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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, July 1, 2011

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, July 1, 2011

CREATED Jul 1, 2011

CAPITOL VIEW

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

July 1, 2011

CONGRESSMAN COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS; GOVERNOR HASLAM; LAWSUITS; MAYOR DEAN BROADENS HIS CAMPAIGN EFFORTS; TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME

Congressman Jim Cooper is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend.

It's an interview you don't want to miss.

We not only talk about the upcoming debt ceiling vote and the budget/deficit-cutting/tax deal being debated in Washington, along with our conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya, there's a particular segment in the final part of the show when I ask him about the future redistricting of his congressional district by the Republican General Assembly.

To say the least, Cooper, a Democrat, is not at all pleased by increasing comments from GOP lawmakers (including some by State Senator Bill Ketron in a recent article (June 22) in the DAILY NEWS JOURNAL in Murfreesboro) that he (and other Republicans) are "interested in trying to split Davidson County into two districts eliminating…Congressman Cooper." Reporter Tom Humphreys of the KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL, the dean of the Capitol Hill Press Corps also reports (June 26) about efforts that "Jim Cooper's 5th Congressional District could be carved (up) to leave him with a majority of Republican-inclined voters."

Senator Ketron says he wants to make these changes "not maliciously (but in) a fair and balanced manner." Let's just say Congressman Cooper doesn't buy that and he maintains (even if he was not the congressman or a candidate) that splitting up Davidson County would be very bad for our city.

Watch his comments and watch this issue which will come to a head early next year when the General Assembly returns. From Cooper's comments, it could be a very hot topic.

You can watch INSIDE POLITICS several times this weekend on THE NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes Sunday morning at 5:00 a.m. on the main channel, WTVF-TV. You can also watch us on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS, which is seen on Comcast and Charter Cable channels 250 as well as on Channel5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2. Our PLUS air times are 7:00 p.m. Friday night; 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m. Saturday; and Sunday at 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m.

GOVENOR HASLAM

As the General Assembly ended its session back in May, Governor Bill Haslam told me on INSIDE POLITICS how much he was looking forward to being able to spend more time on matters not directly related to the legislature.

Well now that he is finally finished signing all those bills that lawmakers passed (a process that stretched out nearly a month, no wonder he wants fewer bills introduced) the Governor is busy in a number of very interesting areas.

First, the Governor is still playing a bit of catch up and defense over how his administration articulated the changes he's made in his Economic & Community Development agency. The layoffs and changes he made left some local officials unhappy they lost a lot of planning help they've gotten (free of charge) from the state in the past. Some folks also were puzzled why these potentially controversial changes (especially the layoffs) were announced during the legislative session and why the Governor's emphasis seemed to move so strongly in favor of helping existing businesses in the state expand while there will be a seemingly lesser push in the future on attracting new companies to Tennessee.

Through a number of different events in recent weeks, including one he had here in Nashville a few days ago promoting Startup Tennessee (a part of the national Startup America program), the Governor is trying to get the word out a bit better for how he really wants to promote job creation, in this case (as the NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL put in an article 7/1) "forming a sprawling network connecting entrepreneurs….to make local business growth a stronger part of Tennessee economic development strategy."

There is another perceived weakness in the Haslam administration that the Governor seems to be addressing which concerns his legislative team. In that regard, the Governor should be commended for making Leslie Hafner his director for legislation, making her his point person in handling the administration's legislative affairs.

Hafner is long-time veteran on the Hill. When she joined the administration in a supportive role in February, some weeks after the General Assembly started, she brought new focus and stability to the administration's legislative outreach efforts, coming after what many said privately was a slow and sluggish start. Having her leading the Governor's efforts on the Hill should be a big plus.

There are a couple of other items of interest coming from the Governor in recent days. One is the appointment of the state's first Chief Procurement Officer. Clearly the creation of this post and a state procurement commission (under a law passed by the General Assembly earlier this year), appears to be another effort by the Governor and the Republican majorities in control of the General Assembly to bring more efficiency to state government and its operations.

But does it also mean that more state agencies (the University of Tennessee and the State Board of Regents among others) might be pushed soon to consolidate more of their purchasing efforts through the new Procurement Commission and its Director? Would that be a more efficient and cheaper process? And what will be the fallout if changes in state procurement also lead to political controversies concerning the way, the how (and from whom) the state buys its goods and services?

