By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company
REMEMBERING PRESIDENT GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH ON INSIDE POLITICS
This has been a remarkable week as the nation has come together to mourn the passing of our 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush.
Two Nashvillians who worked closely at times with the President during his political career are our guests on INSIDE POLITICS this week.
They are Republican political analysts Chip Saltsman and Bill Phillips.
Phillips managed the 1988 Republican National Convention that nominated Mr. Bush to be President. He remained a campaign aide, friend and advisor to President Bush in the years to come. Saltsman had many experiences with the President on the campaign trail and elsewhere.
This is a great show to hear some fascinating stories about an American hero and statesman! Watch us!
INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:
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5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday;
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SOME IDEAS JUST DON’T GO AWAY
For years some hard-core conservatives in the Tennessee Republican Party have wanted to require voters to register their party affiliation to be able to cast a ballot in primary elections.
Right now, voters can decide on election day which party they want to cast their primary ballot, GOP or Democratic.
This past weekend the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee approved a resolution (45-14) to ask the Republican Super Majority in the General Assembly to change the law and require voter registration by party and close the primary to others. There would be window up to 60 days before any primary where voters could change their party choice.
Scott Golden, the chair of the Tennessee Republican Party, points to an incident from this past summer, where two Democratic candidates in Williamson County participated in the Republican primaries.
"We were very frustrated with crossover voting and the intentions that some of the Democrats did voting in the Republican primary," Golden said.
But other top party leaders including outgoing Governor Bill Haslam and Governor-elect Bill Lee think this change is a bad idea.
Reports THE TENNESSEAN: “"I am strongly opposed to that," Haslam said Monday while speaking at a Nashville Rotary meeting. "If you're a Republican, I think it's a silly proposal."
Lee made similar comments Monday afternoon.
"I would be willing to look at whatever the legislature says, but on the surface, I don’t see a reason to make a change," Lee said.
He pointed to the supermajority Republicans had gained in the legislature in recent years and the GOP's success in maintaining control of the governor's office and keeping a "large majority of the congressional delegation."
"I think what the Republican Party has been doing is working well, and I don’t see a real reason to change that," Lee said.”
Back when it was the dominant party in this state, the Tennessee Democratic Party toyed with closing primaries with the idea it would strengthen their power. It didn’t happen. Today Tennessee Democrats are not taking a stand on the matter. They don’t have enough votes in the Legislature to decide the issue anyway.
In recent years, Democrats have usually been more inclined to have a big enough political tent to welcome Independents and Republicans to join them, even if just for a day or a single election.
Besides with their rival party obviously divided, I am sure Democrats are more than pleased to be able to stay above the fray, and let the GOP keep fighting among themselves. But maybe the Democrats might ultimately strike an alliance with Republicans who don’t like closed primaries to put a stop to such a proposal one more time.
THE POLITICAL DOMINANCE OF WILLIAMSON COUNTY CONTINUES TO GROW
Why are so many of the top elected and even appointed positions in Tennessee government now held by Republicans who are residents of Williamson County, an affluent suburb adjacent to Nashville?
The list includes:
Governor-elect Bill Lee
U.S. Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn
Tennessee Speaker of the House in-waiting Glen Casada
Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (selected by his GOP colleagues this week).
Even on the Tennessee Supreme Court, there are two Williamson County residents on the bench, including Chief Justice Jeff Bivins and Justice Connie Clark.
They hold both seats allocated to Middle Tennessee. The Tennessee State Constitution prohibits any more than two of its five members coming from any one of the three Grand Divisions of the State.
So, what is it? Something in the water? A dominance of well qualified folks who are ready and want to serve their state?
House Speaker-to-be Casada suggested to me on INSIDE POLITICS last week, that this kind of dominance has happened before such as when Democrats dominated the Legislature, and the Governor’s chair back in the 1950s through the 1970s. But that was West Tennessee Democrats from a whole grand division of the state, not all these top officials residing in the same county.
Maybe it is just happenstance. Whatever, it is what is, a unique dominance of elected and appointed top state officials all living in just one of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
MORE ORGANIZATIONAL MOVES ON THE HILL
Governor-elect Bill Lee this week appointed a fourth commissioner for his new cabinet. This time it’s a new Agriculture Commissioner. Charlie Hatcher follows the previous trends we’ve seen so far in the emerging leadership on the Hill and in the incoming Lee administration including (in the cabinet) previous experience in the state department they are running (Hatcher is ths state veterinarian) and Williamson County ties.
Back in the General Assembly, Senate Democrats made their leadership choices with Nashville’s Jeff Yarbro named Minority Leader and Raumesh Skbari from Memphis named Democratic Caucus President. Nashville’s new State Senator Brenda Gilmore will be Floor Leader for the Democrats who hold only 6 of the 33 seats in the upper chamber. Almost all of the Democrats in the Senate are from their party’s bastions of Shelby and Davidson Counties.
On the House side, Minority Leader Karen Camper of Memphis got off to a bumpy start with one of her long- time aides, Derrick Tibbs resigning in scandal over allegations of improperly signing checks.
Regarding the leadership of the state Democratic Party, Chairman Mary Mancini says she plays to seek re-election again. Will she be opposed?
There are two candidates being mentioned in the media. According to the NASHVILLE POST they are:
“Former House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Karl Dean this year, and Holly McCall, chair of the Williamson County Democratic Party.
“"I'm thinking about it. You never say never," Fitzhugh told the newspaper. "But right now, no, I think I'm trying to stay involved but not in that particular position."
"I've been asked by a number of Democratic leaders in the last week to consider running, and I'll make a decision in the next few days," McCall said.
