NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — By now, you've probably heard about the effort from the Tennessee General Assembly to cut the size of Metro Council in half. Tennessee Republicans claim it's an effort to help Nashville, but critics say it's an effort to punish city leaders.
This all began last summer when Metro Council successfully blocked efforts to bring the Republican National Convention to Nashville in 2024. The state legislature is now fighting to cut that very same body in half.
During a lunch meeting with the Economic Club of Nashville Tuesday, it inevitably came up.
"I’ve talked to a lot of business owners here in Davidson County — Republican, Democrat, Independent, all over the place, that think Metro Council is dysfunctional," said Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, a R-Crossville.
The bill would officially ban any metropolitan government in Tennessee from having more than 20 council members — a direct attack against Metro Council since Nashville is the only city that meets that qualification with a 40-member body.
"To say this is just a general assembly issue, that’s not the case. It really is about trying to make a body that seems to be very dysfunctional, more functional," Sexton told the crowd.
But Speaker Sexton also said this about the RNC snub.
"They rejected it twice, not that we have hard feelings," he said.
Now, it's Nashville Mayor John Cooper with the hard feelings. He says this bill goes against the wishes of Nashville voters.
"Numerous times, there’s been the opportunity to change that. The public every time, decisively, has said they’re happy with that and the choice of the people in a local community should be the choice," said Cooper, during a media availability Thursday.
It could also cause a lot of headaches. If the bill passes, Metro Council elections would slide back a year to 2024, and the city would have to redraw and combine multiple districts. That could prove to be a logistical disaster.
In a statement to NewsChannel 5, Metro Legal's Director of Law Wallace Dietz said the legislation would, "undoubtedly disrupt Metro's operations, undermine the stability of the city and poses an existential threat not just to Nashville's self-governance, but to the constitutional rights of all local government."
They also threatened legal action if necessary. To read the full statement, click here.
But Speaker Sexton seems to think this is a battle they can win.
"The state has oversight over local government, just by the way the constitution’s set up," said Sexton. "Some will like it, some will not like it, I completely understand."
Legislators also filed a bill that would strip the special funding district used to pay back debt to construct the Music City Center, Nashville's decade old convention hall.