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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 22, 2011

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 22, 2011

CREATED Apr 22, 2011


By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

April 22, 20111


You'd think after Standard and Poor's, one of the nation's major credit rating services, finally issued a "negative outlook" on the U.S. Government, citing rising concerns about our leaders' inability to manage the federal budget, that the folks in Washington would get a clue and start to make some progress on getting matters under control.

Well, not yet. Even though the S&P warning stops short of cutting the nation's AAA credit rating, this is the first time S&P has taken this step since it began rating the creditworthiness of railroad bonds back before the Civil War. The warning also means there is a one in three chance that our nation's credit rating will be lowered within the next two years, a move that would cripple the economy, especially by causing interest rates to rise.

The news about the "negative outlook" sent the dollar down sharply against the Euro and the yen. Gold prices continued to soar and stock prices took a dive all over the world. And, oil and gasoline prices continued to skyrocket as well.

In Washington? They argued about the credentials of those being appointed to a presidential panel of White House and congressional leaders to discuss what to do. Oh, and they went home for the Easter recess while President Barack Obama went on a campaign tour across the country.

There are lots of reasons and opportunities for our leaders to begin to fix this problem. Concerns about our rising national debt and budget are no longer just the domain of policy wonks like Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper. By why does it look like Washington will once again wait until beyond the 11th hour and 59th minute before finally coming together?


Believe it or not, the first primaries and caucuses of the 2012 Presidential election are only about 9 months away. That's our topic on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend, particularly why the election seems to be so slow getting started compared to previous cycles, and how the race is shaping up, especially on the GOP side.

So far things are a little strange for the Republicans as clearly from the polls they have a chance to take back the White House. But, so far, there appears to be no clear-cut frontrunner, and instead just a large field of potential contenders who are either unknowns, former candidates who didn't make it last time, and several potential Tea Party favorites who may have trouble building any base of support outside that group. And there's also THE DONALD (Donald Trump) of big business and reality TV fame.

Our guests are Larry Woods, a Nashville attorney and long-time Democratic strategist, Bill Phillips, a former Deputy Mayor of Nashville and a Republican insider, and Judson Phillips, the founder of the Tea Party Nation.

We have a great discussion that I think you will find both fascinating and fun. INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on THE NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes Sunday morning at 5 a.m. on the main channel, WTVF-TV, Channel 5. You can also see us on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS at 7 p.m. Friday, 5 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday, and 5 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS airs on Comcast and Charter cable channels 250 and on Channel 5's over-the-air digital channel, 5.2.


Upon further review, new Nashville State Republican Representative Jim Gotto has decided not to push his effort to move Metro's city elections back a year in 2015 and have them coincide with the state and federal elections (including the presidential race) in 2016. At least that's what THE CITY PAPER is reporting (April 14).

Gotto said it would save money by having fewer elections and it would end the problem Metro has every 20 years of having to redraft its council district boundaries during a very short window of time between when new census results are available and the elections are held in August.

Gotto's move brought howls of protest from his colleagues in the Nashville state delegation and from members of the Metro Council, where Gotto also serves. The Council even went on record passing a resolution opposing Gotto's measure. In fact, it got an overwhelming vote of opposition from more than two-thirds of the Council.

Some wrongly criticized Gotto for having a conflict by serving in both chambers. But that's silly since several other council members have served in both chambers at the same time (although Gotto is the first to do so as a Republican). Others said Metro's election need to stay separate, so as not to overwhelm and perhaps confuse the voters with so many races to decide at the same time, which appears to be the reason Metro changed to its odd-number year voting cycle back in 1971. Having all the races at the same time will likely make it more expensive to run for candidates since they will have to do and spend more to get noticed by the voters.

Finally, some opponents of Gotto's plan saw his efforts as a way to "nationalize" local elections, the way the Republicans have done in the past to impact state races, which they did very successfully in 2010.

But when you boil it all down, the real reason, Jim Gott got in so much hot water about this, is that he foolishly did not consult any of his fellow Nashville lawmakers before he introduced his plan. The timing of elections is of course, very important to elected officials, and not talking to them was a blunder.

Gotto says he may bring the idea back up again even though the city just recently and quickly handled the rezoning challenge of drawing our council lines within weeks after census results became available. Maybe Gotto will bring it back up. But if does, next time he better talk to his colleagues before he drops something in the bill hopper.


