Two weeks after the majority Democrats on the Shelby County Commission voted Democrat Matt Kuhn into the suburban seat that had been vacated by Republican David Lillard, who had left to become state Treasurer, partisan wounds have begun to heal on the commission itself. Not so in Nashville - where Republican members of the Shelby delegation are apparently protesting by sitting on legislation requested by the commission.
The situation came to light Monday when Republican commissioner Mike Carpenter of Cordova dispatched a letter to several of the GOP legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, the primary addressee.
While professing to share the "anger" of the aggrieved Republican legislators on the matter of the commission appointment, which saw Kuhn win out by a party-line vote over ex-commissioner Tommy Hart, a Republican, Carpenter beseeched Norris to let the commission's legislative package get a fair hearing.
"It is my understanding that because of the Democrats [sic] partisan power grab, you and other members are at least for now choosing not to move bills that are a part of the Shelby County legislative package. While I am grateful for the strong gesture of support, I would respectfully request that you allow Shelby County's legislation to begin moving through the legislative process," Carpenter's letter said in part, adding in the concluding paragraph: "I would appreciate it if you would allow the County's legislation to begin moving, and I pledge to work with you to find another way to remedy the action taken by Commission Democrats. ..."
Democratic commissioner Steve Mulroy said that most of the stalled legislation was non-partisan and had received unanimous or nearly unanimous approval across party lines. Among the recommended legislation in the county's package were bills strengthening law enforcement that were sought by Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, Sheriff Mark Luttrell, and District Attorney General Bill Gibbons.
Another part of the county package would enable a statewide "senior alert" network for missing senior citizens, similar to the "Amber alerts" for children whose whereabouts are unknown because of suspected foul play.
Carpenter's letter, seeming to confirm Mulroy's description of the stalled county legislative agenda, notes: "There are many important initiatives that are a part of the package. Each one received substantial bi-partisan support. In crafting the agenda, the Commission and Administration have been sensitive to the budget issues faced by the State and have requested no alternative revenue sources from the Legislature. Many of these bills, if adopted, could make substantial improvements in the quality of life of all Shelby County residents. While I believe my Democrat colleagues failed to act in a statesmen-like manner, I believe I am obligated to rise above it for the benefit of the citizens."
Reached by telephone and asked for a reaction, Gibbons responded to the situation with this statement: "I think it is the duty of any elected official to do what he or she feels is in the public interest." While the D.A., now a GOP candidate for governor, said that while he, too, like Carpenter, shared the "frustration" felt by Republicans over the Kuhn appointment, he thought it incumbent on legislators to consider "each piece of legislation on its own merits."
Besides Norris, other addressees receiving the Carpenter letter were state Senator Paul Stanley and state Representatives Brian Kelsey, Curry Todd, Steve McManus, Jim Coley, and Ron Lollar.