State Lawmakers File Legislation To Cut Metro Nashville Council In Half

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

Two state lawmakers have filed legislation to significantly reduce the size of the Metro Nashville Council – by half.

On the eve of the 113th General Assembly convening for this year, Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson-District 11) and House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland-District 44) filed House Bill 0048 (HB0048) and corresponding Senate Bill 0087 (SB0087) which states that “after the next general election for the governing body of a metropolitan government held in accordance with subdivision (a)(1), the governing body must not be composed of more than twenty (20) voting members.” The Metro Nashville Council currently has 40 members.

Lamberth has said that too large of a governmental body “hinders economic growth” and causes taxes to increase, thereby leading to a diminished standard of living for residents. Both Watson and Lamberth believe that the legislation will improve local representation.

Beginning next year, all metropolitan governmental bodies in Tennessee that have more than 20 voting members would be forced to dissolve and set up anew using data from the last U.S. Census. Within the state, only two other counties have a metro form of government – Lynchburg- Moore County and Hartsville-Trousdale County – and neither has more than 20 members.

If the bill passes and becomes law, it would mean a big change to the local government of Nashville which has had 40 members for the last 60 years.

Metro Councilman Robert Swope favors the legislation, and says that reducing the number of councilmembers will enable the council to function more efficiently. 

“Right now, 40 people can’t get anything done,” Swope said. “We live in a city that is growing at an exponential growth rate and as a consequence, we need to become much more efficient and effective in government, and large does not always mean good.”

The legislation would allow for council members, who currently face a two-term limit, to be elected for a total of four terms once the number of councilmembers is reduced. Members currently represent 15 thousand to 17 thousand constituents with five members elected at-large.

The legislation does not say how it would deal with these at-large members so it would be up to the City of Nashville to decide how many of its 20 members could be elected citywide.

If the bill becomes law it would not change the upcoming elections for this year, but members who are elected would only serve for one year and then have to campaign again in 2024. Those elected in 2024 would then serve a three-year term.

Last summer, state Republican leadership made it plain that they disapproved of the council’s unwillingness to bring the Republican presidential convention to Nashville and there was talk then of possible penalties. Critics of the bill say the push to cut the council in half is an attempt by Republican leaders to punish those who voted no to the convention.

Metro Councilman Robert Swope has said that voting against the RNC convention was not the deciding factor for Republicans in sponsoring the bill but instead was likely part of ongoing conflict between the council and the state, with Swope likening the council’s actions over the years to that of “poking the bear.”

About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at

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