A panel of judges has blocked a new Tennessee law that would reconfigure the group that oversees professional sports facilities in Nashville, allowing state leaders to pick six of the board’s 13 members
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A panel of judges has blocked a new Tennessee law that would reconfigure the group that oversees Nashville’s professional sports facilities by allowing state leaders to pick six of the board’s 13 members.
Late last week, three judges agreed that the law targeting the Nashville Sports Authority likely violated home rule protections in the state constitution by singling out Nashville and not requiring approval by local voters or two-thirds of the metro council. The temporary injunction blocks the law while the city’s case continues in court. The law would have gone into effect on January 1.
The ruling marks the fourth court ruling against the state in the broader legal battle over laws passed by Republican lawmakers this year that erode Democratic-leaning Nashville’s control, ranging from oversight of the international airport to the size of the combined city and metro county council.
Created by the city under a corporate charter in 1995, the Nashville Sports Authority has 13 board members selected by the city’s mayor and approved by the Metro Council. The new law allows the mayor to retain a slim controlling majority with seven appointments, while splitting the other six choices between the House and Senate speakers and the governor.
Nashville officials have invoked home rule protections in their lawsuits against several of the other new state laws that limit their authority. The sports body’s lawsuit also said the law would further violate the state constitution by removing board members before their terms expire.
Although the new law did not specifically mention Nashville-Davidson County, the justices called it “at best a far-fetched hypothesis” to say the state intended the changes to apply to other counties because of the parameters lawmakers included.
In support of the change, prominent Republican lawmakers argued that the state authorized $500 million in bonds to help build a new $2.1 billion domed stadium planned for the Tennessee Titans. A planned performing arts center nearby is also getting $200 million from the state, House Speaker Cameron Sexton noted.
Tim Meads, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said his team is reviewing the court’s decision.
Earlier this year, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed the Sports Authorities Act and a series of others aimed at Nashville after city leaders floated a 2022 bid to host the 2024 Republican National Convention. The exchange escalated efforts in previous years to pass laws that reversed policies Republicans disliked in Nashville as well as in left-leaning Memphis.
In one of the other lawsuits filed by Nashville officials, a panel ruled that the state could not enforce a new law making it easier to pass changes through the Metro Council to the local fairgrounds, which is being considered for upgrades in hopes of drawing a NASCAR race . The state declined to appeal that decision.
The justices blocked another change that would have given the state a majority of appointments to the board that oversees Nashville International Airport. The state is appealing this case.