Capitol View Commentary: Friday, February 28, 2014

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, February 28, 2014

CREATED Feb 28, 2014


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

February 28, 2014



Retiring State Democratic Representative and House Caucus Chair Mike Turner is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week.

His retirement announcement Thursday (February 27) was in many ways the surprise, big news on the Hill in recent days (even if the Democrats remain a very small minority in the General Assembly). Turner, after 14 years in public service, is well liked among his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. His exit speech on the House floor was followed by a number of glowing written (and oral) statements from his colleagues. So they knew something was coming.

Congratulations to Turner on that too. It was quite a secret he managed to have everyone keep. That's includes our show. We knew nothing about his retirement until after we booked. We were just looking for a good guest and we sure have one!

We'll talk with Mike Turner about the reasons behind his retirement and the implications it could have in both state and Metro politics. Yes, that includes where he stands about running for Nashville mayor in 2015 and what he'll talk about if he enters the race. We'll also discuss the issues still playing out this legislative session and his thoughts about how the Hill has changed over the last nearly 15 years and the challenges facing state government as he prepares to leave.  

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS.  Those times include 7:00 p.m. Friday; 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday; and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.  THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2.  Portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also later posted on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.

As a reminder, our long time 5 a.m. Sunday morning showing on the main channel (WTVF-TV NEWSCHANNEL5 ) is no longer listed as an INSIDE POLITICS broadcast. The Weekend Morning News program is starting an hour earlier, so we are looking (we hope) for another Sunday morning timeslot soon on Channel 5.

And don't forget you can now watch INSIDE POLITICS in real time with live streaming video on NewsChannel5.com.  That means if you have a computer and internet access, you can see INSIDE POLITICS anytime it airs on the PLUS.  So it no longer matters what cable or satellite service you have or where you live.  It's very easy to see us now live!  Log on and tune in!


Governor Bill Haslam went to the nation's Capital this past week for the annual National and Republican Governors meetings. As he heads towards a likely second term, Mr. Haslam is taking more of an out front leadership role that made for some interesting situations.

First he got into a bit of a polite (but pointed) political spat on the air during a joint appearance with Illinois Democratic Governor Pat Quinn on the PBS NEWS HOUR last Friday night (February 21). The governors took very different stands on raising (or in Tennessee's case, establishing) a state minimum wage as well as the need for universal Pre-K and Medicaid expansion.  

The Governor then joined a trio of other GOP state chief executives at the end of the conference who criticized President Barack Obama and his administration for not giving more authority to the states on issues such as health care and education. "It's a little hard to hear…. ‘we don't trust you' to care about the least of these," complained Governor Haslam (WPLN Nashville Public Radio).

While he was in Washington, the Governor also announced he is asking the Obama administration to send him a counter offer on what it would accept to expand Tennessee's TennCare program (Medicaid) under the new national health care act. For nearly a year, the Governor has been seeking a "Tennessee Way" to do that program using federal dollars but allowing private insurance to get involved and to be based more outcomes in terms of evaluating results. All this to keep costs under control unlike past TennCare expansions.

So far all this effort by the Governor has seemed to go nowhere and it's not clear whether the Haslam administration has really even asked for a waiver which is required to change the health program. Longtime TennCare officials say they have always done changes this way, so we will see if the Governor's counter offer request results in any breakthrough.

Meanwhile Tennessee legislative leaders want to put a bit of a political leash on the Governor regarding this issue. Even though he's said he plans to bring whatever agreement he works out with Washington to the General Assembly for review and approval, lawmakers are now moving legislation to require such a move. The House has approved it and the Senate will likely follow suit soon.

Let's see if there is ever have any kind of Washington/Haslam TennCare expansion agreement to deal with. Given how much so many in the Republican super majority on the Hill hate Obamacare, don't hold your breath on anything ever being approved if a deal does materialize.

A little 2016 presidential politics also played a role in the Governor's Washington visit. He gave more hints that his GOP Presidential choice is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. In fact WPLN reported (February 25) that "Christie may come to Tennessee later this year as a part of the Haslam re-election campaign."

That would sure be bringing out some big political artillery to help take an undefended position. Haslam faces almost no opposition for another four-year term. Maybe by then Governor Christie will be more available to reporters. He did not attend the GOP Governors Association's news conference (where Haslam spoke), despite his leadership role in the group.

While it will be quite interesting to see a moderate Republican like Governor Christie come to a conservative red state like Tennessee to help another moderate like Bill Haslam, I don't think it will stop any traffic politically. But then that's Governor Christie's problem with his fledging presidential campaign these days, isn't it?


If former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton continues her seemingly unstoppable march towards the White House in 2016, could she be nominated by the Democratic Party's National Convention meeting in Nashville that year?   

According to the NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL (February 25) and CNN's Political Ticker, our city is one of as many as three dozen communities who got letters from the Democratic National Committee to gauge interest. Nashville has already declined possibly hosting the GOP convention that year citing scheduling conflicts. There are also concerns whether "the return on investment" is worth it, i.e., what the host city has to contribute in terms of money and other services in return for what we get back for being the host town in terms of publicity, brand image, etc.

Still both the Mayor's office and the Convention and Visitors Bureau say the city does have an interest in hosting the Democrats (which would be the first ever national political convention held here). Of course the interest is pending learning more about what all is involved.  

But by the summer of 2016 will Nashville have the available hotel rooms to host an event this large? Heck, it's hard to find hotels around here now as many of the newly announced rooms to compliment the new Music City Center are still under construction or on the drawing board.

