Unforgivable Inaction 

It has now been two weeks since we reported the strange recalcitrance of the Republican members of the Shelby County delegation to expedite or even deal with legislation of various kinds recommended by the Shelby County Commission, acting as a body.

We stress the collective aspect of the commission's recommendations because several of them were initiated by Republican commissioners, and few of them — if any — had the remotest connection to partisan politics.

It is customary practice — an annual circumstance as inevitable as the soon-to-be-concluded NCAA tournament — for both the City Council and the County Commission to forward such legislative packages to Nashville. The council and commission members, after all, have constituents in common with the members of the delegation, regardless of party, and nothing that smacks of "Republican" or "Democratic" per se ever gets into such packages. Most often, they consist of undisputed consensus items, like several pieces of crime legislation sought this year by Shelby County mayor A C Wharton and District Attorney General Bill Gibbons (a Democrat and a Republican, respectively, if it matters).

So why are the GOP members of the county's delegation stalling on these bills? The answer was obvious two weeks ago, and it is obvious now. The Republican members are not budging because they are miffed by a single act of the commission: the insistence, almost a month ago now, of the local body's Democratic majority in naming a Democrat, Matt Kuhn of Germantown, to succeed David Lillard, a Republican, as representative of a suburban — and indisputably GOP-dominated — district on the commission.

We were dubious of the Democrats' action then, and we remain disapproving now. By naming one of their own to a seat whose constituents are so overwhelmingly Republican in election after election, the Democratic commissioners unilaterally abrogated a long-standing "gentlemen's agreement" whereby both Democratic and Republican members had voted to fill such vacancies with representatives of the party which had held the seat. Worse, they had arguably disenfranchised the GOP voters of the 4th District.

But as much as we looked askance at that action, we are even more displeased that the Republicans in the Shelby delegation have retaliated by blocking necessary legislation of benefit to both parties and all residents of the county.

Upon convening Monday's meeting of the commission, Chairman Deidre Malone (yes, a Democrat) opened with these words: "I'd like to take the privilege of the chair. It has been brought to my attention that our legislative agenda in Nashville has been stalled. ... Our legislative package is not moving. We all know why it's not moving, and they're clear about why."

Indeed, they are clear. Various GOP legislators, when asked about the matter, either admitted to the reality spoken to by Malone or issued equivocating non-denial denials.

Malone continued by asking her fellow commissioners to contact the recalcitrant legislators and "if at all possible, report back to our staff by Thursday at noon their comments."

We'd like to recommend the same action to our readers, and we, too, would like to hear the responses from Nashville.


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