There were plenty of numbers at Monday’s County Commission meeting as the major task of approving the county’s budget for 2014-15 was approved with no discussion.
- $1.8721 per $100 assessed value as the new certified tax rate. Only Fifth District Commissioner Jeff Yarber voted no without explanation.
- .3440 cents per $100 of assessed value as the fire tax levy for property owners within the county, but outside of Fire District 1 and .4212 cents per $100 of assessed value for property owners located within Fire District 1.
- Approval of the county budget, county schools budget and various funds and contributions to various nonprofit charitable organizations.
However, most discussion centered on the number “1” — that is Amendment 1 which Tennessee voters will be asked to approve or dismiss on the November ballot.
If passed, it would give the state Legislature powers it does not currently have to create laws concerning abortions.
The origin of the amendment comes from a 2000 ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court which did away with mandatory waiting periods and rules requiring doctors to tell patients what an abortion procedure actually entails.
Supporters of the amendment say it will return the decision on what the laws should be to the people through their elected representatives.
The commission was presented with a resolution in support of the amendment by Commission Vice-Chairman Adam Lowe.
Two weeks ago, Lowe gave an impassioned plea for the amendment and the resolution.
“I think it was one of the most heartfelt appeals I had ever given in my life,” Lowe said. “I think this is important.”
He added, “There are many organizations that have hired lobbyists in Nashville lobbying actively for and against this measure. We are the lobbyists for the people we represent. We are the closest thing they have to a voice and this is our opportunity to send to our elected representatives and to the people just how Bradley County stands.”
Lowe’s motion was seconded by First District Commissioner Ed Elkins.
Third District Commissioner Jeff Morelock said he had thought “long and hard” about the resolution.
“I did some more research on it. I have talked to people about it,” he said, adding it was probably the “most politically inopportune time to do this,” as he faces a challenge in his re-election campaign. “But, I’m going to do it anyway.”
“Here we are again considering an issue that this Commission has no legal authority over,” Morelock said. “Whatever we say, we have no legal authority over abortion. There’s nothing wrong with saying it if that’s what you want to do, but we don’t have any legal authority over it.”
He said losing a limb was a “horrible medical experience and so is abortion.
“Sometimes an abortion is medically necessary upon consultation between a woman and her doctor,” Morelock said.
“I want to make this very plain,” he added with his voice rising with emotion. “I do not support wholesale abortion. I do not support Tennessee being a mecca for abortions. I believe counseling before a proposed abortion is generally good and a waiting period is generally good. And I certainly do not support casual abortions.”
Morelock suggested commissioners act individually as citizens, and not in their official capacity, to express their opinions on the amendment to the public.
“This commission on an issue we had some control over, the wheel tax, was not willing to take a stand to support education which we had some support over,” he said. “Now, we’re being asked to support a resolution that the public is going to vote on anyway. This is not, in my opinion, the business of the commission.”
He added moral views are fine to express as citizens, but they are not the business of the commission.
Morelock said those on the “far right” would try to say his stand is one as a support for abortion.
He repeated his oppositions concerning the procedure he earlier stated.
Morelock said he and Lowe are friends and would remain friends, but he felt the resolution had “all the elements of political posturing.”
He made a substitute motion to take the resolution off the table, but it died for lack of a second.
Lowe said Morelock would “continue to be my friend, but he has gotten convoluted once again into the emotional aspect of what’s being changed here.”
He said neither the resolution nor amendment governs the act of abortion.
“It clearly returns the authority to address abortion back to the body that represents the voice of the people,” Lowe said. “Once again, we’re jumping over accountability into action. This is a call for accountability back to the Legislature and remove from the death-defying grasp of a Supreme Court that has had the audacity to legislate from the bench and return to the voice of the people, through their elected representatives, the ability to manage the issue that is abortion in Tennessee.”
State Rep. Kevin Brooks also addressed commissioers, giving his support to the motion and praising the commission for taking such action.
Lowe addressed the “political posturing” statement, saying he had signed up as an ambassador for the “Yes on 1” campaign “long before anybody decided they were running for election, re-election or anything like that.”
The motion to approve the resolution succeeded with 13 “yes” votes. Morelock passed on the vote.
The only other notable business was the delay in approving several requests for disposal of county property by the sheriff’s department.
Elkins, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, noted one of the assets was a digital recorder which is to be disposed by recycling, but is beng disposed because it is categorized as “cannot find.”
“I don’t know how you dispose of something you cannot find,” he said.
The commission voted to send the disposal requests to the Law Enforcement Committee for further review.