Capitol View Commentary: Friday, May 11, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company

May 11, 2018

THE ALMOST ENDORSEMENT; GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN…AS THE NASHVILLE TRANSIT POST MORTEMS AND PLAN Bs CONTINUE; ANOTHER POLITICAL BROADSIDE FROM SENATOR CORKER; THOSE WHO WOULD BE GOVERNOR ON INSIDE POLITICS; VETO WATCH; BEING AS CLOSE TO TRUMP AS POSSIBLE;

THE ALMOST ENDORSEMENT

For a brief period last weekend, it appeared mayoral candidate, former Vanderbilt professor and conservative media commentator Carol Swain had received a potentially significant, if unexpected, endorsement.

Women in Numbers (WIN) is "a nonpartisan organization established to engage, encourage and endorse qualified women to be elected to public office.” The group put up a Facebook post on Sunday saying it supported Swain.

But after quite a bit of social media blowback, that quickly changed. Here are the details from Steven Hale of THE SCENE.

Swain continues to emerge as the most active candidate in the race outside of current mayor David Briley. It appears she has enough resources to put up a digital outdoor board and produce and place a thirty second TV spot which her campaign is reportedly running on cable channels.

Swain seems to be creating enough stir, a group called Real Nashville Progressives is circulating this about her on Facebook.

There continue to be community forums for the 13 mayoral candidates to introduce themselves and state their views on the issues. And so, this happened at one recent forum when the subject of racial profiling came up. You can also read about it here.

As for the front runner in the special mayor’s race, David Briley, the biggest issue he is having to deal with is not the lopsided defeat by voters on May 1 of the transit plan he supported. Rather it is the Metro operating budget he submitted to the Metro Council.

The city’s revenues are so tight, Mayor Briley had to cut out a planned 3% cost of living raise for Metro workers, the second installment of a three year pay plan improvement passed by then-Mayor Megan Barry and the Metro Council last summer. The new budget is also so tight school officials say it means teachers won’t get a raise either as the school system grapples with what amounts to a $17 million shortfall.

So, every major city union is not happy, which is a tough political situation for any mayor, especially one on the ballot in less than two weeks trying to stay in office. Mayor Briley says he is not happy either, but the alternative is to raise property taxes or make significant cuts in other city services in the budget. You can be sure lots of voters would be very unhappy about a property tax hike too.

The local Fraternal Order of Police have already decided not to endorse any candidate in the special mayor’s election because no one showed enough support (at least 50%) in a poll of the FOP’s membership. But this TENNESSEAN story shows some FOP members really lambasted Mayor Briley when he met with them recently.

Late this week, the Service Workers Local 205 endorsed three mayoral candidates out of the field of 13, and one of them is Mayor Briley. Says a statement from the Service Workers:

“Mayor David Briley has been a strong supporter of Metro employees throughout his tenure on the Metro Council and as Vice Mayor, and he has always been an advocate for making sure Nashville’s prosperity is shared by everyone.

Erica Gilmore was one of the first Metro Council members to speak up to defend Nashville General Hospital and she has been an advocate for holding businesses accountable for public tax incentives they have received.

State Representative Harold Love has fought hard to protect Nashville from overreach by the state legislature and he has been a strong supporter of a living wage in the 'Fight for $15' campaign.

All three have been strong defenders of Nashville General Hospital and of the Bordeaux long term care facility.”

One last note about the political power of the city unions: they are not considered as strong as they used to be. That’s because Metro no longer has a residency requirement to be a policeman, firemen or city worker. Therefore, a significant number live in adjoining counties where they CAN NOT VOTE in Metro elections.

