The Tennessee Supreme court today upheld the constitutionality of term limits in Shelby County. This could also apply to Knox County elected officials, including 12 of 19 county commissioners who could now be ineligible for reelection. This would have a huge impact on the upcoming county primaries in May and the general elections in August.
A 1978 amendment to the Tennessee Constitution allows counties to establish their own charters, including rules regarding qualifications for holding county office. Shelby County and Knox County are the only two counties with charters enacting term limits, which voters in both counties approved in 1994.
The latest lawsuit before the Tennessee Supreme Court involved three Shelby county commissioners who argued that term limits are unconstitutional and are not authorized by the legislation establishing county charters. A lower court agreed.
Today, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the lower court's ruling, saying that "a term limit provision contained in a county charter is authorized by Tennessee Code Annotated section 5-1-210(4)" and that the legislation is valid under the state constitution.
No word yet from Knox County officials on what this means for Knox County. This could be a potential bombshell, depending on exactly what the Knox County charter says.
Stay tuned, this will get interesting...
usually reliable source says in comments that 13 12 candidates for county commission are being removed from the Knox County ballot. I called the elections office to try to get confirmation. They said I'd have to talk to the administrator, but he was tied up talking to TV reporters.
UPDATE: Our highly reliable beyond any question or doubt source says in comments that the following county commissioners would be term limited: Diane Jordan, David Collins, Billy Tindell, Wanda Moody, John Schmid, Phil Guthe, John Griess, Mike McMillan, Mark Cawood, Mary Lou Horner, John Mills and Larry Clark. (Ed. note: if the decision applies to Knox County, that is.)
UPDATE: The ruling could also apply to Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchison. Hutchison successfully fought off earlier lawsuits, arguing that the charter term limits did not apply to "constitutional officers" because it is prohibited by the constitution. The Tennessee Supreme Court decision today seems to contradict that by ruling that term limits established by county charters are valid and constitutional. Knox County's charter term limit rule apparently applies to (can't find a copy online - anybody?) "all county officials."
UPDATE: Michael Silence has an update at his blog. He has been in contact with State Election Coordinator Brook Thompson who says "no definitive decision" has been made regarding how this affects Knox County. State and local election officials are working with the state Attorney General, and the County Law Director is involved. There is a Knox County Election Commission meeting scheduled for 4:30 PM today.
UPDATE: Michael Silence has another update (same link as above) from Knox County Election Administrator Greg Mackay, who says no decisions have been made, and that "speculation of names being removed from the ballot is not accurate," referring to the above. (At the time of this posting, Mackay had not responded to my e-mail asking about ballot changes. He was not available for comment when I called earlier.)
UPDATE: Greg Mackay responded to our questions about whether the election commission had received instructions earlier today to remove names from the ballot. He said "nothing has been done yet" and that "the EC meets at 4:30".
BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: WBIR news just reported at 5:01 PM from the election commission meeting that County Law Director Mike Moyers says the ruling does apply to Knox County and that it appears right now anyway that names will be removed from the ballot. The meeting is still underway.
LAST UPDATE: (For now, on this thread anyway.) The KNS is now reporting that the Knox County Election Commission plans to meet with the affected county commission candidates to make sure it is OK with them to remove their names from the ballots as per the law and today's Tennessee Supreme Court ruling upholding it.
Unbelievable. It no longer appears there is government in Knox County by the people, for the people. It's government by the powers that be, for the powers that be.
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