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Norris News – February 22, 2018

I was honored to join with Governor Haslam, Senator Alexander, Commissioner Triplett at the National Civil Rights Museum for the dedication of the Civil Rights Trail. Mr. Elmore Nickleberry, one of the striking sanitation workers from 1968 was with us. Mr. Nickleberry, aged 86, still works for the city of Memphis.

I was honored to join with Governor Haslam, Senator Alexander, Commissioner Triplett at the National Civil Rights Museum for the dedication of the Civil Rights Trail. Mr. Elmore Nickleberry, one of the striking sanitation workers from 1968 was with us. Mr. Nickleberry, aged 86, still works for the city of Memphis.

Legislation addresses retail theft and its strong link to Tennessee’s opioid crisis

A major bill which aims to cut off the flow of funds used in the purchase of illegal drugs was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week as legislation addressing Tennessee’s opioid crisis moves front and center in the Tennessee General Assembly. Senate Bill 1717, sponsored by Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), addresses the use of gift cards obtained through retail theft which has been heavily linked to the purchase of opiates.

The proposal follows a new law passed by the General Assembly last year defining organized retail crime and creating two new theft offenses for the purpose of prosecuting individuals who return stolen merchandise to receive gift cards, money or store credit.

“You have one team that will go into a store and shoplift the goods,” said Sen. Briggs. “A second team will take them back without a receipt and get the value of the goods on a store gift card, with the sales tax that was never collected added. The cards are then taken to various pawn shops or gift card retailers where they can be sold at a discount. The money is then used to buy drugs illegally.”

It is estimated that Tennessee loses over $14 million in sales tax dollars and retailers lose over $200 million each year related to return fraud. The National Retail Federation has estimates the loss at $12 to $15 billion nationwide, with almost all being related to illicit drug trade.

From April to June of last year, 98 overdose cases resulting in death or hospitalization were linked to individuals involved in retail theft. Investigative reports, like one done by CNBC entitled Gift Card Crime Fueling Opioid Addiction across the U.S., continue to lend validity to the strong connection of the use of gift cards obtained through retail theft and illegal drugs. In addition to an interview with Briggs, the report took a firsthand look at the problem with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Area Law Enforcement and Retailers Team (A.L.E.R.T).

The bill proposed this year would give local law enforcement the tools they need to make sure businesses comply with the law passed in 2017 by:

  • enhancing penalties for those convicted of Organized Retail Crime;
  • establishing penalties for businesses that do not report;
  • clearly stating what information is to be collected; and,
  • making all identifying information confidential, to be used only by the state and law enforcement.

Local law enforcement would decide how to notify businesses affected and what method they should use to report the data.

“The database is the key,” added Briggs. “Retailers can cancel cards as soon as alerted and it allows us to identify stolen sales tax dollars. It also sends real time notifications to law enforcement to investigate suspicious transactions. This will help us link suspects to organized crime rings so we can stop this destructive and deadly cycle of retail theft and opioid abuse.”

Committee members also discussed Senate Bill 2258 which addresses two components of the three-pronged TN Together legislation proposed by Governor Bill Haslam to attack the state’s opioid epidemic. TN Together is a multi-faceted plan comprised of legislation, $30 million in state and federal funds proposed in Governor Haslam’s 2018-19 budget and other executive actions to attack the state’s opioid epidemic through three major components: 1) Prevention, 2) Treatment and 3) Law Enforcement. The legislation, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), will be considered again next week.

With friends at the annual Firefighters' Fish Fry

With friends at the annual Firefighters’ Fish Fry

Senate approves Tuition Transparency and Accountability Act

Legislation providing more transparency and accountability when it comes to tuition and fee hikes at the state’s colleges and universities has passed the State Senate on final consideration. Senate Bill 1665, sponsored by Senator Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville), seeks to slow down tuition increases, which have risen by 125 percent over the past decade, by putting constant pressure on the process.

“Education is the roadway to the American dream, and one of our solemn responsibilities is to make sure that Tennessee students graduate from college prepared to take on the world and do so with as little debt as possible,” said Senator Dickerson.

Approximately 50 percent of graduates from colleges in Tennessee have debt that averages around $25,000.

