Since the Supreme Court ruling, the Tennessee trigger law that protects unborn babies from being aborted past six weeks of gestation is now enforceable.
THE MAYOR'S OFFICE TAKES IMMEDIATE ACTION
Immediately following the ruling, Mayor Cooper of Nashville contacted the Metropolitan Human Resources Department and requested an assessment of the current benefits available to Metro employees regarding abortion travel and accommodations. This set in motion new legislation in Metro City Council to not only protect, but incentivize abortion travel benefits. The sausage is being made in real-time, but will Metro run into issues? Council Member Bob Mendes thinks not, "I don’t see any Constitutional issues with asking for information from companies who voluntarily choose to ask the city to give them tax dollars for economic development." Here's what the bill entails.
ACCOMMODATING ABORTION TRAVEL
Council Members Bob Mendes and Emily Benedict filed a bill this week that, if passed, will add some teeth to a metro council resolution that allows the Metro Employee Benefit Board to assess whether businesses in the Metropolitan area are providing transportation, accommodation, and related costs for abortions. The bill adds language to the Do Better Bill which defines certain standards that protect Metro Employees. Though the changes are touted as healthcare, they are designed to go directly against the State’s legislation regarding abortion. They will also allow Metro to play hardball with businesses operating in and attracted to Nashville if they do not provide abortion travel access by withholding economic and community development incentive grants and PILOT agreements.
HIJACKING DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVES
Though businesses choosing to provide their employees with healthcare that includes travel to accommodate out-of-state abortions have been encouraged by an executive order signed by President Biden, holding economic and community development grants hostage if this new provision is not provided to Metro employees is a tactic that violates Constitutional rights. An example would be Nashville’s deal that attracted Amazon’s second headquarters to the city.
To set the stage, let’s pretend we are in an alternate universe where Metro passed this new bill and Amazon is a company that does not want to provide travel accommodations for abortion. During negotiations to bring their company to Nashville, Amazon seeks grant money from Metro for economic and community development programs. The city council denies the grants because of the company’s failure to provide abortion travel accommodations. Since this grant money is important to our alternate universe Amazon, the company is faced with the decision to provide out-of-state abortion travel and accomodations for their Nashville employees or take their business elsewhere.
This is the kind of unconstitutional power that the Metro can wield if this new abortion-related bill is passed. The Metro Council's abortion legislation doesn’t just force grant seeking businesses to provide abortion travel accommodations, it has the ability to deter businesses that don’t want to provide it from coming to Nashville. In short, all businesses with Metro employees must provide travel accommodations for abortions if they want these incentives.
PLAYING WITH FIRE
Notorious for punching up, Metro City Council may be playing with fire. As of late, their attitude regarding the Republican National Convention has already put them in hot water with the state legislature. Top Republican leaders have alluded to both going over the Council’s head by holding a Special Session regarding the RNC and the possibility of legislative retaliation during General Session in order to push back on Metro City Council.
This partisan wrestling match isn’t exclusive to Tennessee. States, such as Texas, have pushed back on cities trying to force this kind of abortion travel accommodation. Metro Council has shown its teeth, but it remains to be seen whether the state is all bark and no bite.