Thursday, September 22, 2016

Council Meeting of 9-20-16: Three short-term rental bills deferred, two pass; Google Fiber One-touch bill passes; Pot bill passes,

If you want to have a better understanding of what is going on, follow this link for a copy of the agenda, staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda. If you are going to actually watch the meeting, you really need to follow along with the agenda.

If you are going to watch the meeting you may want to watch it in double speed. That is usually what I do with council meeting and most meetings and speeches. I can watch it in double time and not lose much content and I slow it if something is interesting. To watch it in double speed, hover your cursor over "YouTube" and click it. The video will then open in another screen. Then click "setting" which is indicated by a gear icon. When that opens change speed from normal to the desired speed.  If you are not given that option, then follow this link for instructions.

Below is a summary and the highlights of the meeting.

All resolutions pass on the consent agenda except for an insignificant bill to be deferred and the two below. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-380 by Council member Weiner ask Google Fiber and Comcast and everyone else involved in the process of facilitating the stringing of cable, to make Google Fiber available in Nashville, to play nice and make it happen. It says that "WHEREAS, industry stakeholders oppose BL2016-343,"  "the industry stakeholders, including but not limited to Google Fiber, AT&T, Comcast, and NES, are to come together in good faith and execute a Memorandum of Understanding to memorialize process enhancements that substantially eliminate the current backlog in make-ready work to facilitate the Google Fiber deployment and reduce the timeline for broadband deployment by all Internet service providers in Nashville. The stakeholders shall aim to complete the permit for each make-ready poll in 30 days and the subsequent make -ready work shall be completed within 45 days or less." This sets out what would be in the MOU and says that a minimum of 125 poles per week for a period of 18 months will be completed. The staff analysis says. "It is arguable that Metro Council does not have the legal authority to control how private companies address one another,much less mandate that they meet. Initiating a requirement making one private company liable to pay a penalty to another company is likewise problematic. It is anticipated therefore that a substitute resolution will be offered." This resolution was offered as an attempt to kill the One-touch-make-ready bill by offering an alternative approach.  To see the discussion see time stamp 16:33- 31:48.The bill fails on a roll call vote. To see how members of the council voted follow this link.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-382   ask Live Nation Entertainment to implement anti-scalping controls for events conducted at Ascend Amphitheater. Ticket scalping has become a major concern everywhere. Individuals and companies using software programs often buy up huge blocks of tickets of popular shows and then scalp them at higher prices.  This resolution was deferred three meetings. 

All bills on introduction and First Reading pass without objection by a single vote, as is customary.

BILL NO. BL2016-336 says that if a local company is competing with a company that is not local for a metro contract and the local company submits a Matching Low Bid with the company that is not local, that preference be given to the local company. The staff analysis says that, "Historically, the Tennessee Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals have strongly disfavored local bidder preferences, citing the negative impact such preferences can have on competitive market forces," and that this bill may violate the Metro Charter and State law. This is deferred two meetings.

BILL NO. BL2016-375  would prohibit more than three unrelated people from sharing a STRP among other things. This would eliminate renting the properties to a bachelorette group or any other group of more than three unrelated people.  This would not apply to those who already have a permit for a STRP.  This would not be enforceable and seems overly restrictive. I oppose this measure. It is deferred two meetings and sent back to committee. To see discussion see time stamp 39:32-45:16.

BILL NO. BL2016-381 says that an  STRP permit applications shall be valid for sixty (60) calendar days from the date filed and shall expire if the application process has not been completed within that time. This seems unnecessarily restrictive and I oppose this bill. It is substituted and deferred two meetings and rereferred to committee. To see the discussion of this bill and the next one, see time stamp 46:01-49:39.

BILL NO. BL2016-382   places more stringent restrictions on the number of STRP permitted.  It reduces to only 1% of the properties the Not Owner-Occupied STRP permitted in any single census tract. I oppose this measure. This is substituted and deferred two meetings and rereferred to committee.

BILL NO. BL2016-385  requires members of the  Metropolitan Council and other Davidson County elected officials and members of Boards and Commission to receive Sexual Harassment training. Ridiculous political correctness and unnecessary in my view. It passes on a voice vote with no discussion. 
 Bills on Third Reading. There are 27 bills on Third reading. Here are the ones of interest.

