Sunday, June 18, 2017

What's on the Council agenda for June 20th: Making Nashville a Sanctuary city and passing the $2,209,690,100 budget for FY2018

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. The most controversial item of the night is legislation that would make Nashville a sanctuary city, or maybe not.

To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, or you can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the Metro YouTube channel.   If can stand the suspense and just wait, I will post the video here the day after or the day after that and provide commentary.

If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you need a copy of the Council agenda and the Council staff analysis or you really will not know what is going on.  Without an agenda, watching the council meeting is as about as exciting as watching pint dry. With an agenda it is as exciting as waiting for water to boil. I watch the meetings and provide highlights and and commentary so you can be an informed citizen of our city and yet not have to watch the meetings. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links.

There are eight appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously. There are no resolutions or bills on public hearing. There are 13 bills on First Reading, but they are all lumped together and pass by a single vote.  First Reading is a formality that gets a bill on the Agenda. If I served in the Council, I would conform to Council norms and vote for all bills on first reading unless something was embarrassingly atrocious. I normally do not even read bills on First Reading.

Resolutions. All resolutions are initially on "consent."  Resolutions on consent are all lumped together and pass by a single vote.  If there is a negative vote on a resolution in committee, the resolution is taken off of consent and considered separately. Also any councilman may ask for a resolution to be taken off of consent or request to be recorded as abstaining or voting "no." None of this resolutions appear controversial and I expect them to all pass. Below are the resolutions of mild interest.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-682  adopts the certified tax rate. Following a general reappraisal, the local governing body must adopt a tax rate that bring in no more money than would have been brought in prior to the reappraisal. Currently the combined General Services District (GSD), which in most places would be the "county," and the Urban Services District (USD or "city") is $4.516. The new combined lower rate is $3.155.  The tax rate is applied to each $100 of assessment.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-685 adopts a new fee structure for animal control. Under the new schedule if you dog is picked up, the impound fee is $50 and the daily boarding fee is $18.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-717, RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-718  RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-719  adopt new pay plans for Metro employees, with the exception of the Board of Education. These provide a  2.0% across-the-board pay increase effective July 1, 2017,  continue increment pay, and to provide for the possibility of merit pay increases for some employees.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-764 approve an application to be submitted to the State for approval of an Adventure Tourism District for  Fontanel based on their providing zip lining, road biking and mountain biking as outdoor adventure activities.  This designation provides the businesses within an Adventure Tourism District to apply for State tax credits.
Bills on Second Reading. There are 20. Below are the ones of interest.
BILL NO. BL2017-726   would add a requirement for the Department of Finance to maintain a written debt management policy for the metropolitan government. While revenue has been increasing to Metro, we have at the same time been increasing our debt obligations.  Our debt is manageable now, but if and when Metro's growth slows, along with insurance obligations to retirees and Metro Pension obligations, much of the budget will be untouchable and essential services will have to be cut. My view is that now is a time we should be reducing debt, not adding to debt. This bill would require Metro to have a debt policy including pension liability and establishes certain criteria for establishing the debt policy.  This alone will not bring fiscal responsibility to Metro Government; that takes courage and will, but this is a good step in the right direction. This should be approved.

BILL NO. BL2017-737 would subject "platform vehicles" in Nashville to the regulations of the Transportation Licensing Commission. I am not sure exactly what the impact of this would be and the staff analysis is not clear.  This looks like an attempt to curtail or ban those slow moving vehicles  that allow people to drink and dance on the vehicle. Pedal Taverns and carriages and pedicabs are already regulated so this is for another type of vehicle.

BILL NO. BL2017-738 would prohibit motels form renting rooms by the hour. One may rent a motel room by the hour just because you need to catch a few hours of sleep before you catch your flight, but probably because you connected with someone and want to have sex.  Why you rent the room by the hour, should be no ones business. For a city so liberal  that it promotes acceptance of homosexuality among the youth of our city, this seems somewhat puritanical.

 BILL NO. BL2017-739 is the Sanctuary City bill, which may or may not make Nashville a sanctuary city. The bills says there are things we will not do to assist the Federal government in enforcing immigration law but then it says we will not violate federal law. There are federal laws that mandate cities do what this bill says we will not do, so I don't know if this makes us a sanctuary city or not. In any event, his should be defeated.

While immigration and border control are federal responsibilities, we should all have an interest in curtailing illegal immigration. Also,  there is a practical reason to obey federal law and that is because the federal government is likely to withhold money from sanctuary cities. President Trump's executive order withholding money to sanctuary cites was struck down but on the grounds that the administration could not withhold money already appropriated. If the condition for receiving the money is placed on the front end instead of retroactively, it will stand. Most federal funds come with stings attached and the Federal government has often made states do things they did not want to do.  The Federal government forced states to lower interstate speed limits to 55 miles per hour. The Federal government forced states to raise the drinking age to 21. Nashville is likely to lose some future federal funding if this passes. Also, the State of Tennessee has a law that says there can be no sanctuary cities in Tennessee. There was pending in the State legislation this session that just ended a bill that would have strengthened the State's position prohibiting Sanctuary cities. If this passes we can almost be certain the State will punish Nashville. The staff analysis says this does not make us a sanctuary city and says it would be safe to pass it. I don't know if that is correct or not. The staff analysis does not mention the pending state legislation and what the state legislature is likely to do. 

I hope this is defeated. If not, I hope the Council does not let this pass without a recorded vote. It takes five Council members to force a roll call vote. Those members who oppose this should force a roll call. When this is voted on, I will follow up and list how members voted assuming there is a roll call vote.

BILL NO. BL2017-743  is a companion to Bill 739. It terminate a contract the city has with the U.S. Marshal Service to house federal inmates. The intention of this is to negotiate a new contract that does not include Nashville holding illegal aliens. This needs to be defeated.
Bills on Third Reading. 
BILL NO. BL2017-645  would allow passengers in horse-drawn carriages to drink and ride as long as the beverage was in a plastic or foam cup. This sounds reasonable to me.

BILL NO. BL2017-722  adopts the FY2018 Operating budget of $2,209,690,100. It is likely to be
adopted tonight. It must be adopted by June 30th. For a lot more on the budget including what is new in the budget and who gets what, see the staff analysis. To know even more see  A Citizen's Guide to the Metro Budget.  The budget includes a salary increase of $7,000 for members of the Metro Council effective following the 2019 Council elections.

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2017-723  establishing the tax levy in the general services district for the fiscal year 2017-2018. This will be the same as the certified tax rate since Metro is not raising taxes this year.

BILL NO. BL2017-724 establishes the low-income elderly tax relief program for 2018. This is a continuation of a program that has been in place for many year. The State provides a certain amount for tax relief for the low-income elderly and this program is Metro's expansion of the program to provide more tax relief than the State. The income limit to be eligible is $29,180 and applicants must be over the age of 65. This cost Metro $3.9 million. I support this program.

BILL NO. BL2017-725  establishes a Greenways Commission and a Conservation Assistance Grant Fund and appropriates $500K to the fund.  The purpose of this is to preserve properties having great natural, cultural, and environmental importance. From what I know about it, I support this. As we grow, it becomes important to preserve certain features of our community that make Nashville livable and enjoyable. The commission could not appropriate any funds without coming back to the Council.

BILL NO. BL2017-735  creates 54 new positions in Metro Government.  This have to be created by the Council in order to be included in the pay plan.

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