Monday, September 14, 2020

How Council members voted on life-time health care benefits. They cast a final vote Tuesday, September 15th.

by Rod Williams - Former members of the Metro Council get a benefit that would be the envy of almost every person in America. They get a benefit more lavish than that provided by the State, the Federal government or the largest corporations in America. After serving only eight years in the Council, they get for themselves and their family, Metro-provided health care as long as they live.  They pay the same premium as active employees which is about one-quarter of the premium.  This is "Cadillac" insurance which includes dental care. 

At one time, before term limits, there were not that many ex-council members and this was not that costly of a benefit.  Council members tended to be older when first elected, almost always were reelected and served a very long time.  Now, there is turn over of the full body every eight years. The cost of this benefit for current and former Council members comes to over $800,000 a year and will rise to $1.2 million by 2024.

On August 4th, a bill which would end life-time health care benefits for ex-council members passed first reading. On August 18th the bill was deferred indefinitely at the recommendation of the Personnel, Public Information, and Human Relations Committee over the objection of the sponsor. 

The rules of the Council provide that when this happens that  "the sponsor may submit a written request to the Clerk that the matter be reinstated onto the agenda for the next regular meeting for purposes of requesting override of the indefinite deferral. The matter shall appear on the agenda as the last item prior to adjournment." 

That is what happened. At the September 1st meeting, the Council voted on "Rule 8 Reinstatement Bill BL2020-3872."  It passed by a vote of 20 in favor and 18 opposed.  A vote in favor was a vote to put the bill back on the agenda.  A "no" vote was a vote to kill the bill and keep it off of the agenda.  In other words, those who want to keep this lavish benefit for ex-councilmembers voted "no."  Those who want to end this benefit voted "yes." I have highlighted the names of those in whom I am very disappointed. 

Voting "yes." This is a vote to put the bill back on the agenda, indicating support for ending this benefit. 

Bob Mendes, Burkley Allen, Steve Glover, Zulfat Suara, Kyonzte Tombs, Tonya Hancock, Zach Young, Erin Evans, Bradford, Jeff Syracuse, Jinny Welsch, Tom Cash, Freddie O'Connell, Brandon Taylor, Tom Druffel, Russ Pulley, Courtney Johnston, Robert Nash, John Rutherford, and Angie Henderson. 

Voting "No." This is a vote to keep it off of the agenda, the effect of which is that members votes to keep this benefit. 

Sharon Hurt, Johnathan Hall, Jennifer Gamble, Robert Swope, Shawn Parker, Bret Withers, Nancy VanReece, Larry Hagar, Kevin Rhoten, Colby Sledge, Mary Carolyn Roberts, Kathleen Murphy, Tanaka Vercher, Delishia Porterfield, Sandra Sepulveda, Joy Styles, Antoienette Lee, and Dave Rosenberg; 

Abstain (0). To abstain is to push the "abstain" button.  
No one was absent this meeting, but these two members did not vote: Emily Benedict and Gloria Hausser. 

The bill is back on the agenda for the final vote tomorrow night, Tuesday September 15th.  If you wish to let you council member know how you feel about this matter, you can find your council members contract information at this link. 

Bill BL2020-387 
An ordinance amending Section 3.24.010 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws pertaining to health insurance benefits for Members of the Metropolitan Council after they leave office. 

WHEREAS, in 2019, Metro Council members received a $8,100 raise approved in the prior term which was recommended by the Department of Human Resources under the belief to properly compensate Metro Council would help to promote a more diverse and inclusive Council body; and 

WHEREAS, the citizens of Davidson County expect the Council to manage taxpayer money wisely, yet over $800,000 per year is spent on a benefit for Councilmembers that is not offered to other part-time Metro Government Employees; and 

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government spent $837,438 health insurance benefits for both current and former Metro Council Members in 2020. This cost is expected to increase to $1,208,134 by 2024; and 

WHEREAS, July 17, 2020 the Metropolitan Council passed a $1.066 property tax rate increase in the USD ($1.033 in the GSD), constituting the highest increase in the history of Metropolitan Nashville; and WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government is $4.5 billion in debt, with depleted reserves; and 

WHEREAS, in 2014, the Mayor’s Office contracted with an independent consulting company (Deloitte Consulting LLP) to provide data upon which Metro could make decisions about current pay levels. This study revealed that none of Metro Nashville’s peers offer retiree medical coverage to council members. To be consistent with common practice, the study recommended that Metro eliminate lifetime medical coverage for Council Members; and 

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Council should remove the lifetime health insurance benefits for Council members after they leave office. 


Section 1. That Section 3.24.010 of the Metropolitan Code is hereby amended by deleting the provisions of subsection C. in their entirety and substituting with the following new provisions: 

“C. Council member participation in the comprehensive health care plan. 

1. Members of the metropolitan council, during their term of office, shall be authorized to participate in the health insurance program under the same terms and conditions as are available for regular Metropolitan Government employees. The benefits and contribution rates shall be equivalent to those benefits and rates paid by Metropolitan Government employees. Each member of council shall have the option of participating in the program by notifying the employee benefit board of their desire to participate in the program at any time during their term of office. 

2. Members of council holding office for less than eight (8) years prior to August 31, 2023 who were participants in the comprehensive health care plan during the time they held office may elect to continue the health care plan, provided they pay the full amount of the premium without any subsidy from the Metropolitan Government. 

3. Members of council satisfying one of the following criteria shall be eligible to continue participation in the comprehensive health care plan at the contribution rate equivalent to those rates paid by Metropolitan Government employees: 
a. Those members of council holding office for eight (8) years or more on or prior to August 31, 2023;
b. Those members of council serving prior to September 1, 2007, that served part of one term and a full consecutive term and were prohibited from serving a third consecutive term pursuant to Section 1.07 of the Metropolitan Charter. 

4. Those members of council serving at least eight (8) years who are not covered by subsection 3 above shall be eligible to continue participation in the comprehensive health care plan under the same terms and conditions as retired Metropolitan Government employees, and at the contribution rates based upon years of service as follows: 
a. The Metropolitan Government shall contribute twenty-five percent of the contribution rate established for medical care benefits for a former member of council that served at least eight (8) but less than fifteen (15) years; 
b. The contribution rate for members of council serving fifteen (15) or more years shall be based upon years of service as provided in Section 3.16.020c.3. of this chapter applicable to retired employees hired after January 1, 2013. 

5. Members of council serving at least (8) years who are otherwise covered by subsection 3 above shall have the option of participating in the comprehensive health care plan at the higher contribution rates set forth in subsection 4 above if they so choose. 

6. Except as provided above, no member of council serving after August 31, 2023, shall be eligible for the subsidized health care plan after leaving office.” 

Section 2. This Ordinance shall take effect from and after its passage, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.
Sponsor(s) Tonya Hancock, Erin Evans, Freddie O'Connell, Russ Bradford, John Rutherford, Angie Henderson

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