BILL NO. BL2016-257   would make changes to the Short Term Rental Property regulations.  If someone was caught operating a STPP without a permit, a "stop work" order could be issued and they could no longer operate their property as a STRP and would have to three years before they could apply for a STRP permit and they could be fined $50 a day for each day they were found to have operated a STRP without a permit. Currently if found operating a STRP without a permit, they must wait a year before they can apply. It is a little more complicated this however. It is amended so that those simply not in compliance out of ignorance can get in compliance but those willfully evading compliance would be severely penalized. It passed on a voice vote when on Second Reading. To see the discussion at last council meeting when this was on second reading see see time stamp 1:30:25 - 1:40:53 at this link.  It passes third reading without discussion.

BILL NO. BL2016-343 is the “One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) bill which would allow one company the right to work on a utility pole and move all of the cable that must be moved in order to accommodate a new company adding a cable to the utility poll.  This is being proposed to accommodate Google Fiber, which is trying to provide high-speed Internet to Nashville.  Other companies, such as Comcast, do not want anyone but their own people moving their cable. Also, there are labor contracts that complicate this. The Mayor's office has tried to work out a some agreeable accommodation but has not been successful. Google Fiber has threatened to abandon their plans for Nashville to get Google Fiber unless something can be worked out. After Louisville passed a similar bill, AT&T sued the city arguing that the city lacked authority to pass such an ordinance and they have threatened to sue Nashville if this passed. For more on this issue see this link, this link, and this and read the staff analysis of Sept.6The bill passes by a vote of 32 to 7 on second reading. This has been one of the most heavily lobbied bills before the Metro Council in a long time. For more information on the council actions on this bill when it was on second reading and to see how members voted on the motion to table and the motion to defer and the final bill on Second, see this Tennessean article. To see the discussion that occurred when the bill was on second reading  see time stamp 1:42:45 - 2:39:20 at this link.

An attempt to defer the bill two meetings, fails. The point is made by Councilman Elrod and Councilman Swope that the lawsuit pending in Louisville Kentucky may not be relevant to Nashville, because of difference circumstances and that should not be used as an excuse for inaction by Nashville. The motion to defer fails on a roll call vote, and on a voice vote the bill is passed on third and final reading.  To see the discussion see time stamp 1:01:42-1;20:09. 

BILL NO. BL2016-373  says that any advertisement for a STRP must include the permit number of the property. The AirB&B website and similar websites do not actually have the ads placed there read by a real person. When the software that reads the entries sees a series of numbers, it assumes it a phone number.  If a phone number of the person offering the property for rent was posted, AirB&B would not get their commission and the whole app business model would fall apart. This could destroy completely the STRP business in Nashville. The staff analysis fails to address this concern with this bill. This concern is addressed by the sponsor and an amendment is offered and passed that says the ad can include the permit number or a picture of the permit. That apparently  resolves this concern. The bill passes on a voice vote without discussion.

BILL NO. BL2016-374 would require an affidavit from the permit applicant that is renting the property as a STRP does not violate any HOA rules or Condo rules. I oppose this. I do not think Metro should get in the business of ensuring people are abiding by private contracts and an HOA reg or Condo rule is a private matter and Government should not involve itself.  This passed on a voice vote without discussion when on second reading. This passes on Third on a voice vote without discussion.

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-378BILL NO. BL2016-378  is the bill that would substantially reduce the penalty for  possession or

causal exchange of up to a half ounce of marijuana. Currently one can be fined up to $2500 and spend a year in jail.  Under this bill one would not be arrested but given a $50 ticket. Unfortunately, this bill is amended so that it is less attractive than the bill as introduced. The amendments replaces "shall" with "may,"  saying police "may" issue the ticket for $50 instead of saying that shall.  Discretion is not rule of law.  The police should not have that much flexibility. It leads to unequal treatment and makes the policeman "the law" instead of enforcers of the law.  The amendment also removes the lessened penalty for casual transfer. This is still a step in the right direction but a much smaller step. To see my views on marijuana follow this link.

This bill was debated at length on Second Reading. For more on this legislation as reported in The Tennessean see this link. The bill passed on a voice vote with some audible "no's" on Second Reading.  To view the discussion of this bill on Second Reading see time stamp 2:42:24 - 3:20:28 at this link.

The point is made that this bill is not in conflict with state law. I am disappointing to see Councilman Glover who is running for a seat in the State legislature take a strong stand against this bill. While I would almost always prefer to see a Republican replace a Democrat in the legislature, Councilman Glover's stand on this bill makes me less inclined to think he deserves to win that legislative race. The bill passes on a roll call vote of 35-3-1. The three "no" votes are Doug Pardue, Sheri Weiner, and Steve Glover.  To see the discussion, see time stamp 1:33:17-148:59.

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