Hawk, Southerland To Take
The Greeneville Proposals,
And Have Bill Drawn Up
BY SARAH R. GREGORY
Proposed revisions to the Town of Greeneville's charter -- including moving the town's elections from June to August -- will soon be submitted to the Tennessee General Assembly for consideration in the upcoming legislative session.
The session begins Jan. 14.
In November, the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved two resolutions to amend the charter in various ways.
Because the charter was created through a private act of the Tennessee General Assembly, however, the proposed changes cannot go into effect until they are approved by the General Assembly, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, and approved one more time by the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
LIKELY FINAL IN SPRING
City Administrator Todd Smith said Friday in an interview that he plans to meet with state Sen. Steve Southerland, R-1st, of Morristown, and state Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville, next week to discuss the changes passed locally and to provide copies of the proposals.
"I'm expecting in January, they [Sen. Southerland and Rep. Hawk] will probably introduce the bill [to amend the charter] based on the resolutions," Smith told The Greeneville Sun.
Smith said he doesn't anticipate any challenges for the revisions legislation, but he said he expects that it will be spring before the measure is approved by the legislature and signed by the governor.
Mayor W.T. Daniels agreed.
"I think it will go through pretty easy," he said. "When we [changed the charter] to recognize the City Administrator, there were no issues.
"I don't see any now with what we're doing."
A proposal to lengthen the terms of office of city board members from two years to four years was removed before the two resolutions containing the proposed changes were approved by the board.
But a number of other changes remain, including moving the dates of municipal elections.
The proposed revisions to the charter:
* would move the date of municipal elections from June to August to coincide with the county general election;
* would set redistricting requirements in an effort to have equal populations represented in Greeneville's two wards;
* would remove the Recorder's Office staff and the chiefs and assistant chiefs of the police and fire departments from the Greeneville Civil Service system, with the current staff of the Recorder's Office "grandfathered in";
* would remove from the charter a restriction that limited the number of police officers Greeneville may hire, based on the town's population;
* would remove the board members' salary amount from the charter and instead make the members' salaries part of the regular town budget process;
* would allow new ordinances to be published on the Town of Greeneville website in addition to publishing them in a newspaper of general circulation;
* would remove from the charter antiquated language that refers to "Sabbath-breaking";
* would remove certain restrictive language in the existing charter in order to allow Greeneville to support parades and other local festivities if the board chose to do so; and,
* would remove Justice of the Peace and City Judge responsibilities from the Mayor and the Recorder.
The two resolutions containing the changes both received the approval of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on 3-to-1 votes in favor.
The first resolution included almost all of the proposed revisions with the exception of those pertaining to the town's Civil Service system.
The first resolution was approved by Aldermen Darrell Bryan, Keith Paxton, and Sarah E.T. Webster, with Alderman Buddy Hawk voting against it.
The second resolution, pertaining to the Civil Service system, passed with Aldermen Bryan, Webster, and Hawk voting in favor and Paxton voting against.
Mayor Daniels did not vote on either resolution, since the mayor only votes in case of a tie.
THE NEXT STEP
After Rep. Hawk and Sen. Southerland receive the resolutions with the proposed changes, they will submit the information to state constitutional attorneys that serve as the state legislature's legal staff.
Those attorneys, Hawk told the Sun in a telephone interview Friday, will "dot the i's and cross the t's" in the legal language to ensure that all the proposed changes align with state laws, and then the attorneys will draft the proposed changes into a bill for the legislature to consider.
Daniels said he doesn't anticipate that any problem issues will arise during that process, since Town Attorney Ron Woods has reviewed the proposed changes numerous times.
Rep. Hawk said he did not expect any issues to arise either, since it is typical for local attorneys to work with the state's attorneys throughout the process of drafting such changes in order to ensure compliance with the Tennessee Code Annotated.
IN THE STATE HOUSE
After the state attorneys turn the town's resolutions into the form of a private act of the legislature (a bill), Hawk said, the bill will most likely be introduced in the state House of Representatives through a House committee on local government.
"Typically, when they [charter revisions] receive majority support on a local level, they will pass through a subcommittee and full committee on local government," Hawk said.
In most cases, charter revisions pass through such committees easily, he said.
"Historically, there's not a lot of conversation," he added.
Hawk went on to say that, "If there is a local legislative issue that is not overwhelmingly supported, then there could be some discussion. That is one of the questions that will typically come up: 'What was the local vote?'
"Usually," he concluded, "we, as a legislative body, defer to local governments on how to govern themselve."
IN THE STATE SENATE
In the State Senate, the process is similar, Southerland told The Greeneville Sun on Friday.
The absolute latest the legislation could be submitted is Feb. 5, he said.
After the bill is submitted in the Senate, it could go to a Senate committee on local government, or it could be added to a form of "consent calendar" and pass to the full Senate with little or no discussion in a committee.
"Usually, charter changes are simple," Southerland explained.
"The city council is elected to run the city. Usually they [charter revisions] go right through," he said, since legislators from other parts of the state most likely "do not feel it's their business to run the city of Greeneville."
When the bill passes both chambers of the state legislature, it will go to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature.
That process, all of those interviewed by the Sun on Friday agreed, will likely conclude in the spring.
FINAL VOTE BY BOARD
Hawk and Southerland both said they expect to introduce the legislation soon after the session begins, just as they did in early 2012, when the town's charter was amended to create the City Administrator position.
"Our legislative sessions are shrinking in length of duration," Hawk said, noting that the local bill might move through the legislative process a bit more quickly this time than previously, perhaps concluding in March.
Once final approval comes from the state legislature and the governor, the legislation returns to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for one more vote.
The revisions to the charter may not take effect until the board gives majority approval on what is essentially a second and final reading of the proposed changes.