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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 12, 2015
CONTACT: Darlene Schlicher (615) 741-6336

NASHVILLE — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) recognized the Haslam Administration for funding three new forensic scientists at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) in next year’s budget. The TBI processes forensic evidence at no charge to local law enforcement.

“These funds will expedite the processing of rape kits and other DNA testing by providing additional essential personnel. They will be trained in accessing and updating the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) which is part of the FBI’s network for tracking perpetrators of crime — a critical weapon in the fight against crime,” said Norris, who sponsors the budget in the Senate.

Norris enacted the law repealing the Tennessee statute of limitations in rape cases last year. He also led the effort to require all local law enforcement agencies to inventory back-logged inventories of rape kits across the state. Last September, the TBI reported 9,062 kits remained untested statewide.

“Progress is being made getting the old evidence tested, but this will help facilitate more timely testing of all DNA evidence,” said Norris.

The TBI has not received funding for new personnel for many years, even though the demand for more resources has increased dramatically.

According to City of Memphis officials, an initial backlog of 12,000 kits has now been reduced by nearly 5,000 kits since 2013 and has resulted in some 170 new investigations and 52 indictments including 19 rapists.




Three West Tennessee workforce development collaboratives receive major LEAP grants

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Three West Tennessee workforce development collaboratives are among 12 recipients statewide which were chosen to receive a major grant under the state’s new Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP). The grants include $743,500 to the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce in conjunction with Southwest Tennessee Community College; $850,000 to the Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board in conjunction with Dyersburg State Community College and $900,000 to Jackson Regional Partnership in conjunction with Jackson State Community College.   The project affects students at the colleges’ campuses in the Greater Memphis area, Dyersburg, Covington, Jackson, Newbern, Ripley, Lexington, Crump, McKenzie, Paris, Whiteville and Brownsville.


“This is a tremendous opportunity for West Tennessee to provide a skilled workforce and opportunities for Tennesseans to work, earn and learn,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), who sponsored legislation creating the LEAP program in the Tennessee General Assembly. “These grants mean business, and the State of Tennessee supports and appreciates these initiatives.” The LEAP program enables students in Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and community colleges to participate in technical training developed with input from area employers. Norris said the grants enable collaborative efforts by business, government and institutions of higher learning to facilitate job training and relevant education, while giving state and local economic development leaders a boost as they recruit new industry.


The cooperative training counts as part of an approved curriculum toward a meaningful certificate or degree. Twelve LEAP grant recipients were chosen from applicants across the state by a committee consisting of representatives from higher education, the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Labor. The grant program was funded by a $10 million appropriation in the 2014-15 state budget also sponsored by Norris. “Employers demand candidates with the skills needed in today’s technologically-advanced workplace,” Norris added. “These grants help fill the skills gaps in the local workforce pool, while increasing the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees.”


Senate Majority Caucus elects Leadership for 109th General Assembly

        Lt. Governor Ramsey, Leader Norris and Chairman Ketron win re-election to top posts NASHVILLE — Tennessee Senate Republicans met Wednesday, December 10 in Nashville to elect leaders for the 109th General Assembly where they voted unanimously to nominate Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) to retain his top leadership post as Lt. Governor and Senate Speaker for a 5th term. The Senate Republican Caucus also voted to re-elect Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) for a 5th term as Senate Majority Leader and chose Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) for a 3rd term as Republican Caucus Chairman. The State Senate’s organizational session is set to begin on January 13.


Senate Republicans now number 28 of the 33 members after gaining 2 new seats in the November 4 election and provide representation to citizens in all 95 counties in the state. “I am truly humbled to once again be the nominee of my party for Speaker of the Senate,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “Since I was first elected lieutenant governor, Republicans have not only achieved historic majorities in the state legislature, we have transformed state government ushering in a new era of transparency and customer service in state government. We have accomplished much but there is still much left to do. I look forward to continuing to work to keep Tennessee a low tax, low debt state and the best place in the nation to own a business and raise a family.”


