Apr 5, 2023 - News

Nashville lawyers argue against law that shrinks council

Illustration of Nashville City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

City lawyers railed against the new law cutting the 40-member Metro Council in half during a hearing Tuesday, arguing that a three-judge panel must block the law to "protect democracy."

  • It's one of several measures considered this year by the General Assembly that targets city business.

Why it matters: The law requires Metro to reshape the Aug. 3 election by creating and approving new district maps by the May 18 filing deadline. If they miss the deadline, the law would extend existing council members' terms by one year.

  • Metro sued to stop the law, calling it an unconstitutional intrusion into local governance with an unrealistic timeline.
  • The judges are deciding if part or all of the law should be blocked while the court battle is underway.

The intrigue: Metro lawyers are arguing to throw the law out while other local officials are working to implement it. City planners released draft maps for a smaller council last month.

  • Metro lawyer Allison Bussell told the judges the process was rushed and chaotic.
  • "Metro Nashville is having to make extraordinary policy decisions right now based on an unconstitutional law, and they have very little time to do that."

The other side: Attorneys for the state said the fact that new maps were already being built undercuts the city's argument against the quick timeline.

  • While city attorneys argued the law targets Nashville in violation of the Tennessee constitution, state lawyers said the law was written to limit metropolitan council sizes statewide.

The latest: After impassioned public opposition during last night's council meeting, legislation on how to implement the state law was withdrawn.

What's next: The three-judge panel is expected to release a ruling in the coming days.


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