Opinion » Editorial

Kill (the) Bill

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State representative Glen Casada (R-Franklin) is at it again, extending his — and state government's — vendetta against the principle of local government.

It was Casada who, in the 2011 session of the Tennessee

General Assembly, authored the infamous bill HB600, which voided a forward-looking antidiscrimination ordinance that had just been passed by Nashville Metro government. HB600, which went on to become law, also effectively rendered null and void efforts to pass antidiscrimination measures that were then ongoing on the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission and banned thenceforth any such efforts in the state of Tennessee.

Pause for a moment to recall the vintage formulation, "That government is best that is closest to the people." In the years before the Tennessee GOP achieved its current ascendancy, that credo was nearly elevated to the status of a campaign slogan for Republican candidates statewide.

The case can be made that no principle of self-government was more completely eviscerated by the actions of the 2011 General Assembly than that stirring piece of rhetoric. Bill after bill attacking the concept of local control was introduced, passed, and rubber-stamped into law by a compliant governor. For the record, the process began with the legislature's very first action in 2011, the passage of the "Norris-Todd" bill, which altered long-standing state law so as to impose state supervision on local educational systems.

Now Casada, having done his best to quash the role of local governments in matters of conscience, has introduced HB3386, which would tie the hands of local government on basic economic matters. The bill would prevent city and county jurisdictions from establishing living-wage or fair-wage ordinances and would tie their economic policies to the dictates of the state.

Give Representative Curry Todd (R-Collierville) his due for introducing an amendment that would partially exempt the existing Memphis living-wage ordinance. But, as Councilman Myron Lowery explained, Todd's amendment would not prevent the repeal of other fair-wage laws both in Shelby County and, as Councilman Lee Harris documented, elsewhere in Tennessee.

At a press conference on Monday, several local officials and labor representatives made an effective case against HB3386. Shelby County commissioner Steve Mulroy summed it up bluntly: "It's like Quentin Tarantino said: 'Kill Bill.' That's our headline." Well said.

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