“I appreciate the confidence of my colleagues — veterans as well as newcomers,” said Leader Norris. “I look forward to continue working together to strengthen our workforce and schools while providing safer communities for all citizens during the 109th General Assembly.”


“I am very pleased to again work with such a tremendous leadership team,” said Chairman Ketron “This team will continue to work together to encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, follow sound fiscal budget practices, as well as addressing other concerns facing Tennesseans.”


Others re-elected to leadership positions in the Senate Republican Caucus were Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) as Treasurer, Senator Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) as Secretary and Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville) as Chaplain. Members nominated to the General Assembly’s Joint Fiscal Review Committee from the Senate Republican Caucus are Chairman Ketron, Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), and Senator Steve Southerland (R-Morristown).


The nominees will be confirmed through a resolution when the General Assembly convenes. Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston), whose term has not expired, will continue to serve on the Committee, as well as Senator Randy McNally who serves due to the position he holds as Chairman of the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.



Shelby County receives awards to honor excellence in school counseling


Senator Norris with Arlington Middle School Guidance Counselor and Middle School Guidance Counselor of the Year, Skip Ruzicka.

Senator Norris with Arlington Middle School Guidance Counselor and Middle School Guidance Counselor of the Year, Skip Ruzicka.

NASHVILLE – A Shelby County lawmaker and three local school counselors swept the top awards recognizing outstanding service achievements at the Tennessee Counseling School Association’s (TSCA) annual meeting held recently in Murfreesboro.


Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) received the group’s “Legislator of the Year Award,” while three of his constituents, Skip Ruzicka, Kim Jessee and Lauren Baker took top honors for their work as school counselors. Ruzicka and Jessee received the Middle School Counselor of the Year and Elementary School Counselor of the Year respectively, while Baker was awarded the Phoebe White Award for Counseling Advocacy.


“I am humbled to receive this award and to stand alongside three of my constituents who were honored for their outstanding achievement in the important work of student counseling,” said Senator Norris. “The recipients represent three of the six municipal school systems in Shelby County, and I am very proud of their work.”


TSCA receives nominations for the awards from individual TSCA members as well as from TCA Chapter Boards, with selections made by the Awards committee. The committee evaluates all materials submitted and selects one recipient for each category. “Our school counselors play vital roles in helping students reach their full potential,” added Norris. “It is an honor to partner with them to strengthen programs that prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century through academic, career and personal development.”  


Norris News from Nashville – November 10, 2014


At the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery

At the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery

On Veterans Day, one hundred years after the start of The Great War, we embrace our veterans here at home and those returning from America’s longest wars. We not only owe them and their families a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice in defense of our nation and our freedoms, but we owe them our best efforts to ensure that active duty troops and families, National Guard, reserve forces, and all veterans are fully honored for their service.


As state leaders, we must do everything in our power to ensure that these brave men and women and their families have the same opportunities to participate in, and benefit from, that American Dream which makes our Republic the greatest nation the world has ever known.


As Chair of The Council of State Governments, I’m honored to lead an organization committed to supporting our veterans through meaningful policies and programs in the states.


In Tennessee, we are focused on making it easier for returning veterans to gain the meaningful skills and education they need to attain employment in our 21st century economy. The U.S. military discharges 160,000 active service members and 110,000 Reserve and National Guard members each year. About 32,000 of those veterans will join the ranks of nearly 1 million veterans already unemployed.


Through the VETS Act we are working with post-secondary educational institutions to provide flexibility in enrollment and tuition to our returning veterans. Please join me today in personally thanking those who have served our respective states and country and honoring our veterans by ensuring that they too have a pathway to prosperity. We must look at policies that can provide a path forward for our veterans who have committed to preserving prosperity for all Americans through their service and sacrifice.




