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How to win a fight with the federal gov't
Photo by Thomas Martinsen / Unsplash

How to win a fight with the federal gov't

⚖️ Full interview with AG Skrmetti · Build it better blemishes · Transit moves · Not so prideful · Much more!

Good afternoon, everyone.

We printed an excerpt from our conversation with AG Skrmetti last week, but the full interview was so compelling I thought it was worthy of printing in full.

It provides a clear understanding of how Skrmetti approaches his role and his general views on the state of the law in the US during a time I’d have difficulty describing as anything other than contentious.


Two years ago, shortly after a panel of Tennessee Supreme Court Judges appointed Jonathan Skrmetti as Attorney General, we sat down with the then-green AG as he embarked on establishing himself in his new position. A lot has happened since then, but Skrmetti’s commitment to being a public-facing official has held fast. 

Last week, we caught up with the AG once again for an update on his affairs, the state of his office, and the particulars of some of the most important cases occupying his team. After a cordial greeting, General Skrmetti was ready to jump right in.

Afternoon, General Skrmetti. Thanks for joining me. There are a lot of things we can talk about, but let’s start with an overview. How are things going in the AG’s office?

The overview is pretty straightforward. We're really busy here. The Strategic Litigation Unit is up and running, and we've been really active pushing back against federal overreach. The consumer protection team is working incredibly hard on a number of fronts. And, you know, we've got constitutional litigation against the state coming and we're tied up with some pretty big cases there. We're waiting on the US Supreme Court in the L.W. case. The ACLU and the US Department of Justice have asked the court to take that case up. That's the transgender pediatric law that was passed in the session before this past one.

I wasn't going to go into the transgender stuff, but it sounds like you have a little bit of an update on that. Do you want to dive into the L.W. case? 

So the L.W. case is the prohibition on juveniles getting hormone treatments, puberty blockers, or surgeries for gender transition purposes. There have been a number of these laws that were tested in court across the country. Over and over, the federal courts had held that states could not pass these laws. We were the first state to win. We filed an emergency stay motion with the Sixth Circuit and got an opinion saying states do have the authority to regulate, limit, and prohibit pediatric transgender treatments. We got an even better opinion from Chief Judge Sutton when they went back and heard the case more thoroughly.

If this case continues through the court system, do you think that it could set a new precedent?

If the US Supreme Court takes this case, it's going to be the leading case bringing clarity to how the Constitution applies in gender identity cases. There will no doubt still be questions to be answered after that, but there's a real gap there. The Bostock case is pretty narrow and deals with sex discrimination in the employment context, and explicitly excluded a lot of other considerations. There's still open questions about how the equal protection clause of the Constitution might apply. I don't know that the Supreme Court will take this, but if they don't take this case, they have to answer some of these big questions. Hopefully soon, because there's a lot of litigation going on that would be resolved with more clarity from the court. 

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🏗️ Build It Better Blemishes Last Monday, the Metro Budget and Finance Committee uncovered a few loose ends in Councilmember Sandra Sepulveda’s "Build it Right" bill. The legislation would create a compliance board to “uphold workers’ rights” on Metro-contracted construction sites by following up on complaints and auditing contract agreements. 

Though all of Metro’s departments are currently in charge of auditing contract agreements passed by the council, Sepulveda claims those departments aren’t fulfilling their duties. The councilwoman also indicated that OSHA and TOSHA are “underfunded,” and proposed this legislation with the idea of picking up everyone’s slack when it comes to auditing agreements and monitoring safety.

“We do have a couple of concerns about the legislation,” said city attorney Macy Amos to those in attendance. According to Amos, Metro Legal has qualms about the language used with respect to equitable wages and wage theft. “State law does prohibit Metro from imposing wages in excess of minimum wage under state and federal law, and state law also prohibits Metro from maintaining any law that creates requirements, regulations, or processes for the purpose of addressing wage theft,” she said.

