By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
February 24, 2023
THE REPUBLICAN SUPER MAJORITY CONTINUES ITS WAR IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON THE TRANS AND LBGTQ COMMUNITIES; THE MESS AT THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN SERVICES REMAINS BAD AND MAY BE GETTING WORSE; THE WAR ON METRO CONTINUES ON CAPITOL HILL EVEN AS OPPOSITION EMERGES FROM SOME NASHVILLE BUSINESS LEADERS, AND EVEN THE FIRST GOP OPPOSITION SURFACES; NASHVILLE AREA CONGRESSMAN ANDY OGLES NOMINATED TO BE IN THE “GEORGE SANTOS CAUCUS”; HIGHLY CRITICAL STATE AUDIT ON TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY CREATES LOTS OF ISSUES; ANOTHER WEEK OF WHO IS RUNNING FOR NASHVILLE MAYOR AND WHO ISN’T; INSIDE POLITICS TAKES A TOO EARLY(?) LOOK AT THE 2024 PRESIDENTIAL RACE; A POSTSCRIPT
THE REPUBLICAN SUPER MAJORITY CONTINUES ITS WAR IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON THE TRANS AND LBGTQ COMMUNITIES
With all but final floor actions on Thursday in the Legislature, the 113th Tennessee General Assembly continues to fill up the desk of Governor Bill Lee with new anti-trans and anti-LBGTQ legislation for him to sign. The Governor will no doubt do so, as Tennessee seems to lead the nation such punitive measures. This time the newly passed bills ban gender-affirming care for youngsters under 18, while another measure would criminalize certain public cabaret and drag performances.
Lawsuits to stop the new laws are being considered and may soon be filed.
Meanwhile those who help put on annual “Pride” celebrations across the state are trying to adjust to what may be a new reality.
THE MESS AT THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN SERVICES REMAINS BAD AND MAY BE GETTING WORSE
Remember how outraged people were across the state after a series of audits and investigations, including those by Ben Hall of NEWSCHANNEL 5 INVESTIGATES, found at- risk children in the care of the Tennessee Department of Children Services, were having to sleep on the floors in state offices because there were no foster homes to place them?
Lawmakers were quick to hold hearings and pledge more money to hire additional case workers and pay them better. Governor Lee put more money in DCS’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. But that budget won’t be approved until later in the spring and the funding won’t be available until July 1st.
Meanwhile, Ben Hall reports that conditions in DCS are increasingly desperate for kids staying in offices and employees being forced to take extra shifts to watch them. Believe it or not, toilet paper is even being rationed.
THE WAR ON METRO CONTINUES ON CAPITOL HILL EVEN AS OPPOSITION EMERGES FROM SOME NASHVILLE BUSINESS LEADERS, AND EVEN THE FIRST GOP OPPOSITION SURFACES
The ill-conceived efforts by the Republican Super Majority in the Legislature, to seek revenge on the Metro Council for opposing Nashville hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention, continues to move ahead.
A bill to cut the size of the city’s legislative body in half, from 40 to 20 members (with local voters having no voice in the matter), passed through yet another Senate committee (State & Local Government) on Tuesday.
That occurred even as the first GOP legislator spoke out and voted against the bill in committee. It didn’t change the outcome, but with all the many other anti-Nashville bills that are littering the Hill, not moving forward this week, is there still a chance a truce or peace can be found?
So far it appears few government-related associations or others have been willing to step up and defend the Metro. Maybe that is because of that old political saying: “First one that goes over the wall, gets shot.”
I have been told the board of the Tennessee County Services Association has voted in opposition to the Council reduction bill. They are concerned Nashville is not only a city and metropolitan government, it is also a county government. There is no size limit on county legislative bodies (and interestingly, many GOP lawmakers have legislative bodies in their districts larger than 20 members).
The fear is, restricting Nashville/Davidson County, could open the door for bills to limit the size of county legislative bodies across the state However, if the County Services organization is opposed to the anti-Nashville legislation, I have not seen any evidence the group is speaking out publicly or in the media. Will privately talking to GOP lawmakers be enough to make a difference?
One group that is speaking out includes 35 Nashville business and community leaders who signed a letter sent to GOP legislative leaders this week opposing the anti-Nashville legislation in no uncertain terms. I understand more people may be signing on, but why weren’t there hundreds of Nashville civic leaders joining them?
Here are those who have stepped up so far including some local elected officials but only one mayoral candidate:
• Harry Allen
• Peter F. Bird
• Charles W. Bone
• Charles Robert Bone
• Samantha Boyd
• Sheila Calloway
• Hal Cato
• Katie Cour
• Kevin Crumbo
• Mark Deutschmann
• Sherry Deutschmann
• Sara Finley
• Frank M. Garrison
• Howard Gentry, Jr.
• Jim Gingrich
• Jose Gonzales
• Dr. Forrest Harris
• Aubrey B. Harwell, Jr.
• Brian Hassett
• Shannon Hunt
• Bert Mathews
• Lonnell Matthews, Jr.
• Janet Miller
• Ron Samuels
• Joe Scarlett
• Tara Scarlett
• Martha Silva
• Stephanie Silverman
• Renata Soto
• Steve Turner
• Alan Valentine
• Kate Wood
• D.J. Wootson
• Brenda Wynn
• Shirley Zeitlin
Are these efforts to show opposition being coordinated at all, or part of a plan? I am hearing concerns that there is not enough leadership or cooperation coming from Mayor John Cooper’s office. The Mayor did try late last week to calm the waters. That’s when, at the request of GOP legislative leaders, he sent letters to both national political parties expressing Nashville’s interest in hosting their 2028 conventions. But that effort got thrown back in his face as inadequate by the all-mighty GOP leaders, who indicated they would definitely continue to pursue the Council reduction bill. So much for the Council reduction being an effort to promote local government efficiency. This is all clearly about payback and revenge for Republican lawmakers!
But the Council reduction bill was deferred in a House committee this week. The only explanation that was given is that bill sponsors want both the House and Senate bills to be identical, so amendments may be needed.
These bills are now in the final few committees, where approvals are needed, before the full House and Senate would pass them. Will those bills be held in the final Calendar committees, without a vote scheduled, to show Metro officials that state Republican lawmakers mean business?
Given the tight May deadlines in the Council reduction bill to get the new district lines drawn for an August election, might it be better to leave the bill in the on-deck circle for passage but wait until next year to vote on it? That would avoid the chaos and confusion of extending the current council an extra fifth year. Then, when and if the reduction bill passes, have any size reduction take place for the 2027 Metro election?
Maybe during that interim both the State and Metro can rebuild on-going lines of communication that just don’t exist right now.
So are the Republican Super Majority and Metro, in any way, still open to cut a deal or reach an agreement to give all sides a way and a chance to back off the political ledge? I suspect that is why, right now, all the other anti-Nashville bills are on hold especially in the Senate.
Meanwhile, despite the strong likelihood that there will be expensive and lengthy legal action to stop the Council reduction bill if it becomes law, is passing the Council bill the minimum pound of flesh GOP lawmakers want to achieve to “win” their war with Nashville?
It is a frustrating situation which Keel Hunt outlines in his latest FIELD NOTES blog column. All I can say to what Keel wrote is Amen!
NASHVILLE AREA CONGRESSMAN ANDY OGLES NOMINATED TO BE IN THE “GEORGE SANTOS CAUCUS”
Last week NEWSCHANNEL5 Chief Investigative Reporter Phil Williams gave his viewers chapter and versus on how the Nashville area’s new Congressman, Andy Ogles is not exactly who he says he is when he was elected to his office last November.
Now others in the local media are writing about it.
Now the story is going national with this POLITICO article, where the writer places him in the new “George Santos Caucus” in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman Ogles refused to answer Phil Williams’ question but he did appear on a local right-leaning radio talk show where he defended his resume by saying his record “speaks for itself” and that the discrepancies are “a matter of semantics. “
HIGHLY CRITICAL STATE AUDIT ON TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY CREATES LOTS OF ISSUES
An audit released this week by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office is creating major issues.
The scathing report claims TSU has repeatedly fallen short when it comes to management, finances and communication. The evidence the audit presents seems to be serious enough that the report intimates the need for change in the school’s top leadership.
Supporters of the school say the audit is a “political smear” and the findings are “unprecedented and unwarranted."
Students are concerned about the school’s future.
TSU students showed up in sizable numbers and in school colors to support their President Glenda Glover when she and Comptroller Jason Mumpower came to Capitol Hill to discuss the audit with lawmakers.
ANOTHER WEEK OF WHO IS RUNNING FOR NASHVILLE MAYOR AND WHO ISN’T
Ever since Mayor John Cooper announced he isn’t seeking a second term in office this summer, a political Oklahoma land rush has been in process with elected officials and other community leaders assessing whether or not to run.
This week, one jumping in the race is a former unsuccessful Republican candidate for Congress, Natasha Brooks.
Those deciding not to run include outgoing Metro Council member at large Bob Mendes.
Those still making up their minds include State Senator Heidi Campbell, Metro Assessor of Property Vivian Wilhoite and Alice Rolli, a former aide to Lamar Alexander and a long- time Republican activist. The deadline to qualify to run is not until the middle of May so more candidates could join the current field of 7 candidates. You can not raise money to run unless you file a treasurer.
The other race sure to be on the August ballot, along with the mayor’s office, is the vice mayor’s contest. Incumbent Jim Shulman says he is seeking re-election. This week he got some potential competition with district councilmember Angie Henderson appointing a treasurer to begin to raise campaign funds.
INSIDE POLITICS TAKES A TOO-EARLY LOOK AT THE 2024 PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Yes, we know the 2022 mid-term elections happened less than 4 months ago.
But the first primaries and caucuses to select the presidential nominees for 2024 are now less than a year away.
So maybe it is not too early to talk about what lies ahead as America moves into its next major election cycle.
After all, the candidates, both announced and potential ones, are already out in the hustings seeking support.
We’ve brought in two of our best political analysts this week on INSIDE POLITICS to give us their wisdom and insights on this topic.
They are Democrat Larry Woods and Republican Steve Gill.
We welcome these gentlemen back to the program and thank them for joining us.
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I know whatever I write about, the major takeaway most readers will remember about this week is the record-breaking warm temperatures recorded Wednesday and Thursday. In fact, the 85-degree high on Thursday in Nashville is the warmest February day ever in Nashville and the earliest we have reached 85 in a calendar year.
It sure felt good, after all the cold we’ve had this winter. Heck, we had snow flurries just last week. But Tennessee winters never stay the same. Friday morning temperatures were back in the low 40s, with rain, and a predicted high of 53 later today. Still more winter to go.