Beginning this week, Metro Councilmembers are meeting nightly at the Courthouse holding budget hearings. They are looking to find some funds to help schools and provide money for that Metro employee cost of living pay raise (about $12 million is the amount needed for the 3% pay hike). Based on experience, I’d said the outlook will be tough for the Council to be able to do that.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN…AS THE NASHVILLE TRANSIT POST MORTEMS AND PLAN Bs CONTINUE

There continues to be a lot of local and even national media coverage of Nashville’s resounding rejection of the $5 billion mass transit plan on May 1. Here’s what I’ve seen that are worth a read:

There are also lots of new Plan Bs being thrown out in the media.

How about gondolas or trams? Don’t laugh, other cities are apparently looking at it.

Or on a smaller scale for the downtown area, what about scooters even though early efforts are running afoul of regulatory efforts?

There does not seem to be much of a firm price tag on what it would cost to implement any of these major new transit ideas cropping up. That includes a proposal from Congressman and GOP gubernatorial candidate Diane Black.

She called the defeated Metro plan “a government boondoggle.” Critics of her proposal say its full of reruns and “borrowed” ideas from other plans including double decking the Nashville interstate inner loop and completing the long forgotten original idea (under the gubernatorial administration of Lamar Alexander in the 1980s) to build a northern loop of I-840 to divert truck traffic from going through Nashville. Here are more details.

Black’s ideas are likely to be given serious consideration especially if she wins the Republican nomination or is elected governor. But a couple of other points, there is already a regional transportation plan that the counties surrounding Nashville were involved in crafting. Is this a call for a complete redo?

Secondly, I am not sure federal regulations allow truck traffic to be banned from sections of the interstate. When I-440 was built in the 1980s, Governor Alexander promised neighbors that trucks would not be allowed. But such a ban never happened.

As for the local official who would likely be the most involved in any Plan B, Nashville Mayor David Briley, don’t expect anything major to happen soon. When he appeared with me on INSIDE POLITICS last week, he clearly stated that light rail systems and downtown transit tunnels are not on his radar for now. Instead his thought is to pursue major (but cheaper) improvements in existing bus service in Nashville, and do so, as Metro can afford it.

Here’s a link to our entire conversation on INSIDE POLITICS.

To find more funds for transit in the future, Metro Council Member At Large John Cooper has an idea. He told THE NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL he wants to hold a referendum to max out the local option sales tax by another ½ cent. Some of the money would also go to schools (which already receives the bulk of the local sales tax). Of course, there are lots of questions to be answered, and the funds, if approved by voters, would not likely be available to be much help in the coming fiscal year’s budget which begins July 1.

ANOTHER POLITICAL BROADSIDE FROM SENATOR CORKER

About a week ago, Congressman and GOP gubernatorial candidate Diane Black told Senator Bob Corker to “sit back and be quiet” about the race this fall to replace him in the Senate. Corker’s response in a POLITICO story was: “I guess I will.”

Well guess what? Senator Corker did an interview with the Chattanooga TIMES FREE PRESS this week. He didn’t mention the Senate race or the Republican candidate he’s endorsed, Congressman Marsha Blackburn. But Corker did make some comments about Congress, Republicans, Democrats, the current mid-term elections and President Donald Trump that I’ll bet neither Blackburn or Black are crazy about.

There is also a controversy still brewing over the recent endorsement of Blackburn by former GOP governor Don Sundquist. Once strong political enemies, Sundquist has written an op-ed piece outlining his support for Blackburn and his opposition to likely Democratic candidate former Governor Phil Bredesen who Sundquist defeated in 1994.

Tom Humphrey has more on the story from his HUMPHREY ON THE HILL blog including some Democratic pushback on Sundquist.

There’s also media interest over a major Washington fundraiser being held for Blackburn. Here’s the background from POLITICO via Tom Humphrey.

Finally, there’s a fish story developing in the Senate race. Phil Bredesen went to the annual World’s Biggest Fish Fry in Paris, TN recently. In an op-ed article published by the PARIS POST-INTELLIGENCER, the Democratic Senate candidate said he heard a lot from folks, not about catfish, but about the dangers that Asian carp are causing in West Tennessee and soon in the Middle part of the state. He thinks it is something the Senate needs to act to correct.

There is one other item related to candidate Bredesen this week. He released a statement about President Trump’s decision to step aside from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions against that country. Here is the Bredesen statement:

“The Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA) has some serious flaws, especially in its sunset provisions. I hope President Trump can leverage his action today to renegotiate a strong and enforceable arrangement. Partisan politics should stop at the border, and we should give the President some space to try to accomplish that. We are all united in the ultimate goal of keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran.”

What Bredesen says will disappoint some of his Democratic supporters, but it does seem consistent with his statement in his TV ad that he is not running for the Senate just to oppose the President, and that if he thinks what Mr. Trump wants to do will help the people of the state, he will support him.

Never the less, that noise you hear in the background are some Democrats grinding their teeth.

THOSE WHO WOULD BE GOVERNOR ON INSIDE POLITICS

This week on INSIDE POLITICS we begin a series of interviews with the men and women who want to be our next governor.

Our first guest is House Speaker Beth Harwell. She is a candidate in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Watch us!

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. 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 NEWSCHANNEL 5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

One option for those who can’t 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 NEWSCHANNEL 5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL 5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL 5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted the week after the program airs.

VETO WATCH

While the General Assembly has been gone for two weeks now, political observers are still watching Capitol Hill to see what Governor Bill Haslam will do the annual last-minute avalanche of bills passed by lawmakers before they departed.

While they left “sine die,” which loosely translated from Latin is “for good,” the General Assembly might come back if the Governor vetoes a bill they feel strongly about. One of those bills might be SB2332 | HB2315 which prohibits state and local governmental entities and officials from adopting sanctuary policies; authorizes Tennessee residents and members of the general assembly to submit complaints to the attorney general.

Supporters say the measure merely reinforces existing state law against sanctuary cities, but it needs to be signed into law by the Governor to make it clear what the law is.

Opponents of the proposed law see several issues. Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail sent out by the Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission.

“It impedes investigations and fosters fear among immigrants:

• crimes go unreported
• children are made to stay home from school
• workers afraid to work

• families torn apart
• furthers racial profiling

This bill sends a clear message: TN doesn’t want diversity—and that divides and weakens our community.”

The e-mail continues:

TAKE ACTION NOW

“Email or call the Governor. Ask him to VETO SB2332

PLEASE pass this on to family and friends AND ask them to help put a stop to SB2332.”

But supporters of the bill are pushing on the Governor to sign the measure. GOP gubernatorial candidate and Congressman Diane Black has made opposition to sanctuary cities a major campaign theme including in her TV ads. Last week she sent out e-mails to supporters saying:

“The Tennessee General Assembly passed anti-sanctuary cities legislation, and I'm calling on Governor Haslam to sign the bill they sent to his desk.

The voters of Tennessee want our leaders in Nashville to get tough on illegal immigration and cracking down on sanctuary cities is a big step in the right direction.

It's common sense. Our governor should sign a bill that tells Tennessee cities to enforce and uphold the law. As your governor, I would sign this legislation, and I urge Governor Haslam to make it law.

Blessings,

Diane Black”

Black has now followed up with a second e-mail on the subject and is using it as a fundraising effort:

“Governor Haslam still hasn't signed the bill, and pro-illegal immigration groups in Nashville are feeling emboldened by his hesitation.

As your governor, I would sign this common-sense legislation without hesitation.

Tennessee's next governor must be a conservative leader. I have a record of standing for traditional values, and as your governor, I will never back down.

If we want true conservative leadership in the Governor's office, I need you to show your support with a donation today.

Blessings,

Diane Black”

As for Governor Haslam, state law mandates he make a decision to sign, veto or let the bill go into law without his signature without 10 (working) days after the bill has been prepared and placed upon his desk.

