NewsChannel 5 +Inside PoliticsCapitol View Commentary


Capitol View commentary: Friday, May 13, 2022

Capitol View
Posted at 7:16 AM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 11:00:40-04


By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

May 14, 2022



I published my last Capitol View column on April 15.

I then spent a good bit of the last two weeks on a river cruise in Europe between Brussels and Amsterdam. It was a trip postponed for over two years because of the pandemic.

Along with my wife, her sister and husband, and my brother-in-law, we had a great time. We saw lots of windmills, canals, medieval churches and villages. We ate more Belgium chocolate than recommended (and brought some home too).

I am not a big beer drinker, but I drank a few famous Belgium brews, along with consuming a couple of the world-renowned Belgian waffles, covered in sugar, butter and chocolate. Very good.

We saw lots and lots of tulips including at the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens. That’s where for three months every year, up to 7 million tulips are on display in a stunning variety of colors. While it was chilly for most of our trip, our Keukenhof visit came just at the right time to see the flowers at their peak!

I am not a gardener or a devoted tulip lover, but I couldn’t keep taking photos of the flower displays, including, in a somewhat out of character move for me as a Vanderbilt grad, pictures of tulip flowers in orange! While not represented in the flag of the Netherlands, orange is one of the official colors of the country (think the House of Orange). I saw more orange in the Netherlands than anyplace outside of Knoxville.

While I did eat too much (as everyone is prone to do on vacation), I did get a good bit of walking exercise done. Every day except one, I took more than 10,000 steps, several days it was 12-13,000 steps, which is not quite as much as the 5 miles I do, five days a week, in Nashville. But I walked every day off the boat, so my exercise was a bit more consistent than here at home.

When the Wi-Fi was good, I kept up with what was going on in Tennessee and here in Nashville. It seems there were some interesting things that happened. For one thing, the 2023 Nashville Mayor’s race began to take shape. This article written by Steve Cavendish of the new Nashville Banner, gives a very good overview of what is occurring, and what is already at stake 16 months out from the August 2023 election.

I would add that with an already large field of 3-4 potential candidates, already this large, and almost all of them potentially well-funded, the likelihood of a runoff between the top two vote-getters in August 2023 seems highly likely. Assuming he is running, mayoral incumbent John Cooper would be a favorite to get one of the two runoff spots.

Remember even when former Mayor David Briley (now nominated and a cinch now to be elected a Circuit Judge this fall) became the first Metro Mayor to be defeated for reelection in 2019, he at least made the final two.

Mayor John Cooper, like municipal leaders all over the country, has had an unprecedented amount of controversy and challenges to grapple with because of the pandemic to grapple with. The anger in the local electoral, among some, over the 34% property tax increase in 2020, seems to continue to have a long politically radioactive half-life lingering almost two years later. It appears to be further aggravated by the city’s recent trash collection issues.

Mayor Cooper has still not publicly or officially announced his candidacy for another 4-year term. But based on his actions, including and his recent State of Metro address, he certainly talks and acts like a candidate.

For example, just a few days after the Metro Council met last Thursday, the mayor quickly moved to sign into law a bill the 40-member body approved overwhelmingly to help provide more affordable housing. The new law is aimed at incentivizing developers who are building apartments in Nashville to include affordable units as part of each development. The program would allow qualifying developments to access a tax abatement in exchange for long-term affordability for 20-40% of the units.

It certainly won’t solve the massive housing problem our city faces, but this new measure, along with the continuing allocation of federal American Rescue funds and monies from the city’s Barnes Fund, should address the issue, and you can be sure Mayor Cooper will be focusing on it even more in the months and weeks to come, along with education, transportation and public safety.

Late this week, Mayor Cooper finally addressed a topic he didn’t even mention in his State of Metro Address. In an opinion piece published in THE TENNESSEAN, the Mayor endorsed the plan to build the new $2 billion retractable-roof Titans football stadium. He says Metro’s part of the funding a one-cent increase in the city’s hotel-motel tax means the new stadium won’t be a burden on taxpayers.

But will all the mayor’s activities be enough given the myriad of problems facing the nation such as inflation, supply chain shortages, etc. that are beyond any public official to resolve? I think all those issues are also adding to the growing unease, seen in many recent public opinion polls, that Nashville is on the wrong track.

I would add one other comment to Steve Cavendish’s Nashville at a Crossroads article. Perhaps one reason Nashvillians are uneasy about where we are, and what lies ahead, is that our last two mayors, Megan Barry and David Briley left with failed administrations, Barry through scandal and Briley by an overwhelmingly defeat for re-election.

One of the hallmarks of success for the city’s 59 years of consolidated city-county government has been the longevity and multi-term success of almost all its mayors. After next year’s Metro elections will John Cooper continue that success by being re-elected, or will our community be facing its future in the wake of three failed mayoral administrations?

We are at a crossroads indeed.


This week we again look back at the 112th Tennessee General Assembly which just recently ended its two years of work here in Nashville.

As usual, this Legislature was full of both achievements and controversies, some of which loom on, even as many lawmakers go home to run for reelection.

Last week we sought the perspective of the Speaker of the Senate, Lt. Governor Randy McNally.

Now we seek the thoughts and wisdom of the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Cameron Sexton.

We thank the Speaker, for again making time to be with us, in person, in our studios.

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

7 p.m. Friday.

5 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

1:30 a.m. & 5 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 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.


One of the bills we discussed with Speaker Sexton is one he sponsored and help get passed late in the session. It is nicknamed “Truth in Sentencing.” The measure was watered down before final passage, perhaps in an attempt to make sure Governor Bill Lee didn’t veto it.

That did not turn out to be an issue. The governor allowed the bill to become law without his signature. However, in a letter he sent to both Speaker Sexton and Lt. Governor McNally he sure outlined numerous reasons why he should have used his veto power to try and stop it.

Said the governor: “Similar legislation has been enacted before and has resulted in significant operational and operational strain with no reduction in crime. Widespread evidence suggests that this policy will result in more victims, higher recidivism, increased crime, and prison overcrowding, all with an increased cost to taxpayers.”

The governor concluded by saying it was for these reasons he chose not to sign the measure. But what he outlined in his letter sure seems it should have been exactly the reasons he VETOED the bill.

Given the weak veto power of Tennessee governors under our 1870 state constitution, it is very possible a veto would have been overridden by both houses of the General Assembly. But if Gov. Lee really believes what he said in his letter to the Speakers, it seems to me he has a responsibility of leadership under his oath of office to use his veto pen on this measure even if that effort proves to be a failure.

Surely, Gov. Lee doesn’t believe that casting a veto, in this case, might hurt his chances of winning what now appears to be an easy re-election win in November, prevailing perhaps by a record percentage of the vote?

In recent days, Gov. Lee again dropped his veto pen regarding a bill that criminalizes the homeless for sleeping outdoors. Again, he showed he was not on board with the measure, when he allowed it to go into law without his signature.

In fact, from what I can remember, in his three-plus years as the state’s chief executive, covering all four Republican-dominated legislative sessions during his first term, Gov. Lee has yet to veto anything the GOP Super Majority has sent to his desk.

Since Tennessee has allowed its governors to seek re-re-election (the late 1970s) has any of our chief executives been this timid in exercising their veto power?


One other major state political development was announced this week.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slattery told his bosses, the five members of the Tennessee Supreme Court, he won’t be seeking a second 8-year term later this year.

With the pandemic has been somewhat on the wane in recent months, this week the law enacted by the Legislature, with AG Hagerty’s legal blessing, to ban mask mandates in schools, was stayed again in the courts. This time it came from the federal 6thCircuit Court of Appeals.


These days it seems to be easy to criticize a government employee or a public official.

But not Billy Fields, who received a lifetime achievement award this week for his 35 years of service in Metro Government. He began his work in the late 1980s and has served in multiple capacities under every Nashville mayor since. All of them were invited to be co-hosts of the event to honor him which was a benefit for the Neighbor to Neighbor program Billy helped create.

I saw a photo of Billy at the event surrounded by all the mayors he has served except Megan Barry. In the picture, even former Mayor David Briley can be seen sitting next to our current Mayor John Cooper who defeated Briley in 2019.

That’s how Billy Fields can bring people together.

There has been talk that Billy, who is a long-time friend of mine, is retiring. But not quite yet it seems, although Billy he says maybe step away by the end of 2022. Whenever he leaves, it will be a great loss to the city he has served so well.


Robby Starbuck, one of three Republican candidates kicked off the August Tennessee 5th District congressional primary ballot by the State GOP Executive Committee for not voting in recent party primaries, has lost an effort to get reinstated by a federal judge. Starbuck claims his ouster was in violation of federal law. The judge, Waverly Crenshaw says it doesn’t, but he also said Tennessee Republican officials may not have followed their own rules.

So far, the other two ousted candidates, Morgan Ortagus and Baxter Lee have not taken any legal action in the matter. Starbuck says he is now reviewing all his options including pursuing the issue in state court.

Meanwhile, another major GOP candidate in the 5th District primary, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles released his first campaign finance report. He has raised over $450,000 in just 30 days!


I was in Europe when the news broke that the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to overrule the nearly 50-year precedent allowing women a constitutional reproductive right to an abortion.

I wasn’t surprised the court will do that. The signals have been sent ever since President Donald Trump deliberately nominated three new Justices who had a record of questioning the Roe v. Wade case legal precedent. The signals continued when the Justices selected and heard cases on laws that were passed by states seeking to deliberately challenge Roe.

What nobody expected was that the uproar over a repeal of Roe would start before late June at the end of the court’s term. Now since what caused this uproar came from a leaked draft court opinion allegedly supported by at least 5 Justices, there is now speculation, pro and con, about whether Chief Justice John Roberts is seeking to find a compromise to keep Roe at least somewhat intact.

Just as no one has ever seen a leak quite like this involving a Supreme Court case, rarely have we seen such open, real-time speculation about the High Court changing the bottom line of a critical ruling before it is even released.

But such are the unprecedented, polarized political times we live in.

Democrats in the Senate failed this week to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law. With the filibuster rule still in force in the Senate requiring 60 votes for passage, they knew they couldn’t prevail, but they wanted to put every Senator, Republicans and Democrats, on the record on this hot button issue.

Despite all 50 GOP Senators voting no, POLITICO reports there are still efforts underway between some Democrats and a couple of Republicans to find a compromise on putting Roe v. Wade into federal law.


The latest monthly report on the nation’s consumer price index this week shows that, despite two recent interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation, there is not much to show for it as yet. Inflation for April remains at 8.3%, still about the highest in 4 decades.

Here in Tennessee, and across the country, gas prices have spiked again to an all-time high.

There doesn’t seem much sign economically that things will get much better anytime soon, meaning the economy and the Roe decision, after it is final, will be the two biggest factors driving voters for the fall midterm elections.

This week one more new challenge emerged for the Biden administration and Washington to deal with, and fight over who is to blame… a major shortage of baby formula!

In the last few weeks the virus, along with hospitalization and deaths are beginning to rise again. This comes as the nation approaches something which would have seemed unimaginable when this pandemic began in 2020, a million Americans dead from COVID-19.

With Congress again acting quickly to approve more tens of millions of dollars in aid to help Ukraine defeat the Russian invasion, Republicans are dragging their feet on more virus funding to make sure the nation has the vaccines and other treatments needed if the virus gets worse again this fall.

Have we learned much of anything these past two years?