The party’s executive committee will vote on leadership next month. State Republicans voted last week to retain Chair Scott Golden through the 2020 election.”
AN EARLY LOOK AT 2020 IN TENNESSEE
Maybe you’ve had enough electoral politics until the new year.
Regardless, the NASHVILLE POST has a good, if early overview of the challenges facing both parties in the 2020 election where U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s seat will up on the ballot along with (again) all the State House seats and about half the State Senate, plus all nine Tennessee U.S. House seats.
STILL WAITING TO BALANCE THE METRO BUDGET
Metro law requires the city each year to have a balanced operating budget.
One of the major controversies during Metro’s budget fight last June was selling city properties to balance the books.
It’s never been considered a good idea to do that, but it wasn’t illegal. Mayor David Briley found it necessary to recommend selling up to $35 million in city lands only due to the city’s dire financial straits.
Now the Metro Council has given final approval to a new law (assuming Mayor Briley signs it), that would require proceeds from any future city land sales (after this year) be used only to pay down city debt, not balance the operating budget.
District 24 Councilmember Kathleen Murphy sponsored the measure and it’s a good one. Unfortunately, a pretty good size hole remains in the current operating budget. The Mayor, the Council and the School Board have not been able to agree on what lands and facilities should be sold. Almost half the fiscal year will be over by the end of December. The process required to legally declared Metro property “surplus” and get it sold takes some time.
So what’s the plan? And when will Metro officials announce what they plan to do to meet their legal obligation for a balanced operating budget by the end of the current fiscal year June 30, 2019?
Meanwhile late in the week, federal emergency management officials indicate it they want some money back from Metro. It’s over $400,000 in relief funds Nashville received in the wake of the May 2010 flood.
EXTENDING THE PROMISE IN NASHVILLE
The Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs, which provide free tuition for students of all ages to obtain a two-year associates or technical degree from one of Tennessee’s community or technical colleges, are a major part of Governor Bill Haslam’s legacy as he leaves office.
As helpful as that is, there’s more to being able to obtain higher education degrees than just receiving free tuition.
In an unprecedented move for Nashville, Mayor David Briley this week announced the Nashville GRAD program (Getting Results by Advancing Degrees). Quoting from a news release issued by the Mayor’s office:
“Nashville GRAD complements the State of Tennessee’s programs for tuition-free college, Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, by removing other financial barriers beyond tuition. Financial assistance will cover expenses beyond tuition, including textbooks, transportation, tools and supplies, and industry certification fees.
Nashville GRAD will begin in Fall of 2019. It will be implemented through a financial assistance fund that will include an annual financial commitment from Metro Government and, at full implementation, will serve more than 3,000 students each year. Mayor Briley has committed to including up to $1 million in Metro’s FY2019-2020 budget and up to $2.5 million annually after that.
“Today marks an incredibly important step toward closing equity gaps in our city, increasing economic opportunity, and investing in our workforce through access to quality education,” said Mayor David Briley.
“We know that obtaining a degree or credential after high school can raise a person’s lifetime income by one-third, and by 2020, 60 percent of jobs will require some type of postsecondary degree. Giving Nashvillians the assistance they need to successfully reach this goal is vital to Nashville’s long-term prosperity.”
Further information from the Mayor’s office:
Nashville GRAD is modeled after a highly successful evidence-based program from the City University of New York (CUNY ASAP). Nashville GRAD will offer comprehensive support to eligible students through financial assistance, personalized individual mentorship, academic and career advising, and by fostering a strong cohort environment.
The program will benefit, in particular, students attending the Nashville State Community College(NSCC) or the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) – Nashville. The hope is that Nashville GRAD will increase the number of students successfully graduating from NSCC in three years to at least 50 percent and increase TCAT industry certifications to 66 percent by 2023.
Mayor Briley and the Nashville State Community College Foundation are also seeking financial commitments from local business partners who believe in the importance of developing Nashville’s workforce and closing the city’s equity gaps. “I am counting on our partners in the business community to help us see this through, as well,” said the Mayor.
Rounding out a busy week of announcements, on Thursday Mayor Briley announced a collaborative effort with the private sector to support Nashville-made manufacturers and their locally made products.
The Mayor also fulfilled an earlier promise to create and now fill the role of a Metro Chief Compliance Officer to deal with issues government-wide regarding the city’s ethic policies.
IT WOULDN’T BE THE HOLIDAY SEASON
It seems Congress can’t celebrate the Holidays without facing another budget/ spending bill crisis with the nation subject to the threat once again of a partial government shutdown.
The deadline to act this week was Friday, December 7. But on Thursday, both houses passed resolutions to extend stop-gap government funding for another two weeks.
To provide some back story, according to THE HILL:
“The vote essentially punts a divisive debate on funding for President Trump’s border wall to the next two weeks. Trump is demanding that Congress include at least $5 billion in funding for the wall in legislation to fund the rest of the government through the next fiscal year.
Democrats have only agreed to $1.6 billion in funding for border security, and they have the ability to filibuster legislation in the Senate. The party will also take over the House majority next month.
Work on a funding deal was largely set aside this week as Congress observed ceremonies surrounding the funeral for former President George H.W. Bush. The House canceled votes this week.”
So will the approach of Christmas (looming just a few days after the new spending deadline) really bring consensus and closure on this seemingly never-ending problem that Congress can’t get its most basic work done, establishing and funding a budget?
Maybe, but don’t expect Santa to bring Congress and the Trump administration a brilliant gift or solution to break the ongoing deadlock on so many issues inside the Beltway.