by Mel Griffith
For the first time in the memory of anyone now alive, Republicans will control both houses of the Tennessee legislature this year. We expect to see changes in Nashville, not just a different group of people ignoring the same problems. There are plenty of improvements in state law that can be made without costing anyone a dime, so the present economic situation is no excuse for inaction. There are lots of issues that need to be on their agenda such as those listed below.
1. Election of school superintendents. This ought to be the first item on their agenda. This right was taken away from the citizens several years ago under pressure from education professionals who don't like having to answer to the people who pay them. The superintendent or director has complete control over personnel and that is 80% of the budget. That means that 80% of the power over our school system is held by someone who only has to please four or five board members and doesn't have to care about the public.
2. Get rid of the Soviet-style system of electing judges where only one candidate is allowed to run. Have a real election instead.
3. Stop cities from annexing people who don't want to be annexed. Require a vote of the people in the affected area, at least if petitioned for. If people don't want the services the city provides, why should they be forced to accept and pay for them.
4. Stop cities from imposing zoning on areas up to five miles outside the city limits. It is outrageous to have rules on citizens by an outside jurisdiction where they have no vote. If cities are allowed to continue imposing zoning outside the city limits, those affected should be allowed to vote in city elections.
5. Allow a vote of the public on zoning. Imposing zoning deprives property owners of a major portion of their property rights. We should at least be sure that a majority of citizens want zoning imposed or existing zoning to continue.
6. Pass reasonable gun laws. Speaker Naifeh, an anti-gun fanatic, has successfully blocked improvements in Tennessee gun laws for years. The new speaker should use his influence to help Tennessee citizens protect themselves from criminals.
7. Revise our out-of-balance landlord-tenant laws. Present laws are so slanted in favor of tenants that tenants who are already behind in their rent end up getting another two or three months of free rent during our illogical, cumbersome, and lengthy eviction process.
The new legislature will do well to study what happened to the Republican congress and spend their time doing things that make a difference in people's lives instead of grandstanding about issues like abortion and immigration which they can do nothing about.