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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, December 7, 2012

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, December 7, 2012

CREATED Dec 7, 2012

CAPITOL VIEW

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

December 7, 2012

SET FOR 2014; BREDESEN ON INSIDE POLITICS; A CHANGE IN WINE; DRAWING THE LINES; BASEBALL CAPITOL OF THE WORLD; ANOTHER HEALTH MILESTONE

SET FOR 2014

While some of my top sources in the Republican Party continue to say they don't think Senator Lamar Alexander will seek re-election in two years, he sure is putting on an impressive show that he wants another six years in office.

In recent days, the senior senator has announced his honorary campaign leadership for 2014, and it's basically all the major Republican elected officials in the state, with one exception, which we will discuss later.

The campaign will be chaired by the state's senior Republican congressman John Duncan of Knoxville, joined as co-chairs by Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Bob Corker, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell. All the other Tennessee GOP congressmen are also co-chairs including Marsha Blackburn, Phil Roe, Diane Black, Stephen Fincher and Chuck Fleischman.

Oh, yeah. That leaves the other Tennessee GOP Congressman, Dr. Scott DesJarlais, he of the major on-going sex and professional life scandal. He's not on the list….and it is not by accident. Clearly, Senator Alexander doesn't need DesJarlais' baggage to distract from his re-election effort. That's something which the Congressman ought to consider as he assesses his next two years in political exile waiting for his next (and likely very difficult) re-election effort.

Get smart now, Congressman. It's not the last time you're going to be left off the list or ostracized from the party and/or other events. Already even some PACs that gave you money this time, say that won't happen in 2014 that they can't have their groups associated with you. There could be more of that to come and late media reports (Associated Press December 7) indicate your re-election fund is broke (down to only $15,000 or so). Maybe resigning now would be a better idea.

As for Senator Alexander, prohibitive favorite for re-election may not be a strong enough way to describe his re-election chances right now, if he wants a third term. I suspect some Tea Party elements would love to oust him in the primary come August, 2014. But unless there is a lot more juice in their tea than there appears to be (2010 was a long time ago), there appears to be no real GOP opponent to challenge Alexander.

As for the Democrats, unless they can convince someone like former Governor Phil Bredesen to get back into elective office, it appears they have no one of major import to put into this statewide race……again.

BREDESEN ON INSIDE POLITICS

Speaking of former Governor Bredesen, he is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend. It's the first time he's been with us since he left office nearly two years ago (believe it or not, it has been that long).

Mr. Bredesen talks with me about his work in Washington and here in Tennessee with the national Fix the Debt group which is working to persuade Congress and the White House to quit the games of political chicken and posturing, avoid the looming fiscal cliff, and agree on a plan to address the national deficit and debt.

The former Governor believes that will happen although maybe not until spring (with a new Congress). How we get there and avoid the tax increases and budget cuts that could wreck the economy come January 1, he is not sure. But Congress created this mess and they've always been pretty good at delay and kicking the can down the road, so I am sure they can figure something out to buy a little time.

You'll also want to hear Governor Bredesen's advice to his successor, Governor Bill Haslam about what to decide about setting up those health insurance exchanges in Tennessee and expanding TennCare (Medicaid) under the national health care law. And he talks about the future of the state Democratic Party and his own return to elective politics (he's not saying never but it's not likely at all anytime soon such as for a 2014 U.S. Senate race).

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. Our air times include 5:00 a.m. Sunday on the main channel, WTVF-TV NEWSCHANNEL5. We are also 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 on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel.

A CHANGE IN WINE

When news stories came out a few days ago that both Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell are supporting legislation for local governments to allow grocery stores to sell wine if approved by a voter referendum (in counties or cities that have package liquor stores), I was not surprised. Both of them had told me that during last session of the General Assembly when they appeared on my INSIDE POLITICS show.

So what's different? Apparently both leaders are also indicating they may keep their support of that legislation at in mind when they make committee appointments (especially to the key State & Local Government Committees) over the next few weeks.

The wine in grocery stores effort has great overall popularity with voters and shows strong support in public opinion polls. But it's never been able to get out of committee. With large rookie classes in both houses, could that change? The liquor industry believes allowing wine to be sold outside liquor stores will unfairly hurt their business and even make liquor more available to minors. The industry has worked hard with lawmakers including increasing their financial PAC support of candidates according to a recent article by Eric Schelzig of the Associated Press re-posted by Tom Humphrey of THE KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL ( December 2).

So watch the committee assignments come January and see if the time is getting closer when wine can be purchased in places other than liquor stores.

DRAWING THE LINES

"Gun bills" are once again going to be big politics when the General Assembly returns next month. And already lines are being drawn on the Hill on proposals such as the "guns in parking lots" measure that deeply divided lawmakers, especially Republicans last term.

Governor Haslam says he is not offering any specific legislation on the topic but he told reporters (TENNESSEAN, December 4) that he will insist state colleges and universities be exempted from any such law. Higher education officials insist they want that exemption, claiming they want fewer guns on campus and oppose any attempt to expand (that) presence."

