Capitol View Commentary: Friday, January 11, 2013

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, January 11, 2013

CREATED Jan 11, 2013

CAPITOL VIEW

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

January 11, 2013

IN CONTROL & MAKING THE RULES; SMASHVILLE RETURNS? GARRETT FOR VICE MAYOR; WORKING OUT THE STRESS; INSIDE POLITICS GOES FOREIGN

IN CONTROL & MAKING THE RULES

If you are in charge of a legislative body as large and powerful as the Tennessee House of Representatives, you better know the rules. And if you ever want to change those rules, you better be powerful enough to get the changes you want.

This past week, at the head of a 70-member Republican supermajority, Nashville Representative and unanimously (again) elected House Speaker Beth Harwell did just that. She got almost everything she recommended to re-organize and streamline the body's committee system and to impose, for the first time, a limit on the number of bills each member can introduce each year.

You could quibble and point out the bill limit is 15 not the 10 bills each she suggested, but the fact that there is now any limit at all, for the first time ever, is a clear victory and a sign of how firmly she is in control. As one Capitol Hill lobbyist remarked to me, Speaker Harwell has created " a currency" that has never existed  before, and she has forced lawmakers to prioritize what is important and not just introduce legislation for every Tom, Dick and Harriet friend, group or lobbyist that asks for it. That should save taxpayers money, make the General Assembly more efficient and increase the chances lawmakers will wrap up their business earlier in the spring each year. It may also hold down some of the crazy bills that get lawmakers off on a tangent or get the state held up for national ridicule from time to time (but don't hold your breath, it likely won't end that from happening).

The rule changes also show how adroitly the Speaker uses her power. She told me last week on INSIDE POLITICS, that the rule changes came out of a member survey she did. She never announced she was doing the survey or its results, but you can be sure what she decided to do reflect the consensus she found for change.

The Speaker also obviously worked privately with Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and the leaders in the upper Chamber to make sure they were not too bent out of shape by the bill limit since it imposes a de facto limit on its members as well. If they had been very unhappy, they could have complained enough to make the change potentially very unpleasant to say the least.      

Speaker Ramsey has his own super majority and he was overwhelmingly re-elected to a new two-year term with only a few Democrats(4 of 6) voting against him. So far, he has shown no interest in any major rules changes which would likely be harder to sell, as it would be in most Senates, which are smaller in size and more devoted to traditions. He did create some raised eyebrows by bumping Senator Mae Beavers out of her Senate Judiciary Chairmanship.

There is something of a rules flap in the Senate. That would be a rule change proposed by Democrats that would require Senate meetings, including party caucus sessions, be open to the public (and the media). While claiming all meetings should be open, even if the Legislature continues to exempt itself from the state's Open Meetings law, the rules change creates some problems for Republicans.

 Now that the GOP caucuses in both chambers are so large, they now represent more than a quorum of the General Assembly when they gather.  So a caucus meeting technically is really the full legislature itself in session. Closing that would create some perception and image issues for lawmakers. So while Republicans in the Senate can easily defeat the rule change they put off a decision for now. This shows the major role of the super minority Democrats for this term. That is, to offer proposals that they know aren't likely to be approved but which, from time to time will make the Republicans a bit uncomfortable when defeating them. 

The House has the same open caucus meeting challenge (and more of their caucus gatherings have been closed in past years). But so far no specific rule change in that area has been suggested.

And so with Committees and chairmanships appointed by the Speakers, lawmakers have concluded their organization session and have left town awaiting the Governor's State of the State and Budget later this month.

Many are watching to see if the new committee makeup and membership will increase the chances to pass the "wine in grocery stores" bill.  It might, but equally important to watch on that legislation could be a statement in opposition issued by a group of sheriffs and police chiefs.. They say (Associated Press 1/9) wine in grocery stores would mean a "greater availability of wine (that) could come at the price of public safety (more underage drinking) because it would draw the attention of law enforcement away from more pressing issues."

Now those in favor of the wine in grocery stores bill are already challenging those assertions. They are demanding the media ask for confirming data to back up these charges. So far, the police chiefs and sheriffs are sticking by their statements, but have not provided any further information.

Wine in grocery stores (if approved by referendum in counties that allow package sales) already looks like it may well be a real corker of an issue this year, if you'll pardon the pun.

SMASHVILLE RETURNS?

From all indications, the lights are coming back to Broadway and the Bridgestone Arena.

 Smashville (NHL hockey) is about to commence again. The NHL lockout is settled and a significantly shortened 45 to 48 game schedule for the Nashville Predators will begin as soon as next week.

The labor dispute nearly cancelled the whole season for the second time in recent years and it left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans. Kudos to Predators General Manager David Poile who realizes the problem and told reporters the other day (NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL/January 7): "On behalf of myself and the organization, I'd like to apologize to the fans. Sometimes you need to apologize and ask for forgiveness, so I am doing that."

Good, and add in an apology to all the Broadway and downtown merchants along with their employees who have taken a significant financial haircut while the millionaire NHL owners and their millionaire players played ego games during the labor squabble. If the city can recoup some of the $6 million annual subsidy it pays the team it should do, as a penalty and a reminder to the Preds their presence here isn't all about their money.

I suspect most fans will forgive and forget fairly quickly as the city adds back another attractive amenity to our entertainment and sports landscape (and a pretty good hockey team that could be a real Stanley Cup threat this year).

