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Capitol View commentary: Friday, July 8, 2022

Capitol View
Posted at 11:51 AM, Jul 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 12:51:17-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

July 8, 2022

THE VOTES ARE JUST NOT THERE; THE METRO COUNCIL PUSHES BACK ON THE REPEAL OF ROE V. WADE; THE LATEST ON TENNCARE AS A BLOCK GRANT; IF YOU CAN’T OR WON’T EXPLAIN, CHANGE THE SUBJECT; THE FIFTH DISTRICT RACE GOES NEGATIVE: MORE CHANGES IN MAYOR JOHN COOPER’S OFFICE; THE LONG HOT SUMMER RAGES ON; THE CARNAGE CONTINUES; LONG OVERDUE; INSIDE POLTICS TAKES A DEEP DIVE TO EXPLORE NASHVILLE AS THE IT CITY

THE VOTES ARE JUST NOT THERE

It appears quite likely that the city of Nashville will not be the host of the 2024 Republican National Convention.

An agreement for Nashville to perform the host duties was withdrawn from the Metro Council Tuesday night before the bill could ever come to a vote on first reading.

Local supporters for the convention tried to put the best face it could on the setback, saying they hope to work out concerns over security, costs, access, and other issues, then bring the matter back at the next Council meeting on July 19.

I wouldn’t bet on that happening. The deadline to file new legislation for that meeting is today (Friday).

The calendar is another issue. The Republican National Committee said it planned to choose between Nashville and Milwaukee, the two convention finalists, at its August 5th meeting. Nashville could barely meet that deadline if the original agreement had gone through and received at least 21 votes for final approval at the Council meeting set for August 2.

Frankly, council sources told me they could not identify even 10 votes for the proposal on Tuesday night.

By the way, Milwaukee has already unanimously approved an agreement with RNC, one that is similar to the one Nashville had.

That difference alone between the two cities would seem to make Milwaukee the final choice for the convention. If the RNC decides to further elongate its selection to give Nashville another chance, that would certainly send a strange message to the Wisconsin city.

Milwaukee got messed over before, back in 2020. Selected by the Democrats for its convention that year, the on-site sessions were canceled due to COVID-19 and replaced by a virtual, online convention.

Frankly, conventions are getting more and more problematic for host cities. Ever since the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago was rocked by violent demonstrations and riots protesting the Vietnam War, every convention has had to ramp up its security, a challenge which has only increased in recent years due to terror threats and our increasingly polarized politics.

In that regard, what will the security challenges be for the GOP convention wherever it is held, if former President Donald Trump runs again, and is the party’s leading candidate to win the party’s nomination in the summer of 2024?

Several in the Metro Council say this is not the time for Nashville to host a national convention for either party.

And that seems to be what will happen in 2024.

But if you believe there are no red/blue politics involved in this decision not to host this year, you must believe in the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny too.

Governor Lee and Republican legislative leaders are likely to be disappointed the 2024 GOP Convention won’t be held in Nashville. The question is will it end with disappointment? Or will the Republican Super Majority express its unhappiness by taking some act of revenge or retaliation against the city?

THE METRO COUNCIL PUSHES BACK ON THE REPEAL OF ROE V. WADE

While the effort was largely symbolic, the Metro Council Tuesday night approved a resolution pushing back against the Supreme Court’s decision repealing Roe v. Wade. The Court’s ruling ended a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion almost 50 years after it became settled law.

The Council can’t change what the High Court did, but the body did pass a resolution, without dissent and only one abstention, to request Nashville Police make criminal enforcement, arrest, and investigation of abortions its lowest priority. Police officials agree saying the department is not the abortion police.

The resolution also requests the administration of Mayor John Cooper restrict city funds and city staff from being used to investigate, catalog or report suspected abortions.

The resolution finally encourages city departments to implement and enforce policies and practices to prevent harassment and disruption at abortion clinics, including noise regulations, parking and traffic regulations, and anti-nuisance regulations.

The Council wanted to do more. A second resolution was deferred, after it was filed late, and objections by two councilmembers prohibited a vote Tuesday night. The resolution, now set to be considered July 19, would request the Metro Employee Benefit Board to extend health coverage for Metro employees to include reimbursement to obtain medical procedures unavailable in Tennessee (that would seem to include abortion related ones). The benefit would include transportation, accommodations, and related costs. This could impact up to 15,000 city workers.

A third resolution, still being researched and drafted in the Council. It would reportedly put the Council on record to spend local tax dollars to help create a fund to pay for women in our city to go to other states to receive abortion services.

Federal law does not allow the use of its tax dollars for abortion purposes. It is not believed there is similar ban in Tennessee on the use of state and local taxes for abortion. However, it does seem likely that the Tennessee General Assembly might soon implement such a restriction, especially given this possible action by the Council.

On the national scene today (Friday) President Joe Biden, under intense pressure to do something is issuing an executive order to protect access to abortion and contraception services. What the President can do in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobb decision is clearly limited. It may take a few days to see what, if anything, this action can accomplish, particularly as it pertains to states where abortions, in any form, are all but banned.

THE LATEST ON TENNCARE AS A BLOCK GRANT

In another major health issue related to Tennessee, the Biden administration has responded to the efforts by the administration of Governor Bill Lee to turn the state’s TENNCARE program into a federal block grant. TENNCARE provides health care to many thousands of Tennesseans, most of whom are the working poor.

The effort to turn TENNECARE into a block grant was approved by the outgoing Trump administration in its final days in Washington in early 2021.

Team Biden, of course, has many questions and requested revisions to what the state wants to do. Both Team Lee and state advocates, who oppose TENNCARE being a block grant, see positive things in the response from Washington.

The next round of negotiation will come late in August when the state must respond to the feds.

IF YOU CAN’T OR WON’T EXPLAIN, CHANGE THE SUBJECT

It has been a week since NEWSCHANNEL5’s Chief Investigative Reporter Phil Williams aired a politically explosive story using hidden video. The report aired controversial remarks by a Michigan college president disparaging public school teachers and colleges in front of Governor Bill Lee.

The Governor made no response at the time, even though he was on stage during a private event in Williamson County with Larry Arnn, president of the Michigan-based Hillsdale College. That is when Arnn said teachers were trained "in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country."

The report has created a firestorm of criticism.

When asked by reporters on Wednesday, the Governor again refused to criticize Arnn, and then tried to change or refocus the issue.

But the chorus of those criticizing the Governor’s silence on these shameful and inaccurate comments is not quieting down.

The story has gone national via THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.

Even the editorial pages in newspapers in Republican parts of the state are speaking out.

Arnn is a friend of the Governor. Mr. Lee wants Hillsdale College to run at least 50 charter schools in our state. While it is doubtful Governor Lee’s handling of this controversy will hurt his re-election to a second four- year term later this year (the field against him is so weak). You do wonder how many state lawmakers will line up behind the Governor if he continues to push his scheme to let his Michigan friend and his college get state tax dollars to run 50 charter schools here in Tennessee?

This story from NEWSCHANNEL5 shows both the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House speaking out strongly against Mr. Arnn’s comments, something which our Governor does not have the political courage or good sense to echo, and admit, that in this case, his silence in this matter is far from golden.

There was some good news for Tennessee schools this week. The latest test scores, the first since 2019 (before the pandemic), show in areas such as reading, achievement has rebounded. But on the other hand, the marks still show well less than 40% of students are achieving at grade level.

Nashville’s test scores actually improved at a faster rate than the rest of the state but the district still has gaps and lags behind state achievement levels.

THE FIFTH DISTRICT RACE GOES NEGATIVE

The Republican primary race for the new 5th District congressional district has already been a confusing contest.

First, it took weeks to determine who would be on the ballot.

Now after a quiet period, with paid TV media activity coming from just two candidates, an outside group has launched the race’s first attack ad. The commercial claims two of the leading candidates, former Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and retired Tennessee National Guard General Kurt Winstead are “too liberal for Tennessee.” By the way, Harwell and Winstead are the two candidates who’ve been running TV ads.

I am still working to identify the outside group behind the attack ad, and the size of the TV buy, but clearly if the ad is effective .it will aid the third major candidate in the race, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles.

One other question to pose. When and how the two candidates who are attacked respond? This is a critical period with early voting set to start is less than two weeks.

