The Metro legal department has been made aware of a legal technicality, which could potentially derail the proposed English Only charter amendment and prevent it from being on the ballot in November.
Nashville attorney Gregg Ramos, of the firm North, Pursell, Ramos & Jameson, has called the department’s attention to the intricate wording of the Metro Charter on when proposed amendments can be submitted.
According to the charter, a petition-driven amendment proposal, like English Only, may only be submitted once every two years.
“The council shall not adopt a resolution proposing amendments to this charter more often than twice during the term of office of members of said council,” the charter reads, “nor shall any such amendment or amendments be submitted by petition more often than once in each two years.”
In 2006, Davidson County passed a petition-driven charter amendment, giving voters the power to approve property tax increases. The amendment passed on Nov. 7, 2006.
The English Only charter amendment proposal would be up for approval at the federal election on Nov. 4. Ramos believes the new proposal falls short of the required two-year time frame by three days.
“I think we’ve brought it to light and I think we have a good argument,” Ramos said.
The Metro legal department has been made aware of the potential two-year technicality.
“It’s been called to our attention. There might be an issue,” Metro legal Associate Director Tom Cross said. “We haven’t reached a definitive legal opinion.”
The legal opinion will center on the department’s interpretation of the word “submitted” as it is written in the charter.
If the department determines “submitted” to mean when the proposed charter amendment was filed with the Metro Clerk, then the proposal cleared the two-year waiting period.
Councilman Eric Crafton filed his 12,503 signed petitions on Aug. 14. The tax increase proposal was submitted to the clerk’s office on Aug. 8, 2006.
However, if the department concludes the word “submitted” refers to when the amendment is presented to the voters, then it is possible the proposal fails to clear the required two years by three days.
Crafton said early in the process he anticipated legal challenges and a marketing campaign against the English Only proposal.
The proposal said no citizen has a right to Metro services in any language except English. Crafton has also filed a bill with Metro Council, which would require those who do receive services in other languages to pay an interpreter fee.
The county Election Commission still must verify the 12,503 signatures, which will take about two weeks.