On the first day of the “Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act” trial, the central question was if the petition is legal and can go before voters.
The Davidson County Election Commission is seeking the court’s guidance since their lawyer had already identified portions of the petition that are at odds with Tennessee law.
The petition would cancel the recent 34% property tax increase and limit the city council’s power.
Lawyer Jim Roberts wrote the petition and is leading the group 4Good Government. He says voters should get a chance to weigh in without the election commission or chancery court considering if it’s legal.
“Those fights come later,” he said. “But today we’re fighting over whether it’s facially constitutional, and that is the limited authority that they [Election Commission members] have.”
During court hearings today, the city’s lawyer said she can tell the petition is illegal because it would make retroactive changes, like canceling the tax increase and impacting bonds that’ve already been issued.
“Chaos and confusion,” Metro lawyer Allison Bussell said. “These are two outcomes that this court can and should avoid, by concluding before a special election is held that 4Good Government’s proposed charter amendment is defective in form and facially unconstitutional.”
Another argument from the city is that certain bonds can’t be issued by referendum because that would violate Metro Nashville and Tennessee laws.
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle pointed out that Metro had to explain a lot to make its case that the petition is illegal.
If the petition does become a ballot measure, the election commission has set a tentative election date for Dec. 15. Lyle is planning to issue a decision on the fate of the city’s tax referendum by Nov. 3, which is election day.