constitution and the rights of Davidson County voters.

... In the lawsuit, Metro argues the new statute dismantles the government established by voters when Davidson County and Nashville consolidated in the early 1960s, violating the home rule amendment of the Tennessee Constitution. "Home rule" bars the state from passing laws that impact only a particular county or city in its governmental capacity without local voter approval.

The lawsuit further states the statute's proposal to extend current council members' terms should Metro not meet a May 1 redistricting deadline violates a 1977 state constitution provision mandating four-year terms for county legislators. The same portion of the constitution also exempts Metro governments from a 25-member maximum for county legislative bodies — a clause Nashville attorneys say preempts state legislators' efforts to cap Metro council sizes. ... Metro Nashville also filed a motion for injunction, ...

Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Metro Legal Director Wally Dietz and several of Nashville's state representatives had repeatedly warned state lawmakers that such a law would cause "chaos" in Nashville's government operations and would be impossible to legally implement, hinting that the city would seek legal recourse.

... Here are the pros and cons. .... The new law gives Nashville until May 1 to complete these changes in time for the Aug. 3 local election. May 18 is the qualifying deadline for candidates, at least 30 of whom have campaigns and fundraising efforts well underway. If the city cannot meet this deadline, current council members' terms will be extended one year, and a smaller council will be elected in 2024 for three-year terms using the new district lines. (read more)

Metro sues state over downsizing the council

Axios Nashville, March 14, 2023- .... The law gives Metro two options: draw new council districts by May or have its current council members' terms extended by one year. At that point, there would be a special election to choose new members of the 20-member body, and those new members' first term would be for three years.

The state constitution requires that local legislative bodies have elections every four years, according to Metro's lawsuit.

The other side: The Tennessee Attorney General's Office is aware of the lawsuit and ready to defend the law, a spokesperson tells Axios. (read more)

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