Stay tuned.

MORE CHANGES IN MAYOR JOHN COOPER’S OFFICE

Another week of changes in Mayor John Cooper’s office.

The moves include promotions and departure all coming about 13 months before the next Metro elections for mayor, vice mayor and all 40 Metro Council seats.

THE LONG HOT SUMMER RAGES ON

It has been another too stinking hot week of weather in this part of the country.

After going over the 100- degree mark for the first time in a decade last week, the National Weather Service has been forecasting even hotter news.

Since Tuesday the area has been under an excessive heat advisory with the heat index (the combination of the temperature and the humidity) reaching close to what feels like as much as 110 degrees! This is only the third time in history the Weather Service has issued such an advisory for Nashville. The last time was in 2011.

There was some brief relief in Nashville early Thursday afternoon when a thunderstorm rolled through. Some further temperature relief (highs only in the low 90s) is forecast for the weekend, but the more intensive heat seems ready to return next week. Ugh.

This extended hot weather has local utilities warning customers to expect significantly higher power bills soon, maybe as much as 10% higher. Here are some tips from Consumer Reports to hold down your power usage during this extreme weather.

The city and its non-profit partners are also reaching out to the help the unhoused, people who have few options to avoid or deal with the heat.

Another thing that has been getting lots of folks hot under the collar has been gas prices, which have also been contributing to record overall inflation the past few months.

Now there are signs of some relief. Here in Tennessee the average price at the pump has been down for three straight weeks, going down 9 cents in the latest survey.

While gas prices are unlikely to return to where they were before the latest record rise in fuel costs, it does appear some additional declines in gas prices may be in the pipeline.

Nationally, the question remain are we in a recession or at least headed that way? Indications are figures to be released by the end of this month, will show two consecutive quarters of negative. That historically, has been part of the definition of a recession. But the rest of the definition usually includes job losses which we are still not seeing from today’s (Friday) monthly report.

It is not all that related to the economy or gas prices, but the state of Tennessee is recovering from the second largest oil pipeline spill in its history. It occurred in late June in a rural part of the state when over 200,000 gallons were lost and some of it went into a nearby creek. The strangest thing about what happened is a report that it was caused when a mowing contractor struck the Mid-Valley Pipeline Company's pipeline. Was the pipeline above ground or somehow so dangerous close to the surface, a mower could rupture it?

Elsewhere in our summer of discontent, it seems there is always a new concern to watch on the horizon. This week, it is the first case of monkey pox reported in Nashville/ Davidson County on Thursday of this week.

THE CARNAGE CONTINUES

I sure hope no one thought that the passage by Congress of a limited gun regulation bill would end of the ongoing deluge of mass shootings across the country.

Of course, it didn’t. One of the latest high- profile massacres occurred on the 4th of July during a holiday parade in the upscale suburb of Highland Park, IL, which is just north of Chicago.

This mass shooting along with so many others, underscores the fact that no place or event or person is safe from such killings. Here are the frightening numbers on such incidents so far this year.

Like so many mass shootings, there were signs in the one in Highland Park that violence loomed before the incident. But those close to the shooter, law enforcement and others did not take the steps needed that might have prevented tragedy. Laws on the books alone are not enough. People have to act when they see something or know something. Otherwise things won’t change.

LONG OVERDUE

Two former residents of Nashville, who were legendary leaders in the national Civil Rights movement, have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The event happened on Thursday at the White House with President Joe Biden presiding.

The honors for Diane Nash and Fred Gray are long overdue and richly deserved.

Nash and Gray were among 17 outstanding Americans honored with the award.

INSIDE POLTICS TAKES A DEEP DIVE TO EXPLORE NASHVILLE AS THE IT CITY

For almost a decade now Nashville has been known as the “It City.”

It’s a phrase that become both a compliment and a pejorative term to describe our town.

What does It City mean and how did we earn that title?

Our guest today is Steve Haruch.

He has complied a book that looks at how the “It City” designation came to be and the forces of growth and change that have, and are still, driving our community.

His book is entitled “Greetings from The New Nashville: How A Sleepy Southern Town Became “It” City”

We welcome Steve to the program.

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

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