This time of year with so many bills passed late in the session, it is a bit of a moving target to know when the 10-day period begins or ends for this measure. The Governor also spent this week on a trade mission to Europe.

BEING AS CLOSE TO TRUMP AS POSSIBLE

Throughout the Republican gubernatorial campaign this cycle, all four major candidates are clearly trying to appeal to primary voters by positioning themselves as much as possible to align with President Donald Trump and his issues.

One of the most recent examples is the latest TV commercial from the Randy Boyd campaign.

Other GOP candidates, in particular Diane Black, have been talking up these issues such as illegal immigration. Black has mentioned it numerous times in her TV spots.

Now the Boyd ad is sparking a debate in stories in the conservative media about which candidates are speaking out the most or which has the best record on this issue.

Some call it “out-trumping Trump.” Just don’t expect it to change before the August 2 primary vote.

Also expect to see the GOP primary get more heated in the weeks to come. Look at what happened this week when the Black campaign released its own internal poll showing her with a clear lead in the four-candidate race. The Boyd campaign struck back by saying the Black poll numbers are “bogus” and that she is one of those in Washington responsible “for creating the swamp in D.C.”

There also appears to be some unhappiness arising out of the upcoming annual Tennessee Republican Party Statesmen’s Dinner.

A party official recently sent out an e-mail concerning how the gubernatorial candidates can participate in the Friday, June 8 event to be held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Here’s an excerpt:

“Below is the information regarding the opportunity* Gubernatorial candidates will have to address the attendees of the 2018 Statesmen’s Dinner, as well as dinner sponsorship levels. If you have thoughts, questions, concerns, let me know.

 

Sponsorship levels:

$25,000: Leadership - Meet & Greet with Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Photo Reception for 2, and 1 VIP table, or 2 Priority Tables

$10,000: Majority- Photo Reception for 2, and 1 Priority table, or 2 Victory level tables

$5,000: Victory- Congressional reception for 2 and 1 Victory level tables

$2,500: Unity- 1 Table

(Tables seat 10 individuals)

• Gubernatorial portion of the Statesmen’s Dinner will take place near the end of the program

• The order for speaking will be determined by a random draw conducted weeks prior to the program

• A Candidate will be introduced, take the stage, speak, accept applause, exit stage, and next speaker will be introduced (All candidates will be back stage during the other speeches by candidates)

• Each candidate will be introduced by the program announcer

• Candidates will be given 5 minutes to speak and the clock will begin as soon as they start speaking

• During their speaking time a logo or requested image from the campaign will be displayed on screen directly behind the podium

- As soon as the 5 minutes has passed the screen will return to the statesmen’s dinner logo signifying the candidates time has passed

• OTHER NOTES

- Only the campaigns participating in this portion of the program will be allowed to bring materials into the dinner and reception areas

     - This includes signs, stickers, placards, etc.

     - NO MATERIALS MAY BE DROPPED ONTO THE TABLES OR CHAIRS IN THE BALLROOM

     - The only exception will be for the tables which the campaigns have purchased

     - We will be flexible with table sponsorship

     - In other words, a $10,000 sponsorship can be 4 Unity level tables, 2 Victory level tables, or 1 Priority table

     - A $25,000 sponsorship can be 10 tables if a campaign so desires

*Only candidates that have committed to at least the Majority sponsorship level will be allowed to participate in Gubernatorial portion of the program.”

It is that last sentence and asterisk that is causing heartburn at least among some party activists. It means that to be able to speak the gubernatorial candidates must pay at least $10,000 or buy a Majority Level sponsorship. Those unhappy about this development say it has never been required in the past and that the move amounts to a “pay to play” requirement which they think amounts to a “shakedown by elitist Republicans.” Ouch!

Will any of the gubernatorial campaigns object or refuse to pay to speak at the event? I doubt it. But I don’t know. I do know none of them can plead poverty as an excuse. For their campaigns, $10,000 is not even a rounding error in their monthly campaign bank statements.

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