Mayor Wharton Vows to Defend Referendum Vote

On January 31, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris
January 31, 2011

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The schools showdown is showing no signs of cooling off. Tuesday, lawmakers and Memphis City Council members will meet at City Hall to discuss the school merger before the Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes.

Wednesday, the Tennessee State House will meet to try to block or delay the March 8th referendum vote by trying to rush Senator Mark Norris’ bill through the legislation. His bill would allow Shelby County residents to vote on the referendum. Right now only voters living in the city limits can cast their ballots on the referendum.

A vote could take place in Nashville as early as Tuesday. Early voting for the referendum begins February 16th, and Election Day is March 8th, so the clock is ticking.

FOX13’s Les Smith spoke with a determined Memphis Mayor A C Wharton who once again is verbally drawing a line in the sand with Nashville legislators with his strongest comments yet against their proposed actions.

Legislation to block a March referendum vote on Memphis and Shelby County school consolidation could be on a fast track this week in Nashville. If so, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton may be ready to hit the road to the State Capitol to head it off.

State Senate Education and Finance Committee members on Wednesday, followed by their counterparts in the house on Thursday, will convene in special sessions to review legislation requiring a year long study of consolidation and required approval of suburban residents before a merger could go into effect.

If approved, the legislation Mark Norris filed, which is backed by Ron Ramsey, could be ready for floor votes in both legislative chambers next week.

Early voting on the referendum with city voters only is scheduled to start February 16th, and Wharton vows he’ll do everything, including seeking judicial relief, to block any legislative effort to stop the vote.

“If there’s anything that in any way interferes with the vote, now scheduled for March 8th, then I will be there or I will be represented there. That’s a non-negotiable,” said Wharton. “Any other position is just totally indefensible legally and morally and I have to assume the legislature is going to follow the law and I assume they’re all moral men and women and that they’re going to do the right thing.”

Wharton said he plans on attending a Shelby County delegation meeting that’s scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Memphis chaired by Memphis State Senator Beverly Marrero.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell avoided reporter questions about his stance on the legislative initiatives to block consolidation. Wharton still says he plans to issue a public stance on the consolidation issue before the referendum vote.


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