Shortly after, Mary Jo Wiggins, Metro’s Finance Deputy Director, relayed two of the O’Connell administration’s concerns. Both included potential conflicts with the Metro Charter, but could be remedied with language changes to the bill. Metro Codes was also concerned that the new board might step on the toes of state and federal inspectors, including OSHA and TOSHA.

Finally, Councilmember Kyonzté Toombs informed board members that local contractors feel left out of the conversation— an unsurprising development, given their lack of representation on the new compliance board and the bill sponsors' failure to approach contractors for their input. Councilmember Burkley Allen moved for a one meeting deferral, which was not supported by sponsor Sepulveda during the committee meeting. Ultimately, Sepulveda did make a motion for a one meeting deferral during the regular council meeting on Tuesday, and the bill will be heard on second reading in July. MEGAN PODSIEDLIK

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🚌 Transit On The Docket Two months after its initial rollout, the mayor announced last Friday that his administration had officially filed his dedicated funding transit plan referendum with the council. The legislation includes the ballot language, which O’Connell says “clearly and concisely describes the potential of the Choose How You Move program to alter our transportation future.”

The legislation’s lead sponsor is Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Sean Parker, who described the plan as “a clear improvement over the alternative: doing nothing as traffic and safety get worse.” 

For Choose How You Move to go to the ballot box, the council must approve both the program and the half-cent sales tax with a two-thirds majority vote. It’s worth noting that since its initial introduction, much of the messaging used to describe and promote the transit plan has changed. As it turns out, the $3.1 billion sum reported in April only accounts for the construction costs; the tax revenue needed to finance expenses and reserves is a whopping $6.93 billion for the first fifteen years. Additionally, the plan was advertised as an incremental, three-decade-long strategy, but in recent days, the O’Connell administration has referred to it as a fifteen-year plan. 

If Choose How You Move is passed by the council, a request will be sent to the Davidson County Election Commission to put the referendum on the ballot. MEGAN PODSIEDLIK

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🌈 Not So Prideful It’s been a fairly dim Pride Month compared to previous years. Franklin Pride was a bust. Though organizers expected ten thousand attendees, only hundreds showed up after some mild showers doused the event grounds. Even setting aside the damper the weather put on the festival, that estimate was insanely… prideful. Nationally, sports organizations such as  the NFL, NBA, and NHL seemed to have sidestepped the whole ordeal, leaving it up to the teams to decide. In the NFL, the Titans were one of ten teams who declined to honor the occasion by changing their logo or posting a tweet or sending an email or whatever token gesture companies do to assure the world that they are not homophobic.

Relatedly, Out Leadership put out a State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index that ranked Tennessee forty-sixth out of fifty states. Only Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas scored lower than Tennessee, and seven of the bottom ten were states in the Southeast. The purpose of these rankings is purportedly to bring negative press to dissenting states, as everyone from WKRN to the Tennessean felt the need to explain why the state ranked so low. Just to be clear, the ranking system categorizes legislation that bans transition-related surgeries for minors as anti-LGBTQ+.

And finally, as a tonic to the creeping insanity, the American College of Pediatricians put out a “fiery” statement condemning so-called “gender-affirming” surgeries. Are the tides changing, is it just an election year, or have business leaders finally realized this stuff only alienates people? DAVIS HUNT

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  • Iconic Friedman’s sign to be removed on Monday (WSMV)
  • The RipTide Car Wash buys Franklin company (NBJ)
  • Bar slated for downtown hotel building (Post)

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View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide and yearly festival guide.


🪕 Nate Leath & Friends @ Janes Hideaway, 8p, Info
+ bluegrass-jazz fusion

🪕 Bronwyn Keith-Hines @ Dee's Lounge, 6p, $10, Info

🎸 Open Mic Mondays @ Tennessee Brew Works, 6p, Free, Info

🪕 Val Storey, Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle & New Monday @ Station Inn, 8p, $20, Info

💀 Grateful Monday @ Acme Feed & Seed, 8p, Free, Info

🕺 Motown Monday @ The 5 Spot, 9p, $5, Info