Under the bill, governing boards must give public notice 15 days prior to a meeting to adopt an increase in tuition and mandatory fees in order to allow for public comment and awareness. Any tuition increase must be substantiated by stating the amount of increase, the reason for the increase, and any steps that may have been taken to control it.

The legislation also requires each university to provide in a student’s acceptance letter a “predictive cost estimate,” projecting how much tuition and fees will costs for a four-year period.

Finally, the proposal calls for the governing boards of each university to submit a report to be distributed to the General Assembly with information on how the tuition increases where spent during the previous year.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration where it is scheduled to be heard on February 27.

Five bills addressing sexual misconduct by teachers with their students are approved by the Senate Education Committee

The Senate Education Committee approved five bills this week to prevent sexual misconduct by teachers with their students. The legislative package follows a comprehensive report from Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson which revealed deficiencies in hiring practices for school personnel that could allow predators to slip through the cracks.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) explained there were two specific catalytic events that prompted the series of bills to be sponsored. One of them was a USA Today report which surveyed states nationwide to measure how children are protected from sexual misconduct in K-12 schools. In that report, Tennessee received a failing grade. That is when Gresham asked the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability to do a thorough study regarding the matter.

The second catalytic event noted by Gresham was a case that came before the State Board of Education regarding a teacher who had been convicted of statutory rape and who wanted his professional license back. The State Board of Education denied the licensure, but was overturned by a Chancery Court in Davidson County based on ambiguity in the board’s rules.

The bills approved by the committee include:

  • Senate Bill 2014 which ensures that background checks are conducted to identify sexual predators before a teacher license is issued and that reports are done on an ongoing basis for those who work with children. Presently, school districts require an initial background check before hiring.
  • Senate Bill 2015 which prohibits a Local Education Agency (LEA) from entering into a non-disclosure agreement with a teacher that would prevent other school districts from knowing about sexual misconduct. It also allows districts to access information about the previous employment of a teacher with another school district.
  • Senate Bill 2013 which updates the state’s Teacher Code of Ethics regarding inappropriate teacher-student relationships, including engaging in sexual behavior with students or furnishing them alcohol or drugs.
  • Senate Bill 2011 which grants the State Board of Education authority to reprimand school directors for not reporting instances of misconduct and clarifies the board’s authority to reprimand educators for violating the Teacher Code of Ethics.
  • Senate Bill 2012 which calls for the State Board of Education to post all final teacher’s disciplinary action on its website to allow school districts, as well as out-of-state entities responsible for the licensing and hiring of Tennessee educators, to access information regarding the final disciplinary action of an individual’s license case. It also requires final licensure action be reported to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) database for the same purpose.

The bills are sponsored by all nine members of the Senate Education Committee, which includes Chairman Gresham, 1st Vice-Chairman Reggie Tate (D-Memphis), 2nd Vice-Chairman Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Senator Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville), Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), and Senator Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol).

Leadership Tipton County visited the Capitol this week.

Leadership Tipton County visited the Capitol this week.

Issues in Brief

Heart Attack / STEMI System of Care — Final approval was given to legislation on Thursday establishing a statewide ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) system of care in Tennessee. A STEMI is a very serious type of heart attack during which one of the heart’s major arteries (one of the arteries that supplies oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart muscle) is blocked. In order to treat a STEMI, it is vital that the patient get to the hospital quickly and have a stent placed so blood flow can be restored. Senate Bill 2071, sponsored by Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) requires the Department of Health to recognize hospitals that meet certain criteria as Accredited Receiving Centers and Accredited Referring Centers. Then, the emergency services and ambulances at hospitals shall develop pre-hospital protocols for transporting STEMI patients to the nearest receiving or referring hospital based on nationally recognized clinical practice guidelines. “The goal is to get the patient transported to an appropriate center as rapidly as possible to save the heart muscle to save lives,” said Briggs, who is a thoracic and cardiac surgeon.

