Future Metro Council members will still have the chance to qualify for lifetime health benefits, after current members voted down a bill that would have done away with the perk.
Despite receiving 19 votes several weeks ago, passing on second reading, Councilman Phil Claiborne’s bill was defeated Tuesday by a vote of 14 to 23. The bill would have ended a Metro policy that offers two-term council members the chance to continue buying into the city’s health care plan for life.
Claiborne has said that the bill was an important opportunity for the council to “lead by example” when it comes to cutting costs in Metro. He repeated that argument Tuesday night, telling the council that it should include itself in the process of trimming costs.
A representative from Metro’s Human Resources Department told The City Paper last month that 24 current council members and 33 former council members are in the Metro health insurance system. The total cost for current and former members is approximately $550,000 annually.
The primary opposition against the bill Tuesday night, however, came in response to the fact that the bill would not apply to current council members, thereby not including them in the cost-trimming effort at all.
“If a public policy is good for this government, then we should include ourselves when we vote for it,” said Councilman Jerry Maynard, before the vote. “If it is not good enough to pass while including us, then that should tell us something.”
Maynard is among those thought to be mulling a 2015 mayoral run, and as part of his comments he suggested that council members with future political ambitions should be willing to include themselves if they believed it was a good bill. He said it would be “hypocritical” to vote to take away the benefit from future council members, when he intended to take advantage of it.
In other council action:
Tuesday’s meeting was the first for Councilmen Darren Jernigan and Bo Mitchell since their election to higher office. Both were victorious as Democrats in state House races in districts 60 and 50 respectively.
Both told The City Paper they intend to give up their seats on the council, though it will be some time until they do so. In an effort to avoid the cost to the city that would come with a special election, Jernigan and Mitchell are planning on waiting to resign their council seats until the next scheduled elections in 2014. That means they would both serve their first full terms — including two legislative sessions — in the General Assembly while simultaneously serving on the council.
The next chance for the council seats to be filled without a special election is in August 2014, when the county general and state primary elections are held. By resigning then, Jernigan and Mitchell would be leaving with a year left on their council terms.