NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s no secret the rift between Nashville’s Metro Council and the state government is contentious at best.
“Metro council is inefficient,” Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said. “You can’t have 40 people in a body where you only get 3,000 people to elect you.”
House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson) filed a new bill Monday to limit the size of metro councils in Tennessee to 20 members.
| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Nashville and Davidson County
There are only three metro councils in the state: Metro-Nashville, Hartsville-Trousdale, and Lynchburg-Moore.
At 40 members now, Nashville’s metro council is the only one large enough to be impacted by the measure.
“I do think that they’ve lost their way and they really don’t represent the people of Nashville,” Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said. “They represent the Democratic Party and all the ideals it stands for.”
Though Nashville Metro Council member Freddie O’Connell pushed back on that statement, saying the council’s members all run unaffiliated.
“Unlike our peers in the General Assembly, every member of the Metro Council runs without a party affiliation. It’s a non-partisan body, Mayor, Vice-Mayor, Metro Council,” he said. “In fact, it’s because of state legislation we have a partisan school board right now. Those used to be non-partisan races, too.”
Furthermore, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the city constituency has chosen to keep the 40-person council for years and, as recently as 2015, voted to keep the city operating the same way it currently does.
“Our local voters have commissioned this form of government,” he said. “Time and time again, Metro itself has validated the current structure of 40 members.”
Cooper pointed to the city’s relative success, particularly from a growth and economic standpoint.
“The system for Metro has been undeniably successful because this city is the envy of all the other cities in the country,” he said. “I will say, 40 does seem like a lot, but the current system combined with Metro has created a very successful city compared to how other cities operate.”
State Democrats say it’s just the latest move from a Republican supermajority flexing its power.
“This GOP supermajority has shown time and time again that it’s not afraid to step into local affairs,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said. “That should scare the daylights out of every Tennessean.
Lamberth’s bill comes after the council voted against hosting the Republican National Convention in Nashville in both 2024 and 2028.
“To the extent, this GOP supermajority and the governor want to get revenge on Nashville for whatever reason they’ve dreamed up today, if they want to do that, that’s their prerogative,” Clemmons said. “I would urge them to exercise a little caution before they set that dangerous precedent.”
But Sexton argues this issue goes beyond partisan practices.
“People think it’s a Republican-Democrat thing. It really isn’t. Even with Metro, when you agree, you can’t work with them,” Sexton said. “They don’t want to work with you. The state has an obligation to oversee local government.”
O’Connell argued that notion is a dangerous precedent to set.
“We’ve seen time and again Nashville residents have rejected various opportunities to reduce the size of council,” he said. “I think if we are going to do it, we should do it as a city, not have the state inflict it upon us.”