MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Governor Bill Haslam says those who accuse him of flip flopping have flipped. The governor signed into law legislation allowing the Shelby County suburbs the right to vote in August on municipal school districts.
This was after the governor had said several times he wants suburbs to wait until a plan was finalized by the school merger Transition Planning Commission.
Governor Haslam could be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. He can mambo, tango and cha-cha his way out of a lot of questions. Lots of politicians can do that. On this question, however, there was no dancing allowed.
The governor has been watching the Memphis and Shelby County school merger closely. In fact, he's gone on record saying suburbs shouldn't rush into voting to start their own systems.
Legislators didn't listen to him, and they approved a plan to allow votes on setting up schools in Shelby County suburbs this year. The governor didn't listen to himself either; he signed the bill. So did he flip flop? Not Bill Haslam, he says.
"I never ever said I would veto that, and had discussions on it, and we never indicated that all throughout the legislative session," Haslam said. "Our position on bills is real clear - whether to defer it or whether we're going to actually work against it or in support of something."
So he didn't veto it, even though he still thinks the legislation was wrong.
Haslam stated, "I did think and still do think it would be better for the Transition Planning Committee to have a chance to let its recommendations be out there. I think they have their first take at it in June. The vote [in the suburbs] isn't until August. So I do think it provides a window. I would personally like the window to be longer."
Whatever the reasons, the suburbs are moving forward. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell says the Transition Planning Commission needs to come to grips with that situation.
"I think we have an obligation to certainly be very sensitive to the suburban communities," said Luttrell. "Those who want to move in the direction of municipal schools, then how can we help them do that successfully."
The governor says he checks constantly on the merger situation and keeps in touch with members of the Transition Planning Commission as well. He calls the issue very important and will continue to track the merger, and the municipal school system progress.