Court Costs / Indigent Defendants – The full Senate approved legislation on Thursday that allows other counties in Tennessee to opt in to a successful Knox County program which gives indigent defendants an alternate method of paying back their court costs and litigation taxes in favor of community service. Under Senate Bill 1504, sponsored by Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), the defendant must apply to be a participant of the program, prove that they are indigent and be approved by the judge. If the defendant completes the program, the clerk submits documentation to the judge who can then clear the fees. If at any point in the program they have failed the requirements, the judge may rescind the defendant’s participation in the program. The number of applicants accepted and the duration and continuation of the program will be at the discretion of the clerks. “This program has been very successful in Knox County,” said Briggs. “It has required the indigent defendant who otherwise wouldn’t pay, to go out and perform community service which has been very helpful to the county. What we have also noticed is that when there did appear to be a work requirement, sometimes they did elect to find the money to pay the fees.” The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

Out-of-State Teachers / Licensing — The full Senate approved a bill this week that would address regulatory hurdles faced by high performing teachers licensed in other states who want to teach here. Although Tennessee has reciprocity with numerous states, out-of-state licensees face additional administrative burdens which can be discouraging to many of these qualified educators. Senate Bill 1804, sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), removes an assessment requirement for those who hold a license in a reciprocal state as long as they have received evaluations of above expectations or significantly above expectations in each of their first two years in Tennessee. The bill aims to address teacher shortages and encourage the recruitment of high quality teachers.

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Norris News – February 16, 2018

Disability Day on the Hill brought friends to visit from the Arc of the Mid-South

Disability Day on the Hill brought friends to visit from the Arc of the Mid-South

Senate Judiciary approves Henry’s Law stiffening penalties against drug dealers who kill minors

Drug dealers or others who unlawfully distribute Schedule I or II drugs to minors will be facing more jail time when it results in a death under legislation passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Senate Bill 1875, sponsored by Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), is named Henry’s Law for a Knoxville teenager, Henry Granju, who died due to a lethal opiate overdose.

The killing of a minor in Tennessee when the drug is a proximate cause of death is second degree murder, which is a Class A felony. Under the state’s current sentencing guidelines, a standard Range I offender for a Class A felony can receive 15 to 25 years in jail, but the 30 percent requirement places the actual sentence at 4.5 to 7.5 years. The bill proposes to make that same Class A felony a Range II offense, carrying a 25 to 40 years sentence at a 35 percent requirement. This means offenders would serve a minimum of 8.8 to 14 years behind bars.

Henry’s mother, Katie Allison, and his aunt, Betsy Tant, told members of the Judiciary Committee about the importance of this bill to save other families from suffering the same fate as Henry. “Clearly, this opioid epidemic is hitting our kids hard,” said Allison. “And there are adults out there, unfortunately, who would prey on the vulnerability and poor decision-making that many adolescents show. They try to cultivate new customers and, in doing so, kill them instead. The reason we believe it is important for our state criminal code to attach an enhanced sentencing range to second degree homicide is because currently we don’t hold those who prey on our children with these horrible opiate drugs fully accountable for the damage and death they are bringing to this state.”

Approximately 70 to 80 juveniles die each year in the state of Tennessee due to opioid overdose.

Allison and Tant started Henry’s Fund, a non-profit which works to end teen and young adult drug addiction through treatment funding, education, support and advocacy.

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

Members of the Lakeland School Board were in Nashville on Tuesday

Members of the Lakeland School Board were in Nashville on Tuesday

 

Sen. John Stevens, Sen. Jeff Yarbro, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, Sen. Brian Kelsey, Rep. Mike Carter, myself and Sen. Lee Harris, all attorneys serving in the General Assembly, were privileged to speak to the Leadership Law class this week

Sen. John Stevens, Sen. Jeff Yarbro, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, Sen. Brian Kelsey, Rep. Mike Carter, myself and Sen. Lee Harris, all attorneys serving in the General Assembly, were privileged to speak to the Leadership Law class this week

Reentry Incentive Grant program aims to reduce recidivism in Tennessee jails

Legislation calling for an innovative pilot program to provide grants to local county sheriffs or probation departments that are successful in reducing recidivism was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Senate Bill 1865, sponsored by Senator Ed Jackson (R-Jackson), would provide $2 million in grants to fund a three-year successful reentry program in four Tennessee counties.

