NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — CAPITOL VIEW
By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
July 15, 2022
GOVERNOR BILL LEE’S SILENCE IS MAKING HIS TEACHER CONTROVERSY WORSE NOT BETTER; VOUCHERS NOW; THE WRATH OF THE GOP SUPERMAJORITY; MORE ON THE NEGATIVE TV ADS IN THE GOP 5th DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL RACE; DEMOCRATS SEEK TO FIGHT BACK ON ROE V. WADE REPEAL; ONE ELECTION SETS A RECORD FOR SIZE WHILE ANOTHER ELECTION NEXT YEAR BEGINS TO TAKE SHAPE; THE JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE MOVES TOWARDS A FINALE; INSIDE POLITICS LOOKS AT THE ECONOMY; LOSING ANOTHER LEADER
GOVERNOR BILL LEE’S SILENCE IS MAKING HIS TEACHER CONTROVERSY WORSE NOT BETTER
Governor Bill Lee’s continued silence to disown the wrong-headed comments about public school teachers, made by one his top education advisors, is a controversy that is not going away.
That includes keeping his public schedule from the media so reporters can’t ask him about it.
In fact, a political backlash is growing over the comments by Larry Arnn, President of the ultra-conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan, when he claimed that public school teachers are “from the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges.”
It is inexcusable that the Governor did not disassociate himself from these ridiculous comments when he was sitting on the same stage when Arnn uttered them.
Later the Governor seemed to falsely imply that Arnn didn’t mean Tennessee teachers when he made his comments. But that’s baloney! Arnn made no such distinction during his secretly taped video remarks at recent local conference. When the Governor tries to tell the public they didn’t hear what they know their ears did hear, it just compounds the anger many people feel.
As Phil Williams reports in his story, the backlash is happening in Republican parts of the state.
The Wilson County Board of Education approved a resolution Monday night, condemning Arnn and adding: "We further condemn the failure of Governor Lee to rebuke Mr. Arnn for his comments and request the elected representatives and senators for Wilson County condemn his comments as well.”
As I predicted in last week’s column, the backlash to Arnn’s comments have likely killed efforts by Governor Lee to have Hillsdale College operated at least 50 charter schools in the state. The Governor says he actually would like Hillsdale to operate 100 such schools.
GOP legislative leaders, including both Speakers, have already condemned Arne’s comments, while also joining with other top Republican leaders in saying the Hillsdale charter school proposal is likely dead.
And this week even more tapes of Arnn making false and hurtful comments about teachers continue to surface.
When you already in the hole, quit digging it deeper, Governor. Speak out and condemn what your education advisor said, and continues to wrongly say, about teachers. If that is what Dr. Arne continues to believe, he is not the kind of education advisor you need or someone who the taxpayers of Tennessee should invest our money to operate schools in Tennessee.
Now some Tennessee Democratic lawmakers and the two top Republicans in the General Assembly, Lt. Governor Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, indicate they have serious concerns about the school curriculum that Dr. Arnn and his Hillsdale College want to teach in Tennessee. What raises their concerns are suggestions in the curriculum that children be taught that the civil rights movement veered from the true intentions of our nation's founders, and that laws against discrimination, violate the spirit of the Constitution.
On Wednesday, Governor Bill Lee made a rather startling announcement concerning school vouchers.
With the Tennessee Supreme Court recently ruling that the state’s pilot program, limited to Nashville and Memphis, did not violate the constitution, Mr. Lee said his administration will begin awarding the education scholarships to help lower- income families attend private schools this school year.
That’s the academic year that begins in less than a month!
Exactly how this will occur, that happen so quickly, remains unclear.
According to this Associated Press article, the Governor’s announcement seemed to catch his own lawyers off guard (at least based on what they told the court). It also surprised another judge involved in the case.
THE WRATH OF THE GOP SUPERMAJORITY
Republicans at the State Capitol are so mad that Nashville officials are showing so little interest in hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention, they are threatening to call a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to force the city to do so.
The details of exactly how they would force that to happen is unclear, but Governor Bill Lee seems to support the idea, meaning he could call the special session himself.
To broaden the agenda for a special session some lawmakers may want to include legislation to protect Tennessee National Guardsmen who face being fired because they haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19.
By the way, the agreement the RNC wants Nashville to approve has not been refiled for consideration on first reading at the next Council meeting Tuesday night. Nashville’s rival to host the RNC convention, Milwaukee, has already unanimously approved a similar document.
The proposal could be filed late, but if more than two councilmembers object the matter can’t be considered until August. Frankly I had no idea how the proposal could be changed to make it acceptable to a 21-vote majority of the Council. So the votes are likely still not there.
As for retribution against Nashville for not welcoming the RNC may go beyond just forcing the city to host, might the Legislature and the Governor seek to find something better to do with the $500 million it plans to contribute towards the funding of the new Titans domed stadium?
Or might that be a political bridge too far, since blowing up the stadium financing would surely anger both the Titans and the NFL who don’t really have a dog in this latest political fight between Nashville and the state?
But don’t worry, the GOP Super Majority can do doubt find several ways to stick it to our It City.
If you need a political chuckle out of this latest Metro-State feud, try this from THE TENNESSEE LOOKOUT.
MORE ON THE NEGATIVE TV ADS IN THE GOP 5th DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL RACE
A negative ad campaign in the 5th District Republican congressional primary widened its scope a bit this week.
A $400,000 TV and radio spot buy paid for by a group affiliated with the Club for Growth Super PAC began last week criticizing two candidates, former House Speaker Beth Harwell and retired Tennessee National Guard General Kurt Winstead for being “too liberal for Tennessee.”
There is also a direct mail piece with the same message being sent out in the district.
This week a second ad began airing criticizing Harwell alone on a variety of issues. Singling her out is likely to be a sign the Super PAC may see her as the front runner in the race or someone who is moving in the polls, with the hope this negative ad, will stop that.
These ads would seem to help Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, who interestingly began his own campaign ads this week just a few days before early voting began on Friday (today).
In the ad, Ogles portrays himself as “the most conservative mayor in the state” and someone who stood up against COVID-restrictions. Like all the GOP candidates he is opposed to illegal immigration and says he will work to finish the “Trump Wall” and close our open borders. Ogles closes the ad by saying he is the candidate to get “our country out of the ditch.” By the way, I have several times seen the Ogles ad run just after the attack ad on Harwell.
There was one other 5th District GOP candidate who began to run TV ads this week. He is Jeff Beierlein who is stressing his military background and the need to oppose President Biden.
One of Beierlein’s TV spots does reference the attack ads, asking if folks are tried of candidates attacking each other? Winstead does perhaps make a reference to the attacks on him being a Democrat and too liberal. in his latest ad. He opens his spot by saying he is proud to have voted four times for President Donald J. Trump.
DEMOCRATS SEEK TO FIGHT BACK ON ROE V. WADE REPEAL
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision ending any right to abortion under the federal Constitution, the battle over how to regulate such procedures has been left up the states.
In Tennessee, the “heartbeat” law passed in 2020, and now in effect, bans abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy, a time frame so short, many women don’t know they are pregnant. A second, even more restrictive law is set to take effect sometime in August. It is called the “trigger” law, passed to take effect as soon as the High Court acted.
This second law (passed in 2021) almost completely bans abortion except to save the life of the mother, no exceptions for rape, incest or victims of sex trafficking. Democrats in the Tennessee Legislature say that’s not right and they want the former Roe v. Wade abortion guidelines of previous Supreme Court rulings codified into state law.
But given the overwhelming Republican majorities in the General Assembly there seems very little likelihood of any changes being approved to these two new state laws.
Meanwhile efforts by Democrats in Washington to codify Roe v. Wade reproductive health protections into federal law continue to fail in the Senate.
It appears the House of Representatives today (Friday) will seek to pass bills that will codify Roe v. Wade into federal law. It seems more likely than not to pass but has almost no chance to get through the Senate.
In another legislative matter on the Hill, the latest effort to pass and even more scaled back ‘Build Back Better” bill (remember that legislation?) seems likely to fail again…and for the same reason as before. Erstwhile Democratic Senator Joe Manchin won’t vote it…and with all 50 Democratic Senators on board, it can’t pass under the budget reconciliation rules.
ONE ELECTION SETS A RECORD FOR SIZE WHILE ANOTHER ELECTION NEXT YEAR BEGINS TO TAKE SHAPE
When Nashvillians begin to go to the polls today (Friday) for early voting as a part of the August 4th election, it appears the ballot facing voters may be the longest in local history.
Even as those political races move forward, candidates for the Metro election to be held in August of next year are announcing their intentions.
On Wednesday of this week, Matt Wiltshire, a former economic development and affordable housing leader under three mayors (Dean, Barry and Briley) officially announced he is running for the city’s highest office. Wiltshire becomes the second person to enter the contest along with Metro district councilmember Freddie O’Connell. And a third candidate, former Thistle Farms CEO Hal Cato is expected to join the field shortly.
Of course, incumbent Mayor, John Cooper is expected to seek a second term in office although he has yet to announce his intentions. With an already robust field of candidates (although no women or people of color are in the field) a runoff between the top two vote getters in August seems a distinct possibility with no candidate getting a 50% majority in the first balloting.
Nashville has been experiencing record growth in recent years, but with the office of economic development seeing three directors in less than three years during the Cooper administration, you can be sure Wiltshire and the others running for mayor, will complain the city lacks a coherent, comprehensive plan on how address the growth Nashville is having to deal with.
There was one sign this week of the power of incumbency. After Mayor Cooper joined with other city leaders to call for a ban on street merchants, especially in the major tourist areas downtown, the Metro Traffic & Parking Commission voted to do exactly that, with enforcement beginning July 21.
The city’s Transportation Licensing Authority took similar action recently to significantly limit the number of party buses downtown, also at the recommendation of Mayor Cooper.
Another issue Mayor Cooper and his opponents will have to answer questions about is the ongoing controversy concerning the police body and in car camera systems. This technology has been in the spotlight ever since it was first proposed several years ago.
First there were the increasing costs that were involved and how long it took to get systems in place. Now it seems the technology itself is under scrutiny. Now police officials say some videos are turning up incomplete when they transfer to the storage server.
It is unclear if this is just a technical issue or something else. It does seem clear that police have been aware of the issue since early May. But they didn’t tell the public or the city’s Community Oversight Board until it sent out a news release this week. The oversight group was not informed until about 30 minutes before the news release was released, and they are not happy about it.
Meanwhile the District Attorney’s office is informing individuals or their lawyers if police stops or cases they are involved are among with incomplete videos. We’re talking about 183 arrest/citation situations — 55 involving body-worn cameras; 128 involving in-car cameras — between April 7, 2021 and July 7, 2022 are incomplete on the storage server. Another 492 calls for service not involving arrest or citation were incomplete as well.
During that time, 1.7 million video events were recorded by officers and uploaded to the storage server.
THE JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE MOVES TOWARDS A FINALE
The House Select Committee investigating the deadly takeover of the U.S. Capitol came back to Washington from the July 4th holiday recess to hold another public hearing.
Again, it was riveting TV with new information, connecting the dots over how former President Donald Trump did everything he could to stay in power by overturning the 2020 Presidential election, even though he knew he lost.
The committee through its Republican vice chair, Congresswoman Liz Chaney hinted at the end of Tuesday’s session that Mr. Trump may still be trying to do things he shouldn’t such as potential witness tampering by trying to contact one of the people the committee has been trying to interview.
The January 6 committee began its hearings with a prime time hearing back in early June. It’s next session is again set for prime time on July 21, and it could mark its final hearing before it complies a final report and recommendations.
But there are complaints that in its hearing on Tuesday, that in order to highlight the information from its latest star witness, former Trump White House legal counsel Pat Cipollone, it left out key details about the involvement of Trump and members of his inner circle with extremist groups who played a key role in the January 6 insurrection.
INSIDE POLITICS LOOKS AT THE ECONOMY
These are the questions everyone is asking:
When will see inflation go down?
Is the economy in overall good shape or in a bad way?
Are we headed towards or already in a recession?
Those and other questions are ones will be posing to our guest this week on INSIDE POLITICS.
He’s Dr. Richard Tarpey from Middle Tennessee State University.
We welcome Dr. Tarpey, to the program.
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. on 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. We are also on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.
One option for those who cannot 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 early in the week after the program airs.
Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week here on my own Facebook page, usually during the week after the show airs.
LOSING ANOTHER LEADER
Nashville has lost yet another of its important leaders with the passing of long time Metro Councilman Vernon Winfrey, who served our city from 1975- 1991.
I covered Councilman Winfrey when I was a reporter at NEWSCHANNEL5 and I worked with him when I was Mayor Richard Fulton’s Executive Assistant and Press Secretary. Mr. Winfrey was always calm, cool and collected, no matter how hot or difficult the issue or problem was. He was always open and ready to help.
There is one thing Vernon Winfrey never was. He never thought or acted like he was more important because his daughter, Oprah Winfrey is one of the most famous people in the world.
Vernon Winfrey was committed to his work in the Council, to his profession as a barber, to his church, to helping his community, to being a mentor and to raising his daughter. As Jesus says in the Gospel, we should all go, and do likewise.
(Full disclosure: Oprah was a colleague of mine at Channel 5).