Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 27, 2012

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 27, 2012

CREATED Apr 27, 2012


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

April 27, 2012



It appears the 107th Tennessee General Assembly is not quite ready to go home.

A budget dispute between House and Senate members over how much, if any, of the "extra" $200 million in revenue the state now has should be spent, delayed final actions and an expected adjournment. The spat between the two houses got serious on Friday when both sides started taking financial hostages cutting out pet programs of leaders of both parties in the other chamber, including cuts for extra money set to go locally to Nashville's Radnor Lake.

If cooler heads prevail, things could get worked out by the end of today (Friday) through a conference committee of both houses. But it also could also well be that lawmakers may have to come back to Nashville one more time and finish their business beginning Monday. They could also work through the weekend as well.

As usual, the final days of the General Assembly have been much like an annual screening of that Clint Eastwood classic movie "THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY." That's particularly true given the theme of "gunfights" that dominate both that motion picture and our most recent legislative session.

The "guns in parking lots" and "guns in trunks" bills continue to be front and center in terms of controversy. The week began with the House Republicans, split between their gun rights and property rights supporters, huddling behind closed doors and screwing up their political courage to vote secretly against moving any of the bills.

That so enraged one gun lobbyist (John Harris of the Tennessee Firearms Association) that he dispatched an angry e-mail to supporters calling for the political "crucifixion" (he said later he just meant it symbolically) of GOP leaders like Debra Maggart for seeking to delay these bills for further study and compromise. Indeed Maggart, always known as strong and steadfast social and fiscal conservative, has primary opposition this summer as do an unexpected number of GOP lawmakers.

"Crucifixion" is one of those political words such as "Nazi" or "Hitler" that almost always has a big backlash, and sure enough, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle where so outraged at this kind of attack on one of their own, the gun bills were soon banished to a summer study session and death for this session (although gun bill supporters were still threatening to mount a 2/3 vote in one or both of the houses to resurrect the bills once again and force a floor vote).

That appears less likely with each passing hour, but until lawmakers are gone "sine die" don't count anything out. After all, Democrats seeing some opportunities to score points for their fall campaigns tried to stir the pot, leading efforts to bring the gun bills up to the floor to make Republicans go on record and choose sides on how to vote. But they didn't get near enough votes to do so in either house.

The final hours of the session often leave both lobbyists and lawmakers wishing they hadn't said what they did. Take for example, Representative Jeremy Faison during a debate this past week on a bill regarding bullying and harassment.

"I will submit to you today, that they (several recent teenagers who took their lives) didn't commit suicide because of somebody bullying them, they committed suicide because they were not installed the proper principles of where their self esteem came from."

So "blame the parents" or "blame the victim", huh? Fortunately after reflecting about that bit of stupidity and the outcry it created, the Representative has apologized.

And so it's time (maybe more than past time) for lawmakers to go. They have new constituents to meet to try and get re-elected. And, besides, the state needs to spruce up the Capitol. A building permit has just been issued by Nashville officials for $9.3 million of interior rehab work on the Hill including plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical upgrades. There's no word on whether the 108th General Assembly will see an upgrade on the level of discourse and wisdom from those who toil there when lawmakers return in January, 2013.


Nobody knows Capitol Hill and state government better than Tom Humphrey of THE KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL. As Dean of the Capitol Hill Press Corps, I can't think of a better guest for INSIDE POLITICS to come on and analyze what has happened and what lies ahead at the end of a legislative term.

I also have as a guest NewsChannel5's Jennifer Krause. Her recent investigative story about "ghost voting" among member of the Tennessee House of Representatives has raised a lot of eyebrows and some serious questions about voting procedures on the Hill. We show her report on the show so I urge you to watch it or go to the newschannel5.com website and watch for yourself. It is nothing short of stunning.

I won't say over the years I've never seen members cast roll call or other votes for each other, but it appears to have become almost routine with even House leaders such as the Speaker Emeritus involved along with many others

It will be interesting to see with this coming to light right at the end of the session if this issue grows any legs and forces changes in voting such as in the U.S. Congress where members have to use a special electronic card to cast their votes.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes Sunday at 5:00 on the main channel, WTVF-TV, NEWSCHANNEL5. We also air on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS at 7:00 p.m., Friday; 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday; and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m., Sunday. THE PLUS is featured on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and on NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2.


This story stopped me in my tracks.

Following a link I found on Facebook, courtesy of the Steve Gill Show, I came to a story by Allahpundit (April 26) that reports the first projections by Republican political guru Karl Rove on this fall's presidential election between likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney and Democratic President Barack Obama.

Remember you need 270 votes to win. Believe it or not, Rove sees the race right now as Obama 284 to Romney 172, leaving 82 electoral votes in toss-up states.

Wow! Can that be right? The article's author wonders, asking in particular about the survey listing South Carolina as a toss-up? He wonders: "Maybe this is Rove's knowing his map will get attention and using it to scare conservatives into donating and GOTV volunteering." By the way, Tennessee is listed in the Rove survey as only "leaning" towards Mitt Romney. Could that be correct?

Time will tell (and these projections will grow and move and oscillate all the time between now and this fall). But there is also another projection the Obama campaign will like as the general election campaign begins to finally focus and heat up. Again from the Allahpundit article of April 26, Mark Blumenthal of the Huffington Post has his first electoral map projections as Obama 298 to Romney 170. Ouch! Somebody's going to need one heck of an Etch-A-Sketch to redraw those numbers!

While in the article I've mentioned there are questions raised about exactly which states will go for who in November, the general thrust seems to be (and I have heard this privately from many GOP insiders) that Romney may have a greater uphill fight than may be apparent in looking at the national polls which show the race all but a toss-up with the President holding a slight lead.

But Democrats shouldn't get too confident. It's still the economy, stupid! I think next week the new jobs report comes out. This one will be critical to see if the increase in jobs bounces back or stalls again as it has done the last two years after showing significant growth. Following those numbers alone along with gas prices could tell you a lot more about the November elections than any pundit's projections.


Recently, U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) came to Chattanooga to endorse two Congressional incumbents who represent that general area. That would be Scott DesJarlais and Chuck Fleischmann.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker was at the same event at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. According to an on-line article from THE CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS (April 20), Corker also endorsed DesJarlais. The article continues: "But after the event, the former Chattanooga mayor wouldn't say whether he'll endorse Fleischmann, the Scenic City's first-term congressman who is facing two well-known deep-pocketed GOP challengers (Weston Wamp and Scottie Mayfield)."

"I'm basically not involved in the 3rd District race right now and haven't been, Corker said, adding that scheduling conflicts prevented him from speaking at Fleischmann events. "We weren't able to pull them together just because of either House votes or Senate votes."

But reporters persisted: "Asked point blank if he felt Fleischmann is a better candidate than his two high-profile opponents---Corker walked away. "I'm just –you know you all are doing a great job," Corker told reporters.

So firmly with his friends, Senator Corker obviously feels like many GOP leaders across the state do these days. That is trying to figure out how to stay in a nice safe place and out of the line of fire in what appears to be the most interesting and hotly contested congressional race coming up this summer in Tennessee. Already there are charges and reports of campaign tire slashing going on down there, so you can see what I mean.