Nashville continues to be on a real roll….one like I have never seen at least in the national media.

 There was yet another major (positive) feature story about Nashville in THE NEW YORK TIMES this week (January 8). It's says we are the nation's latest "it" city, citing other surveys and reports that say we are one of the best places to begin a technology start-up business; one of the top five regions for job growth with a growing food scene; and that GQ magazine declares Nashville as "Nowville."

The NYT article also contains some local critics who question our new convention center investments and the tax incentive deals being used to attract new jobs and business. There are also concerns raised that we are too smug about our problems with "our ill-fed, ill-housed and ill-educated" as well as our transportation challenges. Frankly, all cities have those problem and all of them are also quite envious of the great brand we are building for our community.

Do we need to do to address our issues? Absolutely! Will our "it" status continue? Probably not for long, it never does for any city. But we are coming so far. I have always loved Nashville where I was born and raised, and I love it more even today. What I have sensed in talking with locals (and reading reactions in the number of postings and story sharing about the NYT article on Facebook) is how proud people are of where our city is today and how the nation is now beginning to see and appreciate what a special unique place this is to live, work and raise a family. As the NYT articles says: "on a Venn diagram, the place where conservatives and hipsters overlap would be today's Nashville."

Will we have to work very hard to keep our special community and grow it? Believe it!  You can see one of challenges in one of the latest headlines I read the other day. It seems every time Nashville gets on an economic roll, some start saying we need to "move the Union Rescue Mission" (again) because it is "in the way." How we approach such challenges fairly and humanely will be the true test of how Nashville's future greatness is defined. We have so much going for us already in terms of our location, businesses (music & health care in particular) and other resources (colleges & universities), if we can continue to work to find consensus on approaching these thorny urban issues that all cities face, we can and will find Nashville is one of leading cities in America and the whole world in the 21st Century.

End of sermon.

GARRETT FOR VICE MAYOR

Well, I'm glad somebody knows what they want to do, even if it's still nearly three years from now.

Metro Councilmember At Large Tim Garrett tells THE TENNESSEAN (January 11) that he is "99% certain" he is running for Vice Mayor in the August, 2015 Metro elections. All the top countywide posts in city government (Mayor, Vice Mayor and all five At-Large posts) will be open because the incumbents are all term limited.

So that's probably why the parlor game guessing and the media laundry lists about who is running have already started in earnest. But Garrett is by far the most certain about his intentions so far. They will be others I am sure in the not too distant future. After all, we've already got announced candidates for Congress in a nearby district.

The political cycle for elections never seems to end…or even take much of a holiday anymore.

WORKING OUT THE STRESS

There are so many surveys out these days that I often just gloss over the news stories they sometimes generate. But one I saw this week, from a group called CareerCast, listing the Ten Most and Less Stressful Jobs in America for 2013, sure got my attention.

Right there, at the Number 5 most stressful job is Public Relations Executive, with Number 8 listing Newspaper Reporter. OK, while my work at Channel 5 to do this column and INSIDE POLITICS is not the same as working at a newspaper, to my mind, it is pretty close in some ways (and Number 7, Photojournalist seems like a cousin too).

So, as I continue to recover from my stroke (into my seventh month) what does this tell me? Well, it reminds me I need to continue to find ways to relieve my stress levels and not fume and fuss over things that don't matter or I can't change. It's a challenge for me and always has been.

It's not a news flash that what I do for living has stress (although having three jobs I can relate to  on the most stressful list certainly reinforces what I face). But I am not sure my jobs are as bad or stressful as some of the others listed in the most stressful group such as enlisted military personnel (especially in a war zone), military general (ditto), firefighter, commercial airline pilot and police officer. That last one, along with taxi driver and senior corporate executive, are listed below PR guy. Maybe not, at least in my mind

No thanks, I am OK where I am, doing what I am doing. And I am not sure I want to switch to any of the Less Stressful Jobs listed which include (1-10) university professor, seamstress, medical records tech, jeweler, medical lab tech, audiologist, dietician, hairstylist, librarian and dial press operator.   The major reason I wouldn't switch is I don't have any of the special training involved in their work or how to do what they do…..and that would be stressful for sure! I am also sure all those performing these "least stressful jobs" know how to tough what they do is and how stressful it can be.

So I will deal with what I have and be grateful that I have jobs that I love to do, even when they go some days from early in the morning until well into the evenings with deadline pressures, etc. in between. That's life.

 INSIDE POLITICS GOES FOREIGN

Except in times of crisis or war, our nation usually focuses its attention on domestic issues. But with President Barack Obama about to begin his second term and making major changes in his national security and foreign affairs teams, INSIDE POLITICS looks overseas this weekend.

We have two local experts, Professors Thomas Schwartz of Vanderbilt University and Marc Schwerdt of Lipscomb on the show to discuss the President's nominations (and the confirmation fights that might be brewing) for Secretary of State, Defense Secretary and CIA Director. We also get their updates on some of the world's hot spots where our nation remains challenged (Iran, Syria, Egypt, the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).

These guys know their stuff. It's a good interview. Watch us.

 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. For those outside Nashville or who don't have cable access, portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted (later in the week) on the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS segment of NEWSCHANNEL5.COM.