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VOL. 127 | NO. 60 | Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Commission Confirms Move of Redistricting Standoff To Court

By Bill Dries

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There will be no fourth try at a redistricting plan by the Shelby County Commission. The issue will be decided by Chancellor Arnold Goldin probably sometime in mid-May.

Shelby County Commissioners dropped a fourth attempt at setting new district lines for the body Monday, March 26, after conferring with their attorneys about the next step in the Chancery Court decision to come.

Goldin will get briefs from the different sides in the dispute by mid-April and is expected to rule on them without a hearing.

Several attorneys for the commission and county government have also said the central issue will likely be whether a set of 13 single-member districts with seven majority black districts is required to have a seven-vote majority to pass or a nine-vote two-thirds majority.

The two-thirds majority is required by the Shelby County Charter but the Tennessee Constitution requires only a simple majority.

Commissioners also voted Monday to request the county administration have an attorney involved in the lawsuit to specifically defend the charter provision.

In other action, the commission delayed indefinitely any further action on an animal welfare ordinance.

The ordinance setting standards for animal care and provisions for reporting suspected animal abuse was amended in committee last week again delaying a final vote by the full commission until April.

But the commission voted instead to freeze any action on the ordinance on Monday’s second reading and put it on hold indefinitely.

Commissioner Steve Mulroy, the sponsor of the measure, urged the body to let his ordinance get to an up-or-down vote on third reading in April.

“All the work that we’ve done should not be thrown away,” Mulroy said, adding that he amended the ordinance to try to placate opponents of the measure. “Vote on the merits, not on saving time.”

Mulroy said he also intended to rally supporters of the measure on third reading at the April meeting.

But several commissioners said the previous delays and amendments to the ordinance weren’t fair to opponents who have been showing up to speak against the measure for six months.

“It has been impossible to get an up-or-down vote because of the amendments,” said commissioner Brent Taylor. “That is fundamentally unfair.”

Commissioner Mike Ritz said even with the amendments, the votes aren’t there on the commission to pass it in any form.

“Is this the Mulroy dead dog bill or the dead Mulroy dog bill?” Ritz quipped.

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