WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, April 17, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (R) announced that the state will not appeal a decision that temporarily blocks portions of a newly enacted, anti-democratic law, House Bill 48. Passed by the Republican Legislature, H.B. 48 forces Nashville’s Metro Council to reduce its size by half — from 40 to 20 members — an action many criticized as being a targeted reaction to the Nashville Metro Council’s refusal to host the 2024 Republican National Convention.
After H.B. 48 was enacted, two lawsuits were filed challenging the law — one by the Metro Government and one by community leaders. The plaintiffs in both lawsuits make similar claims that H.B. 48 violates the Tennessee Constitution and both requested that the court temporarily block the law. On April 10, the court temporarily blocked portions of the law and held that “the implementation of the Act and its reduction provisions at this late date results in upheaval of the election process, risks voter confusion, and potentially” compromises “the integrity of Davidson County’s August 3, 2023 general election.” A week later, in a press release, Kremetti stated that the Office of the Attorney General “does not plan to appeal the preliminary injunction” decision. The court’s decision to temporarily block the law and the state’s decision to not appeal this ruling is largely a victory for the voters of Nashville who will not see their representation in local government cut in half in the immediate term. Litigation will continue on the merits of the law at the trial court level.
Notably, in the same statement announcing the decision to not appeal the temporary injunction, Kremetti made it clear that the state is hostile to the autonomy of local governments: “[T]he cap on the size of metropolitan councils has been delayed but not been defeated.” It is clear that the state and the Legislature will continue to use their powers to target local governments and in turn target voters.