“Each year, about 5,000 Tennesseans leave our prisons after serving for crimes they have committed,” said Sen. Jackson, who is Chairman of the Senate Corrections Subcommittee. “We can either help them become productive, taxpaying citizens, or we can risk them turning back to a life of crime and create a never-ending cycle. This pilot program will help identify and formulate better policies that can be scaled throughout the state. The result will be a more effective corrections system that will reduce recidivism, make our communities safer, and help save taxpayer money.”

The proposed budget for corrections for the 2018-19 fiscal year is over $1 billion.

Under the proposal, applicants must apply to the Department of Correction stating program objectives, goals and metrics. Once selected, they can receive a portion of the money upfront to start or expand a re-entry program, but the remaining funds will not be awarded unless specific benchmarks reducing recidivism or probation revocations are met.

Governor Bill Haslam’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism found that 46 percent of people released from prison or jail in Tennessee were incarcerated again within three years. Tennessee’s felon inmate population has grown by 11.7 percent over the past five years.

“We must reverse this trend,” added Jackson. “This pilot program will incentivize better outcomes in our corrections system.”

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

February is Black History Month. This bust of Sampson Keeble is displayed on the second floor of the Capitol. Rep. Keeble was the first African-American elected to the General Assembly in 1873. The bust also commemorates all of the African-Americans elected to the General Assembly in the 19th century.

February is Black History Month. This bust of Sampson Keeble is displayed on the second floor of the Capitol. Rep. Keeble was the first African-American elected to the General Assembly in 1873. The bust also commemorates all of the African-Americans elected to the General Assembly in the 19th century.

Issues in Brief

Tuition Free College — An announcement was made Thursday that the application is open for adults to enroll tuition-free this fall at a community or technical college through Tennessee Reconnect. Tennessee Reconnect builds off the groundbreaking Tennessee Promise program which provides high school graduates two years of tuition-free community or technical college, by establishing a last-dollar scholarship for adults to earn an associate degree or technical certificate free of tuition or mandatory fees. Applicants can access information at TNReconnect.gov. The Tennessee Reconnect Act was passed by the General Assembly last year and was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). To be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, a student must not already hold an associate or bachelor’s degree, must be a Tennessee resident for at least one year, and be determined as an independent student on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Out-of-State Teachers / Licensing — The Senate Education Committee approved a bill this week that would address regulatory hurdles faced by high performing teachers licensed in other states who want to teach here. Although Tennessee has reciprocity with numerous states, out-of-state licensees face additional administrative burdens which can be discouraging to many of these qualified educators. Senate Bill 1804, sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), removes an assessment requirement for those who hold a license in a reciprocal state as long as they have received evaluations of above expectations or significantly above expectations in each of their first two years in Tennessee. The bill aims to address teacher shortages and encourage the recruitment of high quality teachers.

Tennessee Songwriters Week — The Senate approved a bill on Thursday designating the last full week of February each year as Tennessee Songwriters Week. Senate Bill 2254, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), recognizes the contributions of past and present songwriters which share in the economic success of Tennessee’s booming tourism industry. Last year, tourism generated $19.3 billion in Tennessee and $1.7 billion in state and local taxes. .

Tanning Beds / Youth — The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted this week in favor of legislation that seeks to protect the health of young persons who utilize tanning beds. Currently, teenagers over age 14 can go to a tanning bed without permission from their parents. Senate Bill 1495, sponsored by Senator Ferrell Haile (R–Gallatin), requires that individuals 16 to 18 years old be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian in order to use a tanning bed for the first time. Those under the age of 16 would be prohibited. Melanoma is the second most prevalent kind of cancer in females ages 15 to 29. In 2009, the World Health Organization elevated tanning beds classification as a carcinogen to the same category as cigarettes.

Teachers / Non-graded Subjects — Final approval was given to legislation this week which helps to ensure that the work done by teachers in non-graded subjects is evaluated fairly. Currently, these teachers must accept a school-wide grade for which they have little or no control. Senate Bill 250, sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), requires Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to adopt at least one alternative appropriate growth model approved by the State Board of Education by the 2019-20 academic school years in order to provide individual growth scores. An example alternative growth model would be a portfolio in an art class that a teacher would create for each student in order to show the development of that child in whatever art principles were being taught. “This seeks to provide fairness to these teachers by allowing them to show the work that they have done individually that demonstrates their students’ growth,” said Gresham.

