By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
March 18, 2022
PHIL WILLAMS ON INSIDE POLITICS; A BIT MORE CLARITY ON A NEW TITANS STADIUM; GOVERNOR BILL LEE SEES PART OF HIS SCHOOLS AGENDA APPROVED BUT A NEW FUNDING FORMULA REMAINS AND A CHARTER BILL ARE STALLED; THE LATEST ON THE 5TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT; DOES ANYBODY KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?; NASHVILLE IS IN THE FINAL 2 FOR THE 2024 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION; TWO YEARS LATER IS VIRUS OVER? WHAT WILL BE NORMAL AS WE REMAIN ON THE EDGE OF WAR?
PHIL WILLAMS ON INSIDE POLITICS
Our guest this week on INSIDE POLITICS is the best investigative reporter in Nashville and likely best in the country.
He is Phil Williams of NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES.
Phil has been focusing many of his recent stories on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill, which unfortunately has often been the focus of scandal, and many of which Phil uncovered.
We welcome Phil back to the program as he shares what he’s reported and gives us his insights on where things stand and where we might be headed.
Tune us 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. 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 on the Monday or Tuesday after the show airs.
A BIT MORE CLARITY ON A NEW TITANS STADIUM
There has been much conversation, and more than a few raised eyebrows, when it was disclosed a couple of weeks ago that, due to skyrocketing construction costs, rather than renovating and modernizing the 23-year-old Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL Tennessee Titans, now the team and city officials are looking at a constructing a new domed stadium.
New NFL stadiums these days cost about $1.5 billion dollars. Who would pay for that? This week, Mayor John Cooper brought some clarity to his position telling NEWSCHANNEL5 that the Titans are responsible for the costs of a new stadium adding: “fundamentally the city is not in the entertainment or stadium business." Titans team officials have said they are committed to "heavily investing financially in a new stadium."
Is there a meeting point there? Or are these signs of a standoff over the new facility, which it appears the Titans want ready by 2026?
The picture about a new stadium got somewhat clearer from what we heard this week from the Mayor, but as usual, the devil and any final clarity remains in the details of any potential stadium financing plan.
There is also talk of redeveloping the entire East Bank around the stadium not just as a sports mecca, but a whole new neighborhood. Will that be a part of the stadium proposal as well? Metro is in the business of neighborhoods, is that where the city gets involved? How much will that cost?
People are interested to know. I have already been stopped in public several times by folks telling me in no uncertain terms they don’t want their taxes raised to pay for a stadium.
At the same time, congratulations to the Mayor and his administration for apparently successfully addressing the city’s trash pickup issues. But the solution of signing emergency contracts with outside private firms is at best, likely temporary, and expensive.
What is the long-term solution, not only for trash pickup, but for the city’s disposal of solid waste? That is particularly pressing since the landfill Nashville currently uses in Murfreesboro will soon be full. Is there another surrounding community that will take our trash? If not, can we find a landfill site in Davidson County? Such an effort failed back in the late 1980s after a huge political fight and controversy. That’s why we ended up sending our solid waste to Rutherford County. It could also take maybe one to two years or more to identify, get local and state approval, and then open a new in-county landfill.
Elsewhere in Metro Councilman Jonathan Hall is still involved in controversy, although this week he seems to have gotten a brief reprieve from some of the fines he is facing.
GOVERNOR BILL LEE SEES PART OF HIS SCHOOLS AGENDA APPROVED BUT A NEW FUNDING FORMULA REMAINS AND A CHARTER BILL ARE STALLED
During his annual State of the State Address back in late January, Governor Bill Lee put a major focus on education.
One of the measures he pushed was one popular in Republican states across the country. The bill would give parents the right to know what kind of library reading and textbook materials are available to their children, and gives parents the right to insure what their young ones see and read is “age-appropriate,” although what is “age-appropriate” is not defined in the legislation.
This week the General Assembly gave final approval to Governor Lee’s legislation, and it is headed to him for his signature.
However, the biggest piece of the Governor’s education agenda, a new funding formula for K-12 students, remains stuck in the mud in committees and sub-committees in both chambers. Lawmakers have lots of questions and say they don’t want to rush into making a major decision like this.
That was the message in the House last week and it was amplified in the Senate this week.
Another part of Governor Lee’s education agenda to make it easier for charter schools to be approved by the state over objections from local school officials has also hit a snag being paused in the House.
With lawmakers now entering into what is likely the final month of this year’s session, committees and subcommittees will soon be closing down for good, meaning it appears the Lee administration may have to wait until 2023, after his expected re-election to a second four-year term and a new General Assembly convenes, before the new formula moves ahead.
Of course, opponents of the Governor’s education plans will continue to make their criticisms known. That includes this article in THE TENNESSEAN and another piece in the TENNESSEE LOOKOUT from a prominent Nashville businesswoman. Sara Lee Woods is concerned about the Governor’s move to have Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school from Michigan, operate up to 50 charter schools as well as teach their controversial brand of American history.
