Memphis Dems hit Haslam for signing merger bill - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis Dems hit Haslam for signing merger bill

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV)  - Democratic state lawmakers from Memphis are criticizing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for signing a bill to delay any merger between the city schools and the Shelby County system.

State Rep. Larry Miller said the Memphis delegation did not hear from the governor before he signed the measure into law on Friday. Fellow Democratic Rep. Joe Towns said the delegation had little input into the bill's makeup, and the law amounts to a usurpation of local government power.

The bill sponsored by two Republican lawmakers from Shelby County was fast-tracked through the GOP-controlled Legislature this week. It did not receive a single Democratic vote.

"Why would someone on the state level or someone from East Tennessee or someone from where ever decide what goes on in Memphis?" asked Democratic Rep. Johnnie Turner.

The law requires a two-and-a-half year waiting period while a 21-member education transition panel oversees the merger. Delegates said the structure of that panel lacks Memphis representation and overall diversity.

"Based on how this bill is written, the city doesn't have any input on this planning commission," said Miller.

Lawmakers will ask the governor to consider appointing Memphis Mayor A C Wharton to the panel.

Legislators said they offered more than a dozen amendments while the bill was being considered. All of them were rejected, but they said they will continue to fight.

"Those of us who tried to put amendments on the bill when it was being discussed yesterday, we intend to file those amendments as bills," said Democratic Rep. Jeannie Richardson.

The Memphis City School Board voted in December to let city voters decide in a March 8 special election whether their city schools should merge with the system in Shelby County.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.  The AP contributed to this report.

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