LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETING MINUTES
2 MAY 2023
Chair Commissioner Evan Baddour opened the meeting asking Commissioner Matt Rubelsky to offer a prayer and lead the pledge. The minutes of 16 February 2023 were moved for approval by Commissioner Joyce Woodard, seconded by Commissioner Caleb Savage, and were approved unanimously.
First Agenda Item – Proposed Resolution of the Giles County Commission Declaring Support for Individual Liberty (handout). The Chair noted this agenda item would require a vote, and Commissioner Caleb Savage moved that the Resolution which addressed future and potential mandates during a pandemic be approved within the committee and forwarded to the full commission. Motion seconded by Commissioner Terry Jones which then opened the resolution up for discussion. Commissioner Judy Pruitt questioned why the resolution was required due to historical precedent currently being used and there being no issues raised. Commissioner Caleb Savage, who had initiated the resolution, discussed his reasoning, that being: his review of other counties, naming three, that imposed certain restrictions, e.g. masks and lockdowns, during the pandemic; his own experience during the pandemic; his recommendation that those type decisions should be a person’s right to decide and in health issues that decision in conjunction with their doctor; and lastly, concerns about funding law enforcement of such mandates. Commissioner Savage said the resolution provided individual choice, but did not ban those desiring a different approach, e.g. wear a mask. Several of the members voiced their support for the resolution, but some areas of concern listed were: Commissioner Gayle Jones asked if the second line of the handout which read “the Constitution prohibits the restriction of the free exercise of religion” shouldn’t also include free speech and assemble. Commissioner Savage said he didn’t think that changed the meaning but suggested do another amendment for the full commission to address in the next meeting. Commissioner David Wamble noted the timing of the resolution to be strange; perhaps more suitable during pandemic, with Commissioner Savage noting the proposed resolution is to be more proactive for any future pandemic. Commissioner Wamble also noted that he didn’t feel like Giles County felt any infringement during the last pandemic. Commissioner Shelly Goolsby said she needed clarification, i.e., the resolution is written to show that people should have the ability to choose and yet as she referenced another meeting, that seemed to be in exact opposition to this resolution, in particularly the rules for the Agri-Park and for books deemed inappropriate by others at the library. This generated considerable discussion on both sides of the issue. Commissioner Erin Curry noted her concern on the county’s ability to apply and receive certain type grants given the resolution stated “There will be no county resources of any kind spent enforcing unconstitutional lockdowns or mandates issued by the United States government or the government of the State of Tennessee.” Commissioner Judy Pruett noted the resolution was following a slippery slope, mentioning the use of seat belts as for person’s own safety, and is required and generally followed. She further said that without laws there will be chaos, and at some point, you have to be about safety for the common good. Commissioner Goolsby mentioned some of the activities at the schools during the pandemic, and that the county attorney should review to make sure the county doesn’t lose funding, i.e., from ability to apply for grants. After lengthy and civil discussion, the vote was called for. A role call vote was made with the motion being approved 4 to 3, with members Judy Pruett, David Adams, and Joyce Woodard voting no.
Other Business – A handout was provided by Commissioner Gayle Jones showing email traffic between Commissioner Jones and Melisa Kelton, CTAS. The issue was revoking of permission by County Executive (CE) Graham Stowe to use the county’s gazebo located on the courthouse grounds, permission for which had been granted without knowledge that the city had already permitted its Gay Pride Parade on the same date. One of the outputs from that email traffic was a suggestion that the county develop a policy to cover such an instance. Several of the Commissioners noted historical precedents and potentially a previous resolution which gave the County Executive the authority to deal with such issues. The CE noted that his decision was not made alone, that he had discussed with both attorneys for the county and the city of Pulaski, the county Sheriff, and the Pulaski Mayor; and that the decision was based on security concerns and in accord with case law. The CE was questioned if anybody would be using the gazebo that day and he stated the Sheriff’s department would have officers posted there. He was further questioned on cost of using the gazebo and he said no cost. Some of the commissioners asked about having the county attorney attend a future meeting, but given the CE’s continuous interaction with the CA on this issue, no new insight was expected.
Other Business cont’d -A discussion led by Commissioner Terry Jones to hold meetings where at least three agenda items are scheduled rather than holding several meetings with no more than one or two items per meeting. He did note that could be clarified to the responsibility of the chair. If a meeting was deemed necessary for one item or more and that item had specific timing associated with it, or was deemed more urgent the Chair or the CE could call a meeting. This suggestion was made in thinking of the cost of committee meetings and the time involved in coming to several meetings. Issues addressed were: With just one item, time involved can be more than 1 ½ hours or more so adding more than one could result in considerable time required on one day; there are three commissioners per district so someone almost always available per district; although typically the meetings are scheduled in the mornings, working people can’t attend (although other shifts rather than the usual shifts were mentioned); question on commissioners being paid even if leave before meeting ends (with staying after agenda items discussed, pay debatable).
Other Business cont’d – For public to speak during committee meetings, legal names must be given; for full commission, sign-in sheet provided. A motion by Commissioner Terry Jones and seconded by Commissioner Joyce Woodard was made that members of the public who speak during committee meetings must give their legal name or not be recognized and any verbiage be struck from the record, with the same being true at full commission meetings, noting the information on the sign-in sheet being acceptable. Motion approved unanimously.
Motion to adjourn was made by Commissioner Matt Rubelsky, seconded by Commissioner Caleb Savage, and was approved unanimously.
ATTENDEES: Members of the Committee: Chair Commissioner Evan Baddour, Commissioners: Joyce Woodard, Terry Jones, David Adams for Annelle Guthrie (absent), Caleb Savage, Judy Pruett and Matt Rubelsky Other Commissioners in attendance: Erin Curry, Shelly Goolsby, Gayle Jones, Dr. James Lathrop, Roger Reedy, Joseph Sutton, David Wamble, Tracy Wilburn, Tim Risner Other Attendees: County Executive Graham Stowe, Former Commissioner Maurice Woodard and other members of the public