Overshadowed by approval of a property tax increase, the Metro Council voted Tuesday to defer legislation that would end lifetime insurance for council members and a bill requiring future Metro workers to live in Davidson County.
Councilman Carter Todd, who represents parts of Green Hills and Forest Hills, is the sponsor of an ordinance that would end a policy — often seen as a perk — that allows former two-term council members to continue to buy into the council’s subsidized health care plan after they leave office.
“We have a moral duty as citizens to make sure that government is run as efficiently as possible,” Todd said at Tuesday’s council meeting, especially as the council is making residents pay higher taxes, he added.
But after the council’s Budget and Finance Committee voted 3-2 — with 10 members not voting — to recommended disapproval of the bill earlier in the week, Todd asked that his bill be deferred by one meeting. A second of three votes is set for July 3.
At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, meanwhile, has drafted legislation that would require all new Metro workers to either live in Davidson County or move there within 90 days of being hired. The bill includes waivers for workers who need to work elsewhere for special circumstances, such as taking care of a relative, and a waiver in the event qualified individuals aren’t found for a job.
“In this economy, with the number of people that are begging for jobs and wanting jobs, I think it is appropriate to ask them to live in the county,” Tygard said Tuesday.
Tygard’s proposal, which would reinstitute a policy that Metro held until the mid-1990s, was deferred Tuesday until July. On Tuesday, it triggered a wide range of viewpoints in the council.
Council attorney Jon Cooper said Memphis is the only municipality in Tennessee he’s aware of that has a similar in-county requirement.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll tell you straight up: I don’t want to be like Memphis,” At-large Councilman Tim Garrett said, prompting laughter in the chambers. “I spent 20 years in the legislature, and I didn’t want to be like Memphis up there either.”
But At-large Councilman Jerry Maynard said he supports the move. “No one has been a stronger supporter of Metro employees than myself,” he said, adding that he’s spoken to police officers and firefighters who live in Davidson County. “They don’t like it that half the firefighters live outside Davidson County.”
Maynard said the requirement is “the equitable thing to do” during a time when city workers will receive a 4 percent pay increase as a result of Davidson County’s newly enacted property tax increase.
At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry disagreed, suggesting it would shrink Metro’s pool of quality employee candidates. “When you’ve got an EMT or a firefighter or a police officer, you want the best candidate. And that candidate might live in Sumner County. That candidate might live in Rutherford County.
“I want people to be in Davidson County because they want to be, not because we force them to be,” she said.