Not so fast says Lt Governor Ron Ramsey. He is crafting a bill that will allow state handguns permit holders to keep their weapons locked up in their personal vehicles on campus or where they work. According to an article posted on Tom Humphrey of THE KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL'S blog site (December 5), the Lt. Governor told a meeting of higher education officials in East Tennessee: "You should be able to keep a firearm locked in your glove compartment…if we passed this bill tomorrow, you would not know the difference the next day. We may exempt out schools, that's fine, but even then we're talking about public parking lots…There's got to be a way to keep it in a car legally….Something is going to pass this year. I want to put this behind us and forget about it."

Maybe that's what will happen. But I doubt the NRA and other gun rights groups will want a law with any restrictions for campuses or even limited to just permit holders. Many businesses in the state oppose any restrictions on an employer's or property owner's right to decide who can bring a firearm on their land or their facility.

So lock and load, get ready. It looks be another bumpy session on this issue.

BASEBALL CAPITOL OF THE WORLD

Nashville has been the baseball capitol of the world this past week as the Gaylord Opryland Hotel has once again been host to Major League Baseball's Annual Winter Meetings. Every major baseball official in the world has likely been in the city.

So while it wasn't new news this week when THE TENNESSEAN reported that efforts to build a new baseball stadium for the city's AAA Sounds team remain at a complete standstill (December 4), it surely was a bit of cloud over Nashville's currently very prominent position in the sport.

After all, in addition to hosting the Winter Meetings, for the first time ever, the Nashville area is hometown to the best pitchers in baseball with both R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets and David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays winning the Cy Young Awards in the National and American Leagues.

But baseball is clearly in third (or last) place in the pecking order of professional sports in this city. Both the NFL Titans and the now in-active (lockout) NHL Predators both have multi- million $$, city-built facilities and lucrative leases to be in town. The Sounds have a nearly 35-year old ballpark that is well past its best years and maybe not even be a candidate to be remodeled or renovated successfully anymore.

While lots of city officials are big baseball fans (including Mayor Karl Dean) the city is tapped out for a revenue stream to be a prime force to fund a new stadium. Period. That's a major reason why a new baseball facility is a "luxury" in the words of the Mayor and not apparently the necessity of the Titans and the Predators who already have their sports palaces and which are clearly major league franchises not a step below in the minor league AAA leagues like the Sounds.

So either the Sounds build something on their own (with maybe the city providing tax increment financing or helping with a land swap with the state to help assemble land at a site such as the old Sulpher Dell), or otherwise it's a choice of the Sounds renegotiating a new lease at the present Greer Stadium (which seems to now be under discussion) or leave town.

That last option is not being talked about much which is good and the Sounds have a new multi-year agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers to keep the team stocked with talent. But the current stadium does not meet league standards and Nashville cannot likely get by forever on its "good looks" (as a near world-class city) to keep professional baseball here.

So the question is: When the MLB Winter Meetings return to our city in 2015, will Nashville be any closer to having a new, adequate professional baseball facility or will we be even closer to once again losing our baseball heritage as we did from 1964-1978 when the city did not have a professional baseball team?

ANOTHER HEALTH MILESTONE

I am happy to report another small, but I think significant, milestone in my stroke recovery.

Since I was in the hospital back in June, I have been on three different blood pressure medications. Now I have improved enough says my doctor be on only two. The one I've dropped was one of the stronger ones (at least based on taking it just once a day as compared to twice a day for the others).

So no more Norvasc 10 mg (I took the generic Amlodipine). I am still taking Lisinopril-Hydrochlorothiiazide 20-12.5 mg and also Bystolic 10 mg (which I was taking before my stroke).

My goal is to continue to improve in the twice-daily blood pressure readings I take and get off one or both of my remaining BP medications. My thought is the fewer pills for anything for me (especially for my heart) the better!

I feel blessed to keep working harder with my exercise and to continue my better health and eating habits. And I appreciate the continued love and strong support of my family and friends, including those who read this column and stay in touch. That includes one longtime friend who sent me some simple but true advice last week after I wrote about recovering from my urinary tract infection. "Drink more water, Pat."

I'm trying.

There is one other matter I want to report this week. It's not a milestone, but I believe it marks real progress for me. I had the distinct honor, at the request of Bishop David Choby, to be a reader at a special Lessons & Carols program held last Monday to celebrate the season and mark the Catholic Diocese of Nashville's 175th anniversary.

It was a wonderful program and the Cathedral (my home parish church) was filled to overflowing. The music and the choirs were beautiful to hear. And that was a challenge for me. As I have related before, since my stroke, I can get easily emotional in church, especially during the hymns and other music.

As soon as the program began, and with the music swelling, I could feel the tears coming. But I was determined I was not going to cry or get weepy in front of a church full of folks. So remembering and using the deep breathing exercises my speech therapist taught me while I was in the Pi Beta Phi Rehabilitation Institute at the Bill Wilkerson Center, I managed to keep myself under control. Fortunately, I was the fourth reader in the lineup, so I had time to prepare.

I nailed my part and went back to my seat to enjoy the rest of the program. I did fine until the end when there was an all-sing closing hymn of "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful." I kind of lost it then. I didn't care much at that point, but it does tell me I've got some work to do for Midnight Mass in a couple of weeks!