So who can say what might happen?  Still it might be the "It City" in the presidential spotlight.  And what about Hillary Clinton giving her acceptance speech on the same night former Vice President and Tennessean Al Gore reprises his "Macarena Dance" to the audience? Classic


Other than the Mike Turner retirement, the 2015 Nashville mayoral race has gotten kind of quiet. But at least one other potential candidate, Michael Burcham, CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center has something to tout. He's been selected "Outstanding Nashvillian of the Year" for 2013 by the Kiwanis Club of Nashville.

In a news release the civic group said: "What Michael has pioneered and championed via the Nashville Entrepreneur Center has touched many a businessman, young and mature alike, in a very positive fashion and certainly benefited our wonderful city in several ways."

The award has been given by the club since 1980 and the 32 past honorees include Martha Ingram, the late Jack Massey, Marty Dickens, Vince Gill and (among others) at least two Nashville mayors, Phil Bredesen (who was also governor) as well as the current Metro Mayor, Karl Dean.


It seems to happen a lot on Friday afternoons. Right after I file my column, a new (usually significant) development occurs related to one of the topics I am writing about that day.

Sure enough, last Friday the United Autoworkers Union filed an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board regarding its recent defeat in trying to organize workers at the Volkswagen Plant in Chattanooga.

It certainly wasn't unexpected but it will keep the matter stirred up politically both here in Tennessee and nationally.  The UAW says there was "a coordinated effort" by state politicians, anti- union groups and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker to coerce a no vote.

It will be interesting to see what details and evidence the UAW can muster. Corker meanwhile responded by telling the CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS (February 25) the NLRB shouldn't "muzzle" Congress or state officials from exercising their First Amendment rights in the matter. But I am sure what the union will question is whether what the Senator said (the Chattanooga plant would definitely receive a new SUV vehicle to produce if the union was rejected) went too far.

Meantime after scoring a political victory with the UAW defeat, Governor Haslam (or at least his family business, Pilot Flying J) came up on the short end of a union organizing effort up north. Workers at a Pilot Flying J gas station and rest stop in Bloomsbury, New Jersey voted 12-7 in favor of joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The vote has already been certified by the NLRB.  


Some in the Republican super majority in the Tennessee Legislature continue to want to take over full control of everything in state government. That includes trying to re-name state agencies at their whim and without even consulting the state department impacted.

And so it is that legislation has been filed by Senator Mike Bell and Representative Jimmy Matlock to change the name of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission to the Tennessee Affirmative Action Commission. An article by THE TENNESSEAN (February 24) offers no insights from the lawmakers for why they want to make the change. The Commission's Executive Director says "she didn't know it about the bill before it was filed." I suspect neither did her 15 board members who would all have to be replaced by July 1 (if the bill passes) and with most of them (10 slots) now to be chosen by lawmakers not the Governor.

The Human Relations Executive Director (Beverly Watts) told THE TENNESSEAN  she knows doesn't like the bill, saying her agency hasn't handling affirmative action matters for over 30 years and that the new name will be confusing  and is "an affront."   The Agency does handle complaints about discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations and it has a $2.5 million annual budget with 29 employees and 12 investigators. It seems to have plenty to do taking 10,000 calls a year resulting in 400 to 450 administrative complaints being filed.  The Commission turned 50 years old in 2013.

If lawmakers don't have anything else better to do than this kind of legislation, maybe they don't need to wait until April to finish their work. Just go home NOW and save the taxpayers some money.


I know February is the shortest month on the calendar with only 28 days. But with the prolonged cold weather we've had this winter (the Groundhog was right), it's been kind of miserable around here. Now comes the annual poll from Gallup ranking Tennessee as the 7th most miserable state in the nation.

The survey is supposed to measure the physical and emotional health of Americans using 50 different metrics in six broad categories which the polling firm says helps to identify well-being.

West Virginia ranks the "most miserable" state this year (well, I guess so just given their drinking water issues). Tennessee came in right ahead of Missouri and just behind Arkansas. Why? The survey says: "Tennessee residents were among the most likely to have a variety of physical health problems…including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and chronic pain. People in Tennessee were also less likely to feel safe walking at night than in other states. The state's violent crime rate…was the highest in the nation in 2013 and that may justify those fears." Economic confidence was almost among worse says the survey even though the state's economy grew 3.3%, one of the largest growth rates measured.

Add in our life expectancy (76.3 years, 8th lowest in the nation), our obesity percentage (31.3%, 7th  highest ), our median household income ($42,764 7th lowest) and the percentage with a high school diploma (85.1% or 13th lowest), you can see why you might find things are more than a bit miserable based on these standards.

But cheer up! We're not alone in the Volunteer State. The overall national survey says "the well being of Americans hasn't improved in the past six years, and even declined slightly in 2013." Also the highest scoring states changed a bit. After not making the Top 10 in 2012, North Dakota topped the list for well being in 2013, while Hawaii (number 1 in 2012) fell to 8th this year.  Unfortunately West Virginia has been at the bottom in this survey for the last 5 years.    


Political campaigns sometimes really do make for strange bedfellows.

Take this list of the Host Committee for an upcoming fundraiser to support Davidson Country District Attorney General candidate Glenn Funk.

Which ones of these folks are "not like the others," as the old commercial says:

"Citizen" George Barrett

Bob Tuke

Joe and Barbara Haynes

Lee and Kelly Beaman

It's going to be a very interesting D.A.'s race for sure!