Finally, the Governor has proposed (without a lot of details) that the state take a look at abolishing the Tennessee Regulatory Agency (and bringing its functions into his administration). The TRA (formerly the Public Service Commission made up of three commissioners elected statewide along with its staff) has been charged for years with setting rates and service standards for most for-profit utilities that operate in Tennessee. With deregulation now more the norm says the Governor why not fold the remaining TRA duties into one of his state cabinet departments?

The Governor's thoughts seem to rise out of his ongoing "top to bottom" review of state government in pursuit of making its operations more cost-efficient, effective and accountable.

But you can be sure that there will be some political pushback on the TRA idea. Some of it might even come from the leaders of the State House and Senate. Both the Speaker of the House and the Lt. Governor appoint one of the TRA Commissioners, with the Governor appointing a third. Will they want to give up that power of appointment?

Let's see how far this TRA elimination idea moves forward.

LAWSUITS

I mentioned all the bills Governor Haslam has signed into law recently.

At least two of them are already generating lots of paperwork on their own…..lawsuits.

One concerns the bill passed by the General Assembly to prohibit local governments (such as Nashville) in setting up their own discrimination policies which we have discussed before.

The latest lawsuit comes from a first-in-the-nation bill signed into law by the Governor which seeks to address the issue of cyber-bullying. No one disputes that's a problem, but the American Civil Liberties Union has a concern because the new law makes it's a crime to post on the Internet any image that causes "emotional distress." But the law provides no criteria for determining what is offensive or disturbing under the law.

Lawmakers who passed the bill are confident there are enough safeguards to prohibit unneeded prosecutions. Maybe, but I suspect this new law, while very well intentioned, faces a rather uncertain fate in the courts without some better guidelines added to it for how it should be enforced.

MAYOR DEAN BROADENS HIS CAMPAIGN EFFORT

Mayor Karl Dean is still running his re-election campaign like he is ten votes behind…even if he has only token opposition.

But now there are also indications for the first time that he is getting involved in fund raising for at least one Metro Council candidate as well.

I've received a copy of an e-mail invitation for a July 8 fundraiser for Councilman-At-Large Jerry Maynard. Mayor Karl Dean is listed at the very top of the invite as one of several community and political leaders acting as the host committee for the event.

Now it is certainly nothing new or unusual for any Mayor to get involved and try to help his political friends. When I asked him about it, Tom Hayden, the Mayor's Deputy Campaign Manager and Director of Communications said in an e-mail statement: "Mayor Dean appreciates Councilman Maynard's service and the thoughtfulness he brings to his job. After being asked if he would serve as a host for this event, the mayor agreed."

But Hayden did not respond to other questions I sent him such as whether the Mayor had been asked by other Council candidates (both in the At-Large & in District races) to help with fund raisers and if he planned to do so? I can imagine quite a few other At-Large candidates would like His Honor's help if it's available, the same for a number of district Council candidates. But can or would the Mayor want to do them all? And who and how would he tell them no?

It's already pretty clear that several of the Mayor's key supporters are seeking to help Sarah Lodge Tally win her District 24 council race against incumbent Jason Holleman. Holleman has been at odds with the Dean administration over issues such as the Fairgrounds and the Music City Center.

But that is not nearly as direct an involvement by the Mayor himself as is this fund raising effort for Councilman Maynard, who I think is reaping quite a coup to get the Mayor's support. The question is…will there be others? And just how much will the Mayor do to help shape the membership of the next Metro Council he will be working with starting in the fall of this year?

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME

Happy 4th of July holiday weekend, everyone!

While this is a time to reflect on the courage and wisdom of those who created our country some 235 years ago and to honor those who have defended our nation and its freedoms since then, it's also that time of year when baseball, our national pastime, becomes the dominant team sport of national interest.

To that end, it is pretty clear that one of the major projects Mayor Dean wants to consider during his second term is a new baseball stadium for Nashville and its AAA minor league team, The Sounds. Metro is now hiring a consultant firm to do a feasibility study on such an idea. There is sure to be much debate ahead on exactly where to put the facility (on the Riverfront, at old Sulphur Dell or somewhere else). And we will probably fight about the size of the stadium as well. But small suggestion, I'd like to make: I just hope Nashville can build as beautiful a baseball stadium as the new one where the recent College World Series was held in Omaha, Nebraska.

While I tuned in the ESPN broadcasts to watch Vanderbilt play in its first College World Series ever, I couldn't help but be very impressed by the new TD Ameritrade Stadium, at least from what I could see from my living room at home. When the CWS is not being played there, the new stadium is used for AAA baseball, so why can't Nashville have something as least as large and as beautiful as that new structure…and maybe even make it better?

Play ball!