Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Charter Fight Tonight at Metro Council Meeting

CM Erik Cole pulled Tim Garrett's bill to deny Metro Health's rule requiring restaurants with over 15 locations in Nashville to post the calorie count of its fare. Generally, bills are not pulled off the consent agenda on first reading.

Opponents of Garrett's bill (Cole and Jason Holleman) argued that the Metro Charter establishes the Health Department to appoint a board of medical professionals and citizens to write rules regarding the health and safety of Nashvillians. Garrett's supporters argued that Metro Health was "usurping" the power of Metro Council to vote on these rules. Michael Craddock called the rules an attack on personal responsibility and he criticized the burden that the rules would put on business.

Here's what the Charter says about the Council's authority and power:
The council is authorized to legislate with respect to the powers of the metropolitan government granted by article 2 hereof, except as otherwise provided in this Charter; and by ordinance to provide for the organization, conduct and operations of all departments, boards, commissions, offices and agencies of the metropolitan government, when the same has not been provided for by this Charter.
Here's part of what the Charter says about the Board of Health:
The board of health, through its chief medical director, shall exercise all the administrative functions of the metropolitan government pertaining to ....
The physical and mental health of the people .... The regulation of publicly and privately owned institutions for the purpose of sanitation and public health .... The enforcement of reasonable rules and regulations promulgated as herein provided.
It seems to me that the Charter already provides that Metro Health can regulate business for the purpose of public health, so claims that Metro Health is usurping Metro Council are exaggerated.

President pro tem Greg Adkins, who is filling in for Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, first called for a voice vote to approve or deny the bill on first reading. CM Adkins is a co-sponsor of Garrett's bill. Another CM called point of order and asked for a roll call vote, which CM Adkins granted after getting agreement from 5 CMs. The roll call vote was split 14-14-1 on first reading, which left it to the Chair to break the tie. CM Adkins voted to approve Garrett's bill on first reading.

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