While it appears the state is going to stay out of any fight over when Metro holds its future elections, there is a strong likelihood it will veto a new city law that requires anyone doing business with the local government not to discriminate in terms of sexual identity or preference.

Republicans in the General Assembly believe that is going too far since that type of discrimination is not already outlawed by the state. They say allowing varying discrimination standards doesn't create the proper and consistent atmosphere needed to attract and grow new jobs and businesses in Tennessee. Opponents say the repeal measure is just anti-gay and anti-diversity, especially since many other cities across the country have similar anti-discrimination laws.

Because of the distinct possibility of a lawsuit, Republicans have been very careful in how they have discussed and debated this measure as it has passed through committees. They don't want to give their opponents or any judges some ammunition to void their measure.

The bill is reportedly scheduled to be on the calendar for Monday night (April 25) in the state House where approval is expected. The Senate will likely easily follow suit very soon. While the state clearly has the right to strike down local measures, it is not something that happens often as it usually ruffles some feathers and leaves some state lawmakers in a tough spot.

For example, I suspect House Speaker and Nashville Representative Beth Harwell has a sizable number of constituents who support the new Nashville anti-discrimination law, and even if they don't, they may prefer their Metro elected representatives make that decision, not lawmakers from all over the state.

But, so far, Harwell has mostly stayed out of the fight publicly in another sign that while she is often a more moderate Republican politician, her GOP House Caucus is much more to the right and very dominant in this session.


After months of speculation and criticism from Democrats, Governor Bill Haslam has unveiled his jobs plan for the state. More correctly, he has outlined how he proposes to restructure the state's Economic & Community Development agency (ECD) after a promised 45-day "top-to-bottom" review which he plans to do for all state agencies in the near future.

Ironically, the jobs plan begins with the layoff of 60 employees at the ECD (a 35% decrease) as the state wants to focus more of its efforts towards assisting existing businesses in the state to grow. That's important says the Haslam administration because it claims existing in-state businesses really generate a lot more new jobs than bringing big new companies in from outside Tennessee.

Really? Well, you sure could have fooled me listening to all the clatter and applause politicians from both sides of the aisle gave when large deals like VW and those new solar panel developments came to town in recent years promising thousands of jobs.

Actually, I believe the governor is trying to answer the criticism of many business leaders in the state who have felt a bit left out as they seek to grow and add jobs, but seem to get less support and hoopla from the state to do so than what is given to outside firms who want to come to town.

Any Governor has the right, and indeed the duty, to structure the departments in his administration the way he sees fit. The proof will obviously be in the political pudding over the next several years as we see how many new jobs and opportunities this creates in state by focusing on key industry areas already within our borders.

There is an implied criticism from the Haslam administration of how previous Governor Phil Bredesen did his economic development outreach, even though it often got national plaudits for what was accomplished.

However, there are also new questions arising in the General Assembly from Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey about whether the outgoing Bredesen administration was too generous in the incentives it gave during its final days to some companies relocating and creating jobs. The Lt. Governor seems to want to put some restrictions or new rules on that in the future. That's something else to watch in the next few weeks and months.


Former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike McWherter is back.

In an e-mail to supporters across the state the Jackson businessman says "so many candidates walk away and fold the tent following their races. I want to remain an active Democrat and do everything I possibly can to promote the values of our party."

So he is starting OUT OF THE BLUE, a daily e-mail service "designed to summarize the Daily Buzz of events happening around the state….(offering) a short version of comments of others around the state on current affairs." This is something McWherter says he wanted to start earlier but postponed his plans during the final illness of his father, former Governor Ned McWherter.

OUT OF THE BLUE is offered to those who sign up for it says McWherter in the hopes of "generating coffee shop talk throughout the state and provide you with commentary to engage in meaningful dialogue with your friends and acquaintances. Please feel free to forward this information onto to others with whom you wish to share," he says in his e-mail.

McWherther will be assisted by Trace Sharp, a former newspaper editor and social media expert. McWherter says OUT OF THE BLUE is "not designed to be an editorial…this is not an attempt to usurp any efforts by our leadership, but merely to help enhance communication efforts. United, we can stand and develop an environment in our state which serves everyone, not just a privileged few."

OK, that sounds a little like the first "editorial" for OUT OF THE BLUE, which will certainly give Mike McWherter a continued political platform and profile for the future, in case he ever decides to run again or build "buzz" and "coffee shop talk" for other Democrats and policies he supports.