Chattanooga lawmaker scolds Hamilton County commissioners for secret attempt to change law

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, pulled his bill, S.B. 1911, from consideration in a Senate committee Tuesday, saying the Hamilton County Commission had asked him and others in the Hamilton County delegation to sponsor it without discussing it in a public meeting.

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga.

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, speaking to a Senate committee. To see the VIDEO, click on the picture.

The bill was filed as a caption bill, meaning the language was a placeholder for the real intent of the sponsor.

Gardenhire told the Senate State and Local Government Committee Tuesday that the bill now had an amendment (which has not yet been made public on the General Assembly’s website) that would get rid of a limit on county commissioner pay raises. But Gardenhire said he had decided to pull the bill, and hoped “to never see it again.”

“We received some letters by some of the elected officials of Hamilton County, which (were) written in secret behind closed doors asking us to do this. I’ve asked for an opinion on it.  I didn’t want to be — neither does anybody else in the delegation want to be — complacent in accepting such a letter,” Gardenhire told the Senate State and Local Government Committee Tuesday.

“As one of the representatives from Hamilton County said, if you want to drink the poison, we’ll be glad to mix it,” Gardenhire said. “But we have decided that it’s probably best in the public interest to keep it like it is and if they want to vote themselves a raise, or ask us to change the law, they need to do it out in the open and in a public meeting and discuss it and not bring it to us in private.”

Andy Sher with the The Times Free Press reported that Gardenhire has asked for an opinion if the commissioners violated the Open Meetings Act. Commissioners had placed a letter in a back room that requested the local legislative delegation change the law, and asked other commissioners to sign it.

The move from Gardenhire drew fire from the county commission chairman. The Times Free Press reported that Commission Chairman Chester Bankston said the state representative was not being truthful.

Read Times Free Press story: Gardenhire calls out county commissioners for secret attempt to hike their own pay

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