In non-education-related developments on the Hill, moves in the State House to approve a Texas-style abortion bill seems to be in trouble in the Senate.Lt. Governor and Senate Speaker Randy McNally says such a law is not needed.
THE LATEST ON THE 5TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Whether Tennessee congressional primary candidates will have to meet residency requirements will soon be decided.
The Senate has approved a bill that would require a three-year residency, similar to what state lawmakers have to do. It would take effect immediately and therefore impact the upcoming congressional primaries in August.
The bill approved by the House does not impose the residency requirements until after the election which means at least one if not two, of the GOP primary candidates in the new 5th District (Morgan Ortagus and Robby Starbuck) who move to Tennessee recently, can still run.
Both the House and Senate must pass the same bill. If one body doesn’t accept the other’s version, a conference committee of both houses will seek to resolve the matter. Who will prevail is not clear? It may not be important, but somewhat strangely, the House sponsor of the bill says he actually prefers the Senate version. Of course, if no resolution is reached, the bill will die and there will be no residency requirements.
But that still may not be the end of the matter. The state Republican Executive Committee has the final say over its candidates. To ensure that their candidates are truly members of the GOP, the Executive Committee has in recent years required primary candidates to prove they have voted in Tennessee’s GOP party primaries in the past. If not, they have been tossed off the ballot. It does not appear either Ortagus or Starbuck would meet that qualification of voting in previous GOP primaries in the state.
Already eligibility challenges to some 5thDistrict GOP congressional candidates, including others besides the two I’ve mentioned, have been filed with the Tennessee Republican Party.
This week also saw a candidate endorsement in the GOP 5th District primary. The National Conservative Women’s PAC (known as Maggie’s List) is supporting former Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell. The PAC says the group is dedicated to electing fiscally conservative women to office and the Harwell campaign says the PAC” has an outstanding for endorsing a successful candidate to both the U.S. Senate and the House.
The news release from Maggie’s List did not disclose the size of any campaign contribution it may make to Harwell’s campaign. The endorsement may also be helpful to Harwell as the MAGA vote in the district appears likely to be split among Morgan Ortagus (endorsed by former President Donald Trump) and Robby Starbuck, and perhaps others if they enter the contest including Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles.
One other 5th District development to report this week. The current 5th District congressman, Democrat Jim Cooper announced he has remarried. Cooper decided not to seek re-election after Republicans in the Legislature dismembered his district into three separate ones, all leaning significantly towards the Republicans. In February 2021, the Congressman also lost his wife of 36 years, Martha Cooper, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. His marriage to Nashville lawyer Mary Falls may well be the best thing to happen to the retiring congressman after some very difficult recent months.
All the best to the newlyweds.
DOES ANYBODY KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?
Asking what time it is in the United States, is not just the title of a hit song by the rock group Chicago from back in the early 1970s.
The issue has been highly controversial at times on the national, state and local levels ever since World War I when Daylight Saving Time was adopted to help the war effort. It was reimposed again during World War II. In both cases, this “fast time” (moving clocks up an hour) was dropped after the conflicts.
For several years that brought back the hodgepodge of different ways of keeping time across the country. It got so bad that by the 1960s TENNESSEAN reporter Frank Ritter related that you could experience 7 different time changes if you drove just 35 miles from Steubenville, Ohio to Moundsville, West Virginia. And there were other confusing time changes.
In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act. Thanks to a tip by a reader (Nashville attorney Bill Farmer) I did some research to learn Nashville Congressman, and later Mayor, Richard Fulton was one of the leaders to pass the measure which saw clocks moved forward in the spring and back in the fall. Fulton said strong uniform time zones were critical, adding that while the U.S. was the most advanced nation in the world it was the most backward country in the world in keeping time properly.
But the 1966 law, while it has been expanded over the years, and promoted as a way to save energy during the energy crisis of the 1970s, has still allowed state exemptions. That was over the objections of Congressman Fulton who wanted penalties were imposed to states and localities that didn’t follow the law.
In recent years, a growing number of states (including Tennessee) have asked Congress to place the nation on permanent daylight time. This week, in something of a surprise, the U.S. Senate passed such a bill by unanimous consent, sending it to the House for a final OK.
This is likely to restart the age-old debate over keeping time. There have always been groups such as farmers who like standard time over “fast time.” Others say moving forward creates increased health issues every year we do that. Nobody seems to like setting and resetting clocks throughout the year, there is now an op-ed in the WASHINGTON POST that says we ought to go to standard time not daylight time permanently.
Will it matter? This article from THE HILL indicates House leaders, while supportive, seem in no hurry to approve the Senate time bill.
I mentioned earlier that Daylight versus Standard Time fights have divided not just the nation but cities and states over the years. That includes Tennessee. It’s a fight that sounds like it was captured right out of today’s headlines and lead stories.
Again, as reported by Frank Ritter of THE TENNESSEAN back in 1966:
The old City of Nashville Council in 1946 voted to keep Daylight Time even as it was being ended nationally. In 1947, such a move was endorsed in a popular vote held within the city. But in 1949, the Tennessee General Assembly, (then dominated by the Tennessee Farm Bureau), convinced lawmakers to pass a law that forbade “any town, city, municipal corporation, taxing district, county, or other governmental subdistrict” from adopting fast time. When citizens of Nashville and other surrounding towns in 1957 adopted daylight time on a voluntary basis, the Legislature put a stop to that too.
And so it goes, as everything old can be new(s) again when it comes to telling time!
NASHVILLE IS IN THE FINAL 2 FOR THE 2024 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
As the nation watches the annual “March Madness” basketball tournament this weekend to see who will reach the Final Four to be crowned college basketball’s national champion, it appears the city of Nashville has made the Final Two to host the 2024 Republican National Convention.
POLITICO says it’s down to Music City and Milwaukee. Will Nashville be selected? It looks like we are underdogs. POLITICO reports:
“SCOOP: IT’S NASHVILLE VS. MILWAUKEE FOR 2024 GOP CONVENTION — And then there were two. Last week, the RNC’s site selection committee voted to eliminate Salt Lake City from contention as the host city of the 2024 Republican National Convention. (Sources tell Playbook that SLC will, however, be considered for 2028.)
That leaves two cities left for 2024: Milwaukee and Nashville. We’re told that RNC Chair RONNA MCDANIEL was in Milwaukee on Wednesday to meet with the mayor and members of the host committee. (The city emerged as the favorite a few weeks ago, we reported in mid-February.) Representatives of both cities will be in Washington next week to make their final pitches to the RNC’s site selection committee.”
TWO YEARS LATER IS THE VIRUS OVER? WHAT WILL BE NORMAL AS WE REMAIN ON THE EDGE OF WAR?
As we begin our third year of the pandemic, virus cases and hospitalizations continue a sharp decline while deaths have finally begun to plateau. In fact, this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found Nashville and Davidson County now have such a low amount of virus spread, there is no longer a need to wear masks.
But that is if you are vaccinated and boosted. If you are immune-compromised or at risk, wearing a mask may still be the best thing to do.
There still remain concerns about new variants and new spikes of COVID-19 in places such as China and Hong Kong and parts of Europe. These new variants are more contagious than ever. If they spread and spike here are we ready?
Maybe not, since Congress’ decision not to include new COVID-19 funding in the recent omnibus spending bill could lead us short of the equipment and other items needed to fight the disease.
Then, as we crave getting back to normalcy, there was another week of wondering about the future with the Russian invasion of Ukraine continuing, leaving the whole world somewhat on the brink of war. Against all odds that brave country is continuing to wrestle the Russian bear to almost a stalemate. How long can Ukraine hold out even as Russia continue their atrocities including indiscriminate shelling and bombing of civilian targets including a theater crowded and marked as full of refugees?
Evoking in my mind, WWII English Prime Minister Winston Churchill as he and his country stood alone against the Nazis, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky used today’s ZOOM technology to address the U.S. Congress this week, asking for more aid much as Churchill did in the darkest days of World War II. President Biden did announce more aid this week, but still the no-fly zone which seems much too risky if we want to avoid World War III.
As for getting the Ukrainians the jet fighters they need, the reason why that get done seem increasingly hard to defend as political pressure continues to build on the Biden administration.
President Zelensky has made something of a world tour on ZOOM, speaking this week as well, to the German legislature, much as he did a couple of weeks ago to the English Parliament. Everywhere he has received rave reviews and standing ovations, even after sharply criticizing Germany for not having a strong standing army or a national defense.
The changing attitude, both inside and outside Germany, about rearming is one of the most remarkable changes coming out of this invasion. Twice in the 20th century a militaristic, heavily armed Germany plunged Europe and the world into war. Now the feeling is Germany should become, not just the largest economy in NATO, but among its leaders militarily. That is quite a shift from where NATO was founded after WWII, and when Germany had been divided, as part of the new world political post-war structure.
Also this week, there are new questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin. He seems more frustrated than ever that his armed forces continue to fail to capture Ukraine. His economy and its currency continue to collapse under increasing U.S. and NATO sanctions, along with a growing number of international corporations leaving Russia. This wek Congress moved to end all trade with Russia. Add it all up and when Putin responds by leveling charges the U.S. is guilty of war crimes and he imposes sanctions on President Biden and other American officials, it seems just tit for tat, and weak.
Finally what is be made of Mr. Putin’s recent speech saying it is time to “get rid of the traitors and the bas…rds” in Russia. Is that another sign of frustration or a sign of something more sinister, that might lead him to do things even more outrageous in Ukraine, inside Russia against his growing domestic foes, or even against the U.S. and NATO, impacting the whole world?
Finally, what about China? That country claims it is neutral about the Russia-Ukraine war. But China is being pressured by Russia to give it military aid. It’s a move President Biden warns will have bad consequences if China does that. China also may see what Russia trying to do in Ukraine as a blueprint for what it would like to do with its neighbor Taiwan. But that is so far not working very well, so what China will remains a real puzzlement.