Cell Phones in Prisons — A resolution which seeks to address the public safety threat posed by contraband cell phone use by prison inmates has met final approval in the State Senate. Senate Joint Resolution 492, sponsored by Senate State and Local Government Committee Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston), asks the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), major cellular providers, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) “to take a proactive and collaborative approach, in conjunction with correctional officials nationwide, to effectively disrupt the use of contraband wireless communication devices obtained by inmates.” There were over 1,500 incidents with cell phones in Tennessee prisons last year. Cell phones have been used by prisoners to stalk victims, threaten witnesses, arrange the murder of our correctional officers, or to continue gang activity or criminal enterprises — all from behind bars. The resolution now goes to the House of Representatives for their approval.

Recovery Schools – The full Senate gave final approval to legislation which authorizes Local Education Agencies (LEA) to create recovery high schools for certain students with alcohol or drug abuse dependency like Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or Major Depressive Episode (MDE). Senate Bill 1626, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), authorizes LEAs that open recovery schools to enroll eligible students, including those who are in another county. It will also allow LEAs to collaborate with other school districts to establish a school to serve their students. Introduction into a recovery high school would be voluntary under the bill. Research shows students who attend treatment and go back into their normal high school have about a 70 percent chance of relapse.

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Norris News – February 9, 2018

Robert "Percy" Person was recognized by members of the General Assembly this week. He celebrated his 80th birthday in July, and he continues to operate Percy's Shine Service in the Nashville Arcade where he has been located for 25 years. He started work at age 11 in 1948. Rep. Kelly Keisling, Rep. William Lamberth and I presented Percy a special Proclamation this week.

Robert “Percy” Person was recognized by members of the General Assembly this week. He celebrated his 80th birthday in July, and he continues to operate Percy’s Shine Service in the Nashville Arcade where he has been located for 25 years. He started work at age 11 in 1948. Rep. Kelly Keisling, Rep. William Lamberth and I presented Percy a special Proclamation this week.

Resolution seeks to address public safety threat posed by cell phone use behind prison walls

The pace quickened on Capitol Hill this week as state senators examined the budgets of ten agencies or departments of state government and approved a number of important bills. This includes a resolution unanimously adopted by the Senate State and Local Government Committee which seeks to address the public safety threat posed by contraband cell phone use by prison inmates.

Senate Joint Resolution 492, sponsored by Senate State and Local Government Committee Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston), asks the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), major cellular providers, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) “to take a proactive and collaborative approach, in conjunction with correctional officials nationwide, to effectively disrupt the use of contraband wireless communication devices obtained by inmates.”

There were over 1,500 incidents with cell phones in Tennessee prisons last year.

Speaking in favor of the bill was Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker, who told committee members that murders have been arranged and carried out on Tennessee correctional officers, criminal enterprises continue to thrive, victims have been stalked, witnesses have been threatened, escapes have been arranged and prison riots have been orchestrated all from within prison cells using contraband cellphones. He said these events are becoming common instances as more cellphones illegally infiltrate state correctional facilities.

“In years past, I never would have considered the issue of cell phones being a major problem in our prisons,” said Parker. “But, I will have to say that in the last 15 years it has become one of the most significant security threats that we have in our facilities.”

Parker recounted a 2005 case in Roane County when inmate George Hyatte shot Correctional Officer Wayne “Cotton” Morgan in an escape attempt. He said Hyatte and his accomplice coordinated the escape using a smuggled cell phone.

“This was an unconscionable and tragic act which I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Sen. Yager, who arrived at the Roane County Courthouse soon after that crime was committed. “Despite the efforts of our outstanding corrections officials, we need some help from the Federal Communications Commission to give us the tools we need to eradicate the use of cell phones by inmates in prisons.”

Parker said the department is committed to tackling this problem, including working with the state’s congressional leaders in asking federal officials to stop the flow of contraband.

“I am very pleased that our correction officials are tackling this public safety issue,” added Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson), Chairman of the State and Local Government’s Corrections Subcommittee which oversees prisons. “These cellphones have even been used for gang activity and present safety issues for not only the correctional officers, but also the citizens they have contact with outside of those prