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Legislative Process

OVERVIEW OF METROPOLITAN COUNCIL

What is the Metropolitan Council and how is it structured?

The Metropolitan Council is the legislative authority of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, a city-county consolidated government created on April 1, 1963.

The Council is a 40-member body of elected representatives -- 35 elected by district and five elected at-large, or county-wide. The presiding officer is the Vice Mayor, who is elected at large by the citizens.

When does it meet?

By Charter the regular meetings of the Council are held on the first and third Tuesdays of every month.

Can the public speak at the meetings?

Public hearings, at which the public can publicly address the Council, are held as required by law. All changes to the zoning maps or zoning laws require public hearings, and these are held at the first meeting of every month. Various other public hearings, such as on the annual proposed budgets or redevelopment projects, are held as needed.

The regular forum for the public to address the Council is at the committee level, as legislation is considered.

OVERVIEW OF THE COUNCIL OFFICE

The Metropolitan Council Office is a research and advisory staff providing service to Council members on legislative matters. Headed by director Jon Cooper, the staff drafts legislation requested specifically by Council members, handles inquiries on research matters, and processes the payroll, monthly expenses and related items for Council members.

The Council Staff Director is in attendance at all Council meetings and at selected committee meetings.

USE OF ORDINANCES/RESOLUTIONS

In what form does the Council take action on matters?

The Council transacts all official business by the adoption or enactment of resolutions and ordinances.

What’s the difference?

Ordinances normally amend or add sections to the Metropolitan Code of Laws; some other examples of the use of ordinances are:

budgets (annual operating or capital improvements)
tax levies
zoning matters
street or alley closures or name changes
acquisition of property
designated contracts.

Resolutions are generally used to make changes in internal policy or to take commendatory or memorializing action. Some examples are:

Charter amendments for referendum
appropriations for equipment/repair purchases
claims/settlements of lawsuits exceeding $1,000
leases
designated contracts.

What kind of vote is required for passage?

Ordinances, also referred to as "bills", require passage on three separate readings -- at Council meetings held on three different dates -- and require a majority vote of all Council members (21 votes) for passage on third and final reading.

Bills disapproved by the Planning Commission or the Traffic and Parking Commission require a two-thirds affirmative vote (27 votes) for passage.

Resolutions are adopted by a majority vote of all Council members voting and are only required to receive this affirmative vote one time.

ORIGINATION OF LEGISLATION

Who writes the legislation that the Council considers?

Ordinances and resolutions originate from three different sources: the Department of Law, the Council Staff Office, and other departments of the Metropolitan Government.

Which legislation does the Department of Law draft?

This department, under the direction of the Director of Law, prepares most of the ordinances and resolutions which are requested by or involve the various departments of the Metropolitan Government, particularly legislation which is not of a routine nature.

What if a Council member requests some specific legislation?

The Council Office Director prepares any legislation which is requested directly by a Council member. This may range from a resolution honoring an individual or group to a matter of particular interest or concern to the Council member.

What about routine legislation?

Certain other departments prepare legislation that is of a routine nature to the functioning of that department. The Planning Commission, for example, drafts all zoning legislation -- where it is requested by a Council member or the Planning Commission has recommended approval of the rezoning to Metro Council.

Who should a citizen contact about getting legislation filed?

Any citizen should contact his/her Council representative to discuss potential legislation, as only a Council member can bring legislation to the floor of the Council for action.

FILING REQUIREMENTS AND DEADLINES

Who has to sign legislation before it can be filed?

Any resolution or ordinance must be sponsored (signed) by at least one member of the Metropolitan Council before the Clerk can accept the legislation for filing. Any legislation approving a contract must have the fully-executed contracts filed at the time the legislation is filed.

What is the filing deadline for regular meetings?

Deadline for filing legislation for Council action is 4:00 p.m. on the Tuesday which is one week before a regular meeting of the Council, except proposed amendments to the Capital Improvements Budget which have different filing requirements.

BUDGET DOCUMENTS

When is the proposed operating budget filed each year?

The Charter requires the ordinance and proposed budget to be filed not later than May 1 each year.

Is the public allowed to speak on the proposed budget?

Yes, a public hearing is held by the Council when the budget ordinance is on second reading.

Can the budget be amended once it is filed?

Yes, the proposed budget may be amended at any time before final passage by the Council.

When is the budget usually adopted?

By Charter, a budget MUST be adopted not later than the 30th day of June.

How does the Capital Improvements Budget (CIB) differ?

The CIB is a planning document and includes proposed capital expenditures for the ensuing fiscal year and the next five fiscal years thereafter. This budget does not approve funding but approves the priority level of projects to be funded in the future.

Is it passed at the same time as the operating budget?

No, the Charter requires final passage by the Council not later than June 15th each year. The filing deadline for the CIB is May 15th and a public hearing is also held by the Council on this budget when the enacting legislation is on second reading.

Can it be amended during the year if a priority project needs to be added?

The Mayor, after a recommendation by the Metropolitan Planning Commission, may submit amendments to the CIB in resolution form to the Council at any time during the year. An affirmative vote by 27 members of Council is required for adoption of amendments.