Legislation is last step to allow veterans groups to hold an annual fundraising event like duck races, cake walks, raffles and other games of chance
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) announced today they are drafting enabling legislation to allow 501 (c) (19) veterans organizations to raise funds for charitable purposes in accordance with Constitutional Amendment 4 which was ratified by the voters on Tuesday. Amendment 4, which gives veterans groups the same opportunity as 501 (c) (3) organizations to conduct an annual fundraising event like duck races, cake walks, raffles, and other games of chance, received 69.6% of the vote, outpacing all other constitutional amendments on the ballot.
Senator Crowe was the prime sponsor of the amendment and Senator Norris is Chairman of the Veterans Subcommittee of the Senate State and Local Government Committee. Any funds raised by the games under Amendment 4 must go to purposes that benefit the community, veterans or retired veterans.


“We are very pleased this amendment received such high approval among voters,” said Senator Norris. “These veterans groups do a lot of good community service work and the passage of this amendment can help them in their efforts. Our legislation will allow this process to move forward and will ensure that the deadline affords these organizations enough time to get their applications in.”


Currently, 501 (c) (3) organizations must submit an application and all required attachments between July 1st and January 31st each year for an event which takes place between July 1 and June 30.


“Years ago, when the constitutional amendment allowing charitable gaming passed, our veterans were left out,” said Senator Crowe. “We have been working ever since to change the Constitution so they can raise charitable funds to benefit the less fortunate in our communities like our wounded warriors. The legislation is the final step in ensuring that this constitutional amendment is enacted. We look forward to bringing it before the General Assembly as soon as the legislature convenes and will push for passage as quickly as possible.”




“VETS” Legislation Offers In-State Tuition Rates, Academic Support for Veterans
Posted on November 12, 2013 Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and House Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) passed legislation creating a statewide support structure that offers in-state tuition rates for veterans pursuing higher education in Tennessee.


Public Chapter 612 establishes the Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act, which prioritizes state administrative resources to help veterans fulfill their educational goals upon returning home from active duty.


“The VETS Act ensures that veterans have a clear, easy pathway to attend college in Tennessee,” Norris said. “As a state, we want to recognize and assist those soldiers who are coming home and exploring their education options.” Specifically, the VETS Act provides in-state tuition rates for veterans at Tennessee public colleges and universities, thereby eliminating the issue of residency for those relying on GI Bill benefits.


Norris said the legislation encourages enrollment of veterans and remove barriers known to impede their success in attaining higher education credentials. Currently, recently-discharged veterans relocating to Tennessee must pay out-of-state tuition rates until residency is formally established. Under this bill, veterans enrolling within 24 months of discharge immediately receive the in-state tuition rate when starting college classes. To maintain in-state status and rates, veterans have one year to present proof of established residency, such as a driver’s license, motor vehicle registration or proof of employment. Registering to vote also fulfills the requirement.


Norris said the VETS Act will attract a disciplined, technically-skilled student base, which is enticing to companies considering Tennessee as a potential destination. “There is definitely an economic development component to the program,” Norris said. “As Tennessee competes for future corporate investment, having a pipeline of educated, skilled workers is a tremendous asset.”


The Act also creates a “VETS Campus” designation to recognize and promote schools that make veteran enrollment a priority. Higher education institutions that satisfy veteran-friendly criteria, such as specialized orientation and the availability of mentoring programs, can receive the designation. “Our chief priority is to build a supportive learning atmosphere for service members who are transitioning out of a military setting,” Johnson said. “The key is creating an infrastructure that ensures veterans can then be successful in the academic environment.”


“This legislation puts Tennessee at the forefront of recognizing veterans, not only for their accomplishments as service members, but also for their future contributions as valued members of our workforce,” Johnson said.

