In my view, the most important bill on the Agenda is one that may free transportation services from Metro's protectionist minimum pricing and restrictions. Free enterprise may come to Nashville!
The Metro Council agenda and staff analysis for December 17th is now available at these links: Agenda and Analysis. If you know what the Council is voting on it is still boring but not quite as boring.
There is a Proposed amendment to Rule No. 47 of Rules of Procedure of the Metropolitan Council. This rule change is not explained on the staff analysis. Rule 47 concerns use of the chamber by groups other than the Council and the placement of printed material on Council members desk.
Elections and Confirmations: There is only one position up for confirmation and that is an appointee to the Convention Center Authority. Council does not take its responsibility of filling positions on Boards and Commissions seriously and always approves the Mayor's appointees.
There are no Bills on Public Hearing.
There are twenty resolutions all of which are on the consent agenda. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is likely to be non-controversial and it stays on the consent agenda if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Bills on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government or authorizing the Department of Law to settle claims against the city or appropriating money from the 4% fund. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda. There are a few resolutions of interest and some that concern me. I hope they are given a lot scrutiny in committee meetings. They are listed below.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-904 provides compensation for special judges presiding in Davidson County General Sessions Court. I would question if this is really necessary. Maybe it is, but I have reservations about this bill. It is my understanding that General Sessions judges do not work that many hours anyway, and if one must be out, it seems like another judge could fill the vacancy. Immediately this would not cause the city any additional money, since there is enough money in the operating budget to pay special judges, but this could result in increased budget request in future budgets. I hope someone who is fiscally conservative and not afraid of offending a sitting judge would carefully evaluate this bill. It is so easy for everyone to just go along, that I feel this will not get careful scrutiny. It takes 27 votes for this to pass.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-930 appropriates $4.7 million to various departments, but $4.3 million are to go to the schools to fund a teacher early retirement buy-out program. While I think the buy-out program makes sense, I question if it should be paid for in this manner. Why can the Schools not pay for it out of their own funds? Anyway, since the MNPS refused to comply with a directive from the State Department of Education regarding the approval of Great Hearts Academy, which resulted in the State withholding $3.4 million as punishment and since the MNPS have a taken such a anti-school choice policy position, and since it appears to me they waste a lot of money, I don't know that I would be inclined to give any additional funds to the schools unless they exhibit some changes.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-931 appropriates over $9 million to various departments. I am not alarmed by any of these appropriations, I just hope appropriate oversight has been exercised by the administration and the Council.
Bills on First reading almost always pass. They are considered as a group and are seldom discussed. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. Bills are not assigned to committee or analyzed by council staff until after they have passed first reading. There are only three bills on first reading.
Bills on Second Reading:
It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place. There are fourteen bills on second reading. The following items are interesting:
- BILL NO. BL2013-603 would regulate small outdoor music events intended to draw not over 150 people. This seems like overkill to me unless this has proven to be a big problem.
- BILL NO. BL2013-605 would reduce the minimum fee for vehicles for hire from $45 to only $9 and would allow ride-share type services such as Lyft or Sidecar. To paraphrase Joe Biden, "This is a really big deal."
While I would prefer there be no minimum, a $9 minimum is so low that there might as well be no minimum. Maybe Nashville is ready to embrace competition and innovation and abandon its record of anti-market crony capitalism.
In 2010 the Metro Council passed a bill requiring the minimum fee of $45 for vehicles for hire that were not taxi cabs. The impetuous behind that was to protect luxury limo services from the new competition presented by "Black Sedans." Black Sedans is a type service that is not quite a taxi or a limo but something in between and metro wanted to force them to function as limousines. In addition to the $45 minimum, Metro passed other restrictions that unnecessarily added to the cost of Black Sedans doing business. In addition the Transportation Licensing Commission engaged in a policy of harassment and intimidation of Black Sedan operators. The Institute for Justice brought a law suit against the city, representing the Black Sedan companies, alleging the city's $45 minimum and other regulations were unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the city prevailed. Nashville's unconscionable actions to protect the luxury limo operators and put Black Sedans out of business was the subject of national exposure by John Stossel, George Will, The Huffington Post and others. Metro also has a pitiful record when it comes to allowing additional taxi cab competition also. I have covered this issue extensively, to read more follow this link.
I suspect that this bill will run into opposition and probably will be deferred. I don't think the existing transportation providers are going to roll over and play dead. They will fight to keep their protected status and market share. It looks like, however, the proponents of growth who want Nashville's new convention center to be a success realize we need more transportation and more transportation options. I don't think they have suddenly embraced free enterprise but a pragmatic concern may cause them to act as if they have. I suspect some influential people have switched sides on this issue.
- It has been disappointing that some Council member who profess to be conservative and Republican have supported Metro's transportation price fixing when it was passed in 2010 and opposed efforts to repeal it. Now we can see who supports freedom and a market economy in the council and who does not. No one who opposes this bill should be reelected. Those who previously voted for price-fixing can redeem themselves.
Third reading is the final reading and when a bill passes final reading it becomes law unless vetoed by the mayor and that almost never happens. There are fourteen bills on third reading. Most of the bills on third reading this time are really boring things like abandoning easements and accepting easements. None of them concern me.