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Capitol View Commentary: Feb. 15, 2019

Posted: 1:24 PM, Feb 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-15 19:24:11Z
Capitol View

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Capitol View

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

February 15, 2019

HOW WASHINGTON POLITICS IS MORE AND MORE LIKE A REALITY TV SHOW/SOAP OPERA; FIRST CITY IN THE SOUTH; WEATHERING THE STORM; CITY BUDGET ISSUES STILL ON FRONT BURNER; WHAT’S AHEAD FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON INSIDE POLITICS; GOVERNOR LEE SEEKS TO BOLSTER STEM EDUCATION IN TENNESSEE; FROM THE BIG APPLE TO THE MUSIC CITY?

HOW WASHINGTON POLITICS IS MORE AND MORE LIKE A REALITY TV SHOW/SOAP OPERA

If you are among those who believe the politics in Washington are just one never-ending reality TV show/soap opera, this week may offer the best example yet.

After a record 35-day partial shutdown of the government, followed by two-weeks of negotiations to come up with a compromise on funding the construction of a southern border wall, a bi-partisan bill to address the issue passed Congress just hours before yet another government shutdown was scheduled to go into effect.

After some more high-drama, problem solved?

Not really.

President Donald Trump, after grumbling and looking for “landmines” in the funding bill, has signed the measure, but only after he also declared a “national emergency” so he can use funds appropriated by Congress for other projects (including disaster relief) to build his Wall. The Army will construct the barrier says Mr. Trump.

The President will certainly need the funds. He asked for over $5.6 billion to do the job but got only about $1.5 million after the recent government shutdown. Following two more weeks of negotiations, the President actually got slightly less in the latest funding bill.

To get his way, and keep the issue alive, forcing another shutdown wouldn’t work. The President would get blamed again, as he was in the earlier shutdown when the economy lost an estimated $11 billon dollars and 800,000 federal employees went without pay for over month.

Another shutdown would also be bad reality TV, repeating major plot developments is just boring. Therefore, the President changed the dynamics by keeping the government open but taking his quest to build his Wall to the courts. That is where his emergency declaration is sure to be challenged.

What the President is doing is unprecedented in how he is declaring this “national emergency.” But Donald Trump and his supporters thrive on being unprecedented. Even some Republican leaders believe the President will lose in the courts, but in some ways, he may not care all that much. This matter is sure to take months if not years to decide in the legal system, meaning the President can keep firing up his base to show them he is doing all he can to fulfill his biggest campaign promise of 2016, while he is running for re-election in 2020.

Even if he loses in court, Donald Trump will claim victory. He’ll blame the loss on “activist” judges which is better for him than admitting he’s got politically whipped twice in the past month by Democrats in Congress.

Of course, Congress could stop the “national emergency” on its own if both houses can duplicate the two-thirds vote it got to pass this latest spending bill. But that’s not likely even though some Republicans fret if Trump’s emergency declaration is upheld, it could establish a dangerous constitutional precedent that future Democratic Presidents could use to get their way and go around Congress on issues such as guns, abortion and immigration.

Meanwhile, Congress has still more spending issues to figure out The national debt has now topped a record $22 trillion at the same time the government will soon go over its spending limits or face going into default on its debts without lawmakers approving a new debt limit.

Inside the Beltway, the TV reality show/ soap opera churns on and the plot thickens.

FIRST CITY IN THE SOUTH

Mayor David Briley has signed an executive order making Nashville the first in the South to recognize the status of LGBT businesses in the city. Explains the NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL:

“ Briley's order does four things: allows companies to self-identify as an LGBT-owned business during the procurement process; develops a way to recognize companies with an LGBT business enterprise certification, as spearheaded by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce; creates a way for Metro to track how many LGBT-owned businesses are getting city contracts; and extends the programs and services offered to the city's minority or women-owned businesses to Nashville's LGBT-owned businesses.”

“It’s my job as mayor to make sure that everyone in our city, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has equal access to economic opportunities,” Briley said in a statement. “Today, we’ve taken an important step towards better equity for LGBT-owned businesses in Nashville. I am proud to sign this executive order and look forward to seeing these Nashville businesses flourish.”

The LGBT efforts come after the Mayor got the Metro Council to pass legislation to remove barriers that minority and women owned business felt kept them for getting their fair share of Metro business.

Again, quoting THE NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL, the city is not alone in taking steps like these:

“Briley's order puts Metro in line with several of the city's largest employers, many of which have made it a priority to be more inclusive. Dollar General Corp. and Asurion, for instance, recognize LGBT-certified businesses in their supply-chain processes, according to the Nashville LGBT Chamber…. Other local companies are adding or expanding their policies and benefits to cover lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. These companies — such as Nissan North America Inc. and Vanderbilt University Medical Center — say such steps are good for their workers and good for business, arguing that inclusive policies are a key tool in recruiting and retaining employees.”

In a somewhat related matter this week, Tennessee Attorney General Hebert Slattery opined that Tennessee’s Hate Crime law can be used in cases involving LGBT victims. Such protection would be a first for a southern state. https://outandaboutnashville.com/tn-attorney-general-opinion-on-anti-trans-hate-crimes/

WEATHERING THE STORM

It’s been a tough February for Nashville weather-wise. That includes the city receiving almost three times more liquid precipitation than normal, and we are still only about half-way through the month.

Another issue has been the severe weather we experienced last week. It once again exposed the city’s antiquated tornado warning system. How antiquated? Reports TENNESSEAN:

“A person hearing a tornado siren is not necessarily under a tornado warning. The sirens are activated across all of Davidson County when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for any part of the county.”

And then there was another glitch in the system last week. It occurred even after the tornado warning expired. Again, from THE TENNESSEAN:

“A drop in the radio signal caused the city's system to repeat a siren cycle on Wednesday night, which some residents found confusing or frightening. The dropped radio signal is under review, but the Office of Emergency Management, which runs the system, says the tornado sirens themselves operated correctly.”

So, Mayor Briley is taking action:

"As mayor, the safety of Nashville residents is my top priority," Briley said in the Tweet. "This month I will ask the Metro Council for $500,000 in equipment reserve funds to upgrade and modernize Nashville’s #tornado warning system."

Better late than never.

CITY BUDGET ISSUES STILL ON FRONT BURNER

Metro has been struggling its way through a difficult budget year. And while the local economy continues to boom, city departments are not sure they will achieve the savings they need to meet the goals set by the Metro Finance Department. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/nashville-is-growing-but-police-fire-and-sheriffs-departments-face-cut s

Metro’s next budget year begins July 1. However, another struggle it faces balancing its current spending plan, is selling some properties to net $23 million. We’ve been raising this issue for months in this column but still Metro is making little progress to resolve the matter with now just over four and half months left in this fiscal year. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/02/13/nashville-budget-gap-mayor-briley-comes-up-short-public-land-sales/2848101002/

The Metro Council made a good move to prohibit land sales in the future to balance the books. But what will be done to balance this year’s budget?

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON INSIDE POLITICS

While we still need to hear from Governor Bill Lee early next month when he submits his budget and gives his first State of the State address, we already have a pretty good idea what the major issues will be before the 111th Tennessee General Assembly the rest of this winter into the spring.

Joining us this week on INSIDE POLITUCS to break it all down are Joel Ebert of the TENNESSEAN/ USA TODAY- TENNESSEE Network and NEWCHANNEL5’s Capitol Hill reporter Kyle Horan. From medical marijuana, Community Oversight Board regulation to new vocational and technical education programs, sports gambling and expanded health care access, we discuss it all, and more. Tune in!

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:

7:00 p.m. Friday;

5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday;

1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

One option for those who can’t see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you.

This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted the week after the program airs.

GOVERNOR LEE SEEKS TO BOLSTER STEM EDUCATION IN TENNESSEE

Governor Lee this week put more details behind another of his proposed K-12 education programs. It’s the called the Future Workforce Initiative. Similar to the proposal the Governor has already unveiled to increase vocational and technical training, this plan seeks to bolster the state’s efforts to improve our students’ mastery of STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math).

From a news release from Governor Lee’s office:

“Our agenda advocates for increased access to career and technical education for K-12 students and a key part of this includes prioritizing STEM training,” said Lee. “The Future Workforce Initiative is a direct response to the emerging technology industry and making sure our students are first in line to be qualified for technology jobs.”

The Future Workforce Initiative aims to put Tennessee in the top 25 states for job creation in the technology sector by 2022 through three areas of emphasis including:

Launching new CTE programs focused in STEM fields with 100 new middle school programs and tripling the number of STEM-designated public schools by 2022.

Growing the number of teachers qualified to teach work-based learning and advanced computer science courses through STEM teacher training and implementation of K-8 computer science standards.

Expanding postsecondary STEM opportunities in high school through increased access to dual credit, AP courses and dual-enrollment.

“58 percent of all STEM jobs created in the country are in computing but only 8 percent of graduates study computer science in college,” said Lee. “By exposing Tennessee students to computer science in their K-12 careers we are ensuring our kids have every chance to land a high-quality job.”

In his presentation to the legislature (State of the State on March 4), the Governor will recommend a $4 million investment to implement the Future Workforce Initiative.

This is an item we discuss further on INSIDE POLITICS this week.

FROM THE BIG APPLE TO THE MUSIC CITY?

Amazon’s abrupt decision this week to cancel its plans to build one of its new headquarters in New York City is causing talk all over the country, especially here in Nashville.

Music City is supposed to receive a major regional Amazon operations center bringing 5,000 high-paying new jobs to town. Despite the exit from New York, Amazon says it is still moving forward with its plans in Nashville. Will Nashville now get even more jobs? Amazon says it has no plans for that right now, although company officials don’t explain what will happen to the 25,000 jobs the NYC headquarters was supposed to generate.

Will they go to the other new Amazon headquarters set to be created in northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C.? That’s unclear. Company officials claim they won’t be re-opening its nation-wide HQ search that had almost every major city submitting bids. If these NYC jobs don’t go to Virginia or disappear from Amazon’s plans, isn’t it possible some of them might still wind up in our IT City?

If so, that would mean the $15 million tax incentive plan Metro is offering ($5,000 for each new job per year) might have to be increased. The Metro Council has yet to consider or approve that package. It has already approved $15 million in infrastructure improvements to the massive Nashville Yards development where Amazon will be the major tenant.

The developments in New York this week, where political and grassroots community opposition led to Amazon dropping its HQ plans, has created a cascade of rising concerns from some in Nashville. They are increasing their volume in raising questions and concerns about Amazon coming here.

Meanwhile state and Chamber of Commerce officials remain positive Amazon and its future in Nashville.

Next Tuesday (February 19) The Metro Council is set to consider a similar, but smaller (1500 jobs), incentive package for AllianceBernstein, the prestigious Wall Street firm, to move here. That debate and the vote by the Council may test the waters and provide a bit of a test vote on the Amazon issue.