Your Performance of my Music Honoring President Reagan

Mark Camphouse and Senator Mark Norris

Composer Mark Camphouse and Senator Mark Norris


Dear Senator Norris,


Just a quick note to once again convey my deep appreciation for your masterful performance last week in the Grand Ole Opry House with the narration of my musical composition (The Shining City) honoring President Reagan. You brought great dignity, sincerity, and meaning to the words of “The Great Communicator.” I think “The Gipper” would have loved it! Collaborating with you provided the gifted student musicians (and the composer!) with a very memorable experience. And thanks so much for the beautiful medallion. I trust a member of your staff gave you a signed copy of the score. You are a great patriot and public servant. Thanks for all you do for the arts in the great state of Tennessee. I hope our paths will cross again. All the best for the upcoming Holiday Season.


Respectfully, and with warmest regards,
-Mark Mark D. Camphouse
Professor of Music Conductor,
Wind Symphony School of Music
George Mason University 4400 University Drive

Norris Recognized by U.S. Department of Defense

veterans awards 

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), November 4, 2014 – Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense for his “leadership on public policy changes positively impacting the quality of life of Service members and their families.”
Norris serves as Chairman of the national Council of State Governments and launched a two-year workforce development and education initiative to assist veterans called State Pathways to Prosperity. He is also Chairman of the Veterans Subcommittee of the Senate State and Local Government Committee. This year, he authored and passed the 2014 VETS Act providing in-state tuition to veterans upon discharge and incentivizing “vets-friendly” college campuses.
“It is with great pleasure that the Department of Defense presents you with this certificate of appreciation signed by Rosemary Freitas Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy,” said Dr. Thomas L. Langdon, State Liaison and Education Opportunity Director, in a letter to Senator Norris. “Please accept our appreciation and that of the Service members and families residing in your state for your dedicated effort towards improving their quality of life.”
Senator Norris has sponsored numerous other laws during his legislative tenure helping veterans, including the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, legislation helping deployed parents deal with custody issues, and was instrumental this year in obtaining state funding for site evaluation and acquisition of land for the next state veterans home in West Tennessee. He received the coveted AMVETS Silver Bayonet Award during the AMVETS Annual Meeting in Gatlinburg earlier this year.


“Veterans Day serves as a reminder of the importance of honoring those who protect our freedom,” said Senator Norris. “Faced with tremendous challenges, our veterans have responded with great skill, courage and honor. It is important that we honor those sacrifices by taking care of them when they come home. I appreciate this award and will continue to work to improve services for our service men and women.”


Norris is the son of a B-24 pilot. He represents District 32 including Shelby and Tipton Counties and has served as Senate Majority Leader since 2007.


Senator Norris to perform with nation’s most elite high school musicians

Thirty-three Tennessee students to participate in NAfME All-National Honor Ensembles


honor band
NASVHILLE, Tenn. — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) will perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage with the nation’s most elite high school musicians, as he narrates a musical tribute to the spirit of President Ronald Reagan for the All-National Honor Ensembles. The October 29th event will mark the first time the 40th U.S. President’s words have been on stage at the Grand Ole Opry in over 30 years.


The concert will highlight the National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME) “Music Education Orchestrates Success” conference in Nashville which begins on October 26. Senator Norris is Chairman of the Council of State Governments, a bipartisan professional association serving all three branches of government in 50 states and Puerto Rico.


“It is a tremendous honor to perform with these incredibly talented students,” said Senator Norris. “These students represent ‘the best of the best’ musicians in the United States and I am very honored to have a role in this concert.”


Norris will narrate “The Shining City,” comprised of excerpts from the speeches and writings of President Reagan, as NAfME’s National Honor Band performs. Composer Mark Camphouse, who is the Professor of Music and Conductor of the Wind Symphony at George Mason University, will conduct the band. President Reagan last appeared at the Grand Ole Opry on September 13, 1984, when he spoke at a birthday celebration for country music legend Roy Acuff.


“These are big shoes to fill,” added Norris. “But, I know that the music will help fill those shoes. As President Reagan said: “Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.”


The 670 students performing in the All-National Honor Ensembles were chosen from approximately 2.5 million contenders nationwide at local, district and state music festivals. It consists of a concert band, orchestra, mixed chorus, and jazz ensemble Thirty-three of the students are from Tennessee. In addition to Camphouse, the students will perform under the direction of Gerald Schwarz, Edith Copley and Robert Baca, all of whom have received top honors in their field.


The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is the largest fine arts education organization in the country with nearly 60,000 members nationwide. October marks National Arts and Humanities Month. After the concert, Norris will address the annual meeting of the Tennessee Arts Commission at Montgomery Bell State Park.


Action News 5 – Memphis, Tennessee


Norris News from Nashville – July 3, 2014

July 3, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

As we approach July 4th and celebrate the birth of our nation 238 years ago, we celebrate the economic freedom which flows from a quality education and a good job. It has been said that education means economic development. Altogether, it means economic freedom and the independence we hold dear.

I have just completed an “Independence Day Tour” celebrating economic freedom. I traveled from our Nation’s Capital to towns across Tennessee. (For more on my Independence Day Tour, visit my website,, and Senator Mark Norris on Facebook. As Chairman of the national Council of State Governments, my initiative, State Pathways to Prosperity, focuses on workforce development and education. That’s what we are focused on here in Tennessee, too.

Placing a wreath from the Council of State Governments at the Tomb of the Unknowns

Placing a wreath from the Council of State Governments at the Tomb of the Unknowns “on behalf of the grateful people of the 50 United States.”

The journey began as I placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on behalf of the citizens of every state who are grateful for the sacrifices made by so many men and women to keep our nation free.

Addressing the annual Tracy DeWitt Patriotic Breakfast with the Northeast Shelby Republican Club

Addressing the annual Tracy DeWitt Patriotic Breakfast with the Northeast Shelby Republican Club

(Left) Addressing the Tennessee Pathways to Prosperity Conference at Vanderbilt University

(Left) Addressing the Tennessee Pathways to Prosperity Conference at Vanderbilt University
(Right) Addressing the Northeast Tennessee Workforce Investment Board

Senator Rusty Crowe, Kathy Pierce, Executive Director of the Northeast Workforce Investment Board,

Senator Rusty Crowe, Kathy Pierce, Executive Director of the Northeast Workforce Investment Board,
Mark Norris and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey in Johnson City

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez at White House meeting on Employment Opportunities

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez at White House meeting on Employment Opportunities

The Ford Foundation's Douglas Wood,  former Executive Director of the Tennessee Board of Education,

The Ford Foundation’s Douglas Wood, former Executive Director of the Tennessee Board of Education,
at White House meeting on Employment Opportunities.

I spent the following week crossing Tennessee, speaking at patriotic breakfasts, workforce investment meetings, educational conferences and neighborhood gatherings celebrating our independence.

Rep. Debra Moody and I prepare to distribute snacks at the Memphis VA hospital

Rep. Debra Moody and I prepare to distribute snacks at the Memphis VA hospital

This included a special visit to the Memphis VA Hospital to say “thanks” to our service men and women there, and a community outreach event I organized at Agricenter International to pack food for distribution through the Mid-South Food Bank. We packed over 20,000 meals in less than 90 minutes!

Leaders' Feed community outreach event 20,346 meals packed in less than 90 minutes

Leaders’ Feed community outreach event 20,346 meals packed in less than 90 minutes

Beth Webb, Gayle Bennett and Barbara Trautman of Republican Women of Purpose

Beth Webb, Gayle Bennett and Barbara Trautman of Republican Women of Purpose

This Fourth of July, I am encouraged by what’s happening in Tennessee. As we begin celebrating the 238th Anniversary of our Nation’s birth, let’s all celebrate the re-birth of American Manufacturing and its role in securing the individual independence which flows from economic freedom. Let’s support efforts to educate and train workers for 21st Century jobs. Tennessee is number one in economic development for many reasons, and we all need to stay focused on what it takes to stay ahead of the competition.

And now, let’s celebrate! John Adams got it right:

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Happy Fourth of July!


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