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Full plate likely to crowd Washington County Commission meeting

Gary B. Gray • Jan 24, 2016 at 11:31 AM

Expect a packed George Jaynes Justice Center courtroom Monday, when Washington County commissioners tackle a resolution to support “traditional marriage,” Budget Committee appointments and approval of the county’s new 15-district map.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Commissioner Forrest Boreing brought forward a resolution through the county’s Public Safety Committee which calls on commissioners to support the definition of marriage as between one and one woman. If approved, the resolution will be sent to state legislators asking that they do everything within their power to nullify any federal mandate to adhere to federal same-sex marriage laws.

Republican state Reps. Matthew Hill and Micah Van Huss praised the resolution Monday and said they will support action on the state level that keeps traditional marriage in place and allows state, county and city workers to opt out of performing same-sex marriages or issuing licenses on religious grounds.

Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders says a large group will be at the George Jaynes Justice Center in Jonesborough wearing red on the 25th to oppose the resolution.

Johnson City resident and East Tennessee State University graduate student Kathryn Kreyenbuhl-Gardner started an online petition just over one week ago, collecting names of those opposed to the one-man one-woman resolution.

As of Friday morning, 1,600 signatures had been gathered.

The “traditional marriage” resolution isn’t alone on the busy agenda.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge will recommend appointments to the county’s Budget Committee, a list that no longer includes himself and Commissioner Joe Wise, a member who gave the mayor a bit of heartburn last year when he pushed back against a capital project plan introduced just before the final budget vote.

The current five-member committee includes Eldridge, Joe Grandy, Rick Storey, Todd Hensley and Wise. The resolution to be considered Monday by the County Commission retains Grandy, Storey and Hensley, and adds Dr. Paul Stanton and Mark Larkey.

Rick Hall, University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service county government consultant, said this week that Eldridge had called, asking whether he could legally appoint someone in his place.

T.C.A. 5-6-106(b)(2) gives Eldridge the power to “designate, from time to time, a professional staff member with appropriate training or a member of the county legislative body to sit in the county mayor's place on any board …”

That designee can vote and be privileged to any other powers granted county mayors, according to the statute.

Commissioners will also consider a proposed district map to accompany the county’s pending move from 25 commissioners to 15.

On Dec. 17, Commissioner Robbie Tester pointed out that two commissioners had been fitted into one of the county’s 15 newly created district. Tester also is the Reapportionment Committee member at large.

A change between the committee’s November meeting and the County Commission’s December meeting involved a swap between Districts 3 and 4 of 79 people. District 4 was expanded slightly past Brethren Church Road to include Old Embreeville and Jim Range roads.

Grandy, the committee chair, lives at 620 Old Embreeville Road; Commissioner Tom Krieger lives at 304 Jim Range Road. They are two of the 79 people moved, and both currently serve together in what is District 6.

The committee met again on Jan. 7. In a 9-1 vote, with Tester voting against, the same (November) map was approved, and commissioners will vote on the new map Monday.

Grandy said in December that members would review the plan, but he also said that in his opinion, “the committee is finished working on the map and a ‘clean’ version will go back to the full commission.”

The new districts will be in effect for the 2018 county general election, when the number of county commissioners will be reduced from 25 to 15.

Email Gary Gray at [email protected]. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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