Second lawsuit seeks to block state law aimed at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. (Photo: John Partipilo)
A second lawsuit has been filed challenging a new state law that makes it easier to gain Metro Council approval for a new racetrack at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
Signed into law on May 5 by Gov. Bill Lee, the GOP-backed measure lowers the threshold of votes needed to approve any changes to the city’s fairgrounds from 27 to a simple majority of 21 votes of the 40-member Metro Council.
The law was enacted just as city leaders weigh a controversial proposal by the Bristol Motor Speedway to build a nearly new 30,000-seat, NASCAR-ready racetrack on the grounds of the current Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
The lawsuit, filed by three Metro Councilmembers — Colby Sledge, Bob Mendes and Sandra Sepulveda — makes similar claims to an earlier lawsuit brought by the Metro Legal department. The councilmembers’ suit seeks a ruling that immediately enjoins the law from taking effect and a finding that it violates the Tennessee Constitution’s Home Rule amendment, which bars state lawmakers from passing bills aimed at a single city.
The three councilmembers are against the proposed development of the fairgrounds, the lawsuit notes.
Mendes on Thursday called the state law “unconstitutional state oversight.” He said a second lawsuit was necessary to ensure that elected leaders and voters have also asserted the claims in court — in addition to the city of Nashville — in case there are legal challenges from the state over who has standing to file suit.
The suit, which was filed in Davidson County Chancery Court on Wednesday, names Gov. Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton. It is one of at least five recent legal challenges to laws newly enacted by the state legislature this year.
The new fairgrounds law is directly at odds with the Metro charter, which specifically says that at the Fairgrounds “no demolition of the premises shall be allowed to occur without approval by ordinance receiving 27 votes by the Metropolitan Council or an amendment to the Metropolitan Charter” — language approved by voters in 2011.
The intents and purposes of the new law “are to override the overwhelming support of Nashville voters,” and to seek to void existing language in the Metro Charter. Lawmakers in favor of the new speedway specifically referred to its intent to apply to Nashville’s Fairgrounds, the lawsuit notes. The suit argues that that is a violation of the state’s 70-year-old Home Rule Amendment, which voids any law aimed at a specific city without the approval of either the local legislative body or voters.
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