Today our man in Nashville, Richard Locker, gets out ahead of everyone (as usual) with reporting that the House and Senate committees will take the unusual step this week of convening committees to review the school-merger bills.
If the relevant House and Senate committees approve the bills this week, they could be ready for floor votes in both legislative chambers the following week. The full General Assembly reconvenes from a three-week recess on Feb. 7.
As Rick has pointed out before, the vast majority of Shelby County's legislative delegation opposes those bills, but since most of them are Democrats and the Republican suburban legislators are united, it doesn't matter. Republicans dominate both legislative bodies and can do what they want. In this case, they will follow the will of their suburban Republican colleagues from Shelby County.
Ron Ramsey, the speaker of the senate, of course came out last week pushing hard for legislation to block the referendum, citing his opposition to a much-larger school district being allowed to dissolve and effectively swallow up the much-smaller county district. Rick has some quotes from new Gov. Bill Haslam that give some insight int his thinking on the matter.
"Right now, I don't think it's the state's role to play a part in the argument that's going on. I think the state does have an overarching role in this and that's a sense of -- beyond disputes between cities and counties -- our role is to protect the rights of every child to get a great education.
"We have the ability to be a little bit above the fray, if you will, but to make certain that the end goal is kept in mind. I think that is both my legal responsibility but also my responsibility as a leader of the state."
On Sunday, we looked at the funding disputes that led to the showdown in the first place. Essentially, those Memphians for the referendum believe Memphis taxes would soar and suburban taxes would plummet if the currently all-suburban Shelby County Schools is allowed to become a special school district.