Metro Legal has filed suit against the state over its attempt to change the Metropolitan Sports Authority.
This is the fourth bill passed by the General Assembly to go to court in the continued battle between the Metro and the state. This year’s legislative session saw a number of attacks on Nashville — aside from the Sports Authority, the city has also sued over a bill to cut the size of the Metro Council in half, a bill to take control of the airport authority, and a bill to change the threshold of votes needed in the Metro Council for demolitions to take place at the Nashville Fairgrounds.
“We do not enjoy filing lawsuits against the State and in fact hope for an improved relationship,” said Metro Law Director Wally Dietz in a press release from the mayor’s office. “But this statute affects only Nashville, not any other sports authority in Tennessee. We cannot sit idly by and let the State deprive the Metropolitan Government and the people who live here of their rights under our Tennessee Constitution.”
Just like Metro Legal’s other lawsuits against the state, this suit argues that this legislation violates the Home Rule Amendment of the constitution, which bans any legislation that targets a specific community.
There had been some speculation that with the change of the guard from John Cooper to Freddie O’Connell, the new administration might avoid litigation to try and mend the relationship with the state. One of the first decisions O’Connell made was not to sue over a bill that abolished the Community Oversight Board. But with this bill solely targeting Nashville, unlike the oversight board, the city filed suit.
“Since its creation in 1995, the Sports Authority’s board members — Nashvillians appointed by the mayor of Nashville — have guided the incredible growth of our city’s professional and amateur sports and recreational activities. Their able oversight is evident at every stadium, arena, and ballpark event we all enjoy,” said Mayor O’Connell.
The Sports Authority is a 13-member board, with appointments made by the mayor. The state’s legislation would take 6 of those appointments away from the mayor, handing them over to the state. The bill passed through the General Assembly on party lines, with Democrats arguing that not only does it violate the Home Rule Amendment, but that the current sports authority has been doing fine without state interference.
The Sports Authority is the body responsible for overseeing facilities such as Nissan Stadium. Because the state puts funds towards those projects, Republicans in the General Assembly argue that they should have a say in how they are run.
The lawsuit, which names Gov. Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton as defendants, was filed in Davidson County Chancery Court to be heard by a three-judge panel. The bill is supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1 2024, and the suit seeks a temporary injunction to block its implementation.
Last month, a three-judge panel ruled in Nashville’s favor in the case over the Fairgrounds, citing the Home Rule Amendment. The effort to cut the Metro Council in half was enjoined until after September’s election. That ruling was made by a three-judge panel consisting of one Democrat and two Republicans.