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Capitol View commentary: Friday, July 29, 2022

Capitol View
Posted at 11:49 AM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 12:49:40-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

July 29, 2022

UNCERTAINTY THY REAL NAME IS THE AMERICAN ECONOMY; THE ABORTION RIGHTS BATTLE RAGES ON IN TENNESSEE; TENNESSEE’S SCHOOL VOUCHER PLAN IS BACK IN COURT JUST DAYS BEFORE SCHOOLS ARE ABOUT TO OPEN; INSIDE POLITICS ANALYZES THE AUGUST 4 ELECTION WITH STEVE CAVENDISH OF THE NASHVILLE BANNER; BACK FROM THE DEAD AGAIN? NOW TENNESSEE’S WAR AGAINST LGBTQ STUDENTS EXTENDS TO THE SCHOOL CAFETERIA; DEBATING THE 2024 GOP CONVENTION IN NASHVILLE ONE MORE TIME; EXTREME WEATHER CONTINUES

UNCERTAINTY THY REAL NAME IS THE AMERICAN ECONOMY

Another week of conflicting signs if we are in a recession.

On Thursday, the federal government announced that the economy has now suffered two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

That’s a major part of the definition of the country being in a recession.

To further slow economic growth, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised interest rates again another 3 quarters of a point. It is the fourth time this calendar year the Fed has raised rates to fight inflation, which was last reported at 9.1% in June, compared to the same month last year. That is a 40-year high.

All these economic woes would usually mean decreased hiring and layoffs. But while there are some signs that is beginning to happen, job growth has remained strong, unemployment remains low, and consumer spending has softened but it’s not slumping.

Are we coming in for a soft landing of the economy or about to see a recession, or unknown length and severity, fully manifest itself?

While we are figuring out what will happen, to save some money, enjoy this weekend’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday in Tennessee.

Then for the entire month of August, enjoy the new Tennessee sales tax holiday on almost all grocery items, except for cigarettes, wine and beer.

THE ABORTION RIGHTS BATTLE RAGES ON IN TENNESSEE

Late last month, immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade was no longer settled law, and that women had no right to an abortion under the federal constitution, the issue was left for states to decide.

In Tennessee that meant the “heartbeat” bill passed by the General Assembly a couple of years ago took effect, banning abortion in the state after 6 weeks. That is such a short term, most women won’t even know they are pregnant.

There is another ‘trigger law” that lawmakers have been waiting to take effect. But until Wednesday of this week, it was unclear when it would take effect. That’s because the law required 30 days to pass until the High Court’s decision was formally filed (not just announced).

That filing occurred on Tuesday and the date the law, all but banning abortion in Tennessee, takes effect is August 25.

The only exception is if the life of the mother is in danger. But with the new law and its enforcement, doctors and health care providers are worried they will have to consult lawyers not health experts. And if they make a mistake, they could face either a felony or a malpractice suit.

It appears going forward the only way for Tennessee women to access abortion services is to go to a nearby state where it is still available.

The Metro Council here in Nashville continues to consider legislation to facilitate that. At its next meeting on August 4, the body will consider a bill on second reading that adds an additional requirement to Nashville’s Do Better Bill.

It would require those companies “seeking economic and community development incentive grant agreements and PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) agreements with the metropolitan government to provide their employees with access to obtain medical treatment that is otherwise unavailable in their respective home state. “

The Council also had an ordinance on first reading that would ban the use of License Plate Readers (LPRs) to assist with enforcing laws outlawing abortion or outlawing interstate travel to obtain an abortion as allowed use of LPRs.

In recent weeks there is also an increasing number of incidents requiring police assistance and even arrests at clinics here in Nashville and elsewhere.

TENNESSEE’S SCHOOL VOUCHER PLAN IS BACK IN COURT JUST DAYS BEFORE SCHOOLS ARE ABOUT TO OPEN

With Memphis and Nashville schools about to open in just days, the legal battle over Tennessee’s pilot program to provide $7500 vouchers in taxpayer money to help needy parents pay for their students to attend private schools in Shelby and Davidson County, has gone back to court.

Last Friday (July 22) lawyers for government leaders in Nashville and Memphis filed a request to have the plan stopped through a temporary injunction. A court hearing is now set for next Friday August 5.

Even as the court battle continues, some over 2,000 families have already expressed interest in participating in the voucher program.

Catholic schools in Nashville and Memphis are showing particular interest in educating the students receiving these vouchers.

The controversy over Tennessee public schools continues to flare up as the new school year draws near. Parents, students and teachers, unhappy with vouchers, charter schools and the new state funding formula, are coming to Capitol Hill in Nashville to protest and demand change.

Here is a report on what those testifying on the Hill had to say about the rule making process now underway to implement the new schools funding formula.

But don’t expect education change to happen quickly or easily. In fact, one of the controversial Hillsdale College charter schools, recently rejected by a local school board, is appealing its case to a state review board. That body has a record of overruling almost every local school board rejection of a charter school. The other two rejected Hillsdale charter school applications are likely to be appealed and approved by the state soon. One school leader says the process makes elected school boards just a brief speed bump to opening a charter school in Tennessee.

INSIDE POLITICS ANALYZES THE AUGUST 4 ELECTION WITH STEVE CAVENDISH OF THE NASHVILLE BANNER

This time next week, we should know who won the primary and general elections being held on Thursday, August 4.

These are the first elections being held since the redistricting of congressional and state legislative seats by the Tennessee General Assembly.

They will also be the first county school board elections being conducted on a partisan basis.

How will those changes play out in the election returns? And who might be the winners in some of the major contests, such as in the three new congressional districts that now include Nashville and Davidson County?

Our guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week is Steve Cavendish, the President and Editor of the new NASHVILLE BANNER on-line news service.

Steve has many years in the national and local Nashville media so he can help us answer our election questions.

We welcome Steve back to the program. It is great to have him with us!

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen on its regular weekly schedule on NEWCHANNEL5 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 on my own Facebook page, usually on the Monday or Tuesday after the show airs.

BACK FROM THE DEAD AGAIN?

The effort by congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden to “build back better” by passing a massive set of bills regarding social, environmental and health-related programs, has been sliced, diced, and declared dead numerous times.

But this week it came back to life when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a deal with West Virginia Senator Joe Machin to pass a bill, that while much, much smaller that originally envisioned, will still spend billions of dollars to address climate change, energy and health care issues, federal debt reduction, even allowing Medicare to negotiate the costs of some prescription drugs and cap costs. Some of these are areas (especially climate change) where Senator Manchin has been staunchly opposed to the proposals of his Democratic colleagues. His apparent change of heart is a big surprise.

But hurdles still lie ahead. The Senate parliamentarian must approve the bill that fits the rules to allow it to pass until the budget reconciliation process where the votes of all 50 Democratic Senators (still no sure thing) to pass.

It must also pass the House where progressives may balk at the measure, still wanting it to be bigger and broader. Republicans have never been likely to support this bill (too much government spending) but GOP leaders are outraged by Senator Manchin’s reversal. That’s because 18 of them (including Minority Leader Mitch O’Connell voted for a multi-billion bill to strengthen the semiconductor industry. These are computer chips powering smartphones, medical devices, and other high-tech items facing pandemic-related shortages.

The Republicans had been using the technology bill as leverage to block the passage of what is now being called “The Inflation Reduction Act.” But thinking that bill was dead for good, they voted for the semiconductor measure, only to have the Manchin-Schumur deal announced just hours later. Mitch McConnell is known as perhaps the shrewdest Senate leader ever in terms of tactics (Lyndon Johnson when he was Leader not withstanding). But McConnell got more than his fingers burned this time.

The taxes it will take to pay for this bill (the one that is supposed to fight inflation) are also getting a lot of push back from big business groups. But the legislative fight over the other legislation the “CHIPS Bill,” as it is known, passed the House on Thursday with 24 Republicans defying their leadership and voting with the Democrats.

Perhaps ironically, one of the GOP Senators who had been reaching across the aisle on the overall semiconductor issue was Tennessee Senator Bill Hagerty. Trying to pass his first major piece of legislation, according to AXIOS-NASHVILLE, Hagerty worked with House Democrats to pass “a related bill that would streamline the permitting process for manufacturing technologies impacting national security.”

“Hagerty's bill already cleared the Senate in January. It adds the national security sector to the list of manufacturers that can take advantage of a current law allowing for a streamlined permitting process. The Senator says the hope is to reduce the permitting timeline for a chip fabrication plant from five years to about 18 months.”

"This will make the United States far more competitive in securing these multi-million-dollar chip fabrication facilities," Hagerty says. "We can't find ourselves out of chips or find ourselves dependent on countries that don't have our best interest at heart in producing vital chips that we may need for national security."

Republicans in the Senate created a lot of anger aimed at them on Thursday as they tanked a veterans’ health bill that many of them have voted in favor of earlier. I have yet to see an explanation of why this happened. But veterans’ leaders feel blindsided and furious.

NOW TENNESSEE’S WAR AGAINST LGBTQ STUDENTS EXTENDS TO THE SCHOOL CAFETERIA

In recent years, Tennessee has led the charge in a Republican war against the LGBTQ citizens, especially transgender students.

This week, outgoing Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery was the lead plaintiff among 21 other GOP Attorneys General from across the country, in filing a lawsuit against the Biden administration. They claim the administration is overstepping in its guidance in threatening to withhold a federal nutrition program from schools that violate “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” policies.

The group has already had success in getting a Tennessee judge to rule in their favor in another LGBTQ-related lawsuit. It is a decision now in effect nationwide and the Republican AGs are looking for other court victories.

DEBATING THE 2024 GOP CONVENTION IN NASHVILLE ONE MORE TIME

At its next meeting on Tuesday night, the Metro Council might again get the chance to debate whether Nashville ought to host the 2024 Republican National Convention.

Council members and Mayor John Cooper have not been enthusiastic about the idea, expressing concerns about security and other costs, potentially violent protests and downtown being shut off for at least a week for anyone not involved with the meeting.

Support was so lacking, the bill to host the convention was pulled at the last Council meeting two weeks ago. It’s back on the agenda again, although it does not appear the agreement has been changed.

So why bring it back? AXIOS NASHVILLE says supporters of bringing the convention here, including Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Republican legislative leaders in the General Assembly are taking a different approach. Instead of threatening to punish the city for not taking advantage of hosting an event that has a worldwide profile and could bring $200 million to Nashville in economic impact, instead they are offering other incentives.

“ According to administration officials, four topics of discussion were offered as possible carrots to convince the council to approve the plan: expanding Medicaid in Davidson County, allowing inclusionary zoning, increasing funding for Nashville schools and the impact fees.

State Rep. William Lamberth tells Axios that he doesn't view the RNC vote and impact fees as "joined together." Lamberth added. "Nashville doesn't need to let petty politics get in the way of economic success in our state."

That last mixed message from Rep. Lamberth probably doesn’t help his cause. two impact fee bills are already before the Council, one sponsored Councilman Robert Swope, who is also sponsoring the RNC contract legislation.

The Council debate on the RNC convention could begin Tuesday night with dueling resolutions on the agenda. One in favor of the Convention being here. The other saying it shouldn’t come here. The resolutions are set to come up right before the contract legislation. They may well create test votes, to see again, if the contract is even worth debating.

Even if the contract does pass first reading, it will be the first meeting in September (first Tuesday) before the Council could give final approval on third reading. The Republican National Committee is supposed to select its convention site on Friday, August 5. A RNC committee has recommended Milwaukee which has already unanimously approved its RNC contract.

Would the full RNC defer its selection to wait for Nashville? If so, how long will Milwaukee get tired of being left at the altar?

Political conventions are known for their intrigue. Who know just selecting a site to hold the event could be like this.

While Nashville continues to struggle over hosting a political convention, the city’s stock to host major sports events continues to soar.

The National Hockey League wants to bring back its Player Entry Draft, if hotel availability is too big a problem to overcome. At the same time, there seems to be so much positive energy building around legendary professional Rick Flair holding his “Final Match”, there is talk about Nashville hosting that sport’s biggest event, and one of the biggest in the world “Wrestlemania.” WOOOOOOOOOO!

It is unrelated to sports or hosting events, but there is one other controversial matter on the August 2 Council agenda. It is a public hearing involving rezoning the property where the Riverchase Apartments located near the East Bank and the massive Oracle development.

Residents have been strongly resisting being evicted from their homes. They have wanted the developers of the property to provide them affordable units so they can stay. A community benefits agreement has been put together by the Nashville Urban League that is supposed to be legally binding and covers a 30- year period. It contains affordable units based on government income guidelines.

But residents say the income levels don’t work in this era of skyrocketing rents and housing costs. Therefore, the public hearing might be contentious.

EXTREME WEATHER CONTINUES

While we in Tennessee have seen the high temperatures close to 100 degrees moderate a bit this week, the heat index still remains near or above double digits. There has also been more chances for much needed rain.

But in areas nearby such as Eastern Kentucky and early this week in Saint Louis heavy rains falling in a brief period of time have wreaked havoc and led to a multiple loss of life. Meanwhile the Northwest part of the nation has been experiencing a heat wave emergency.

Worldwide, with the wildfire and high temperatures in Spain and Portugal and extreme weather in all parts of the world, the estimate damage for the first half of 2022 is estimated at $65 billion with the United Kingdom is still trying to recover from the most severe heat wave on record there. These are events unlikely to become common place, but climate experts say they will happen more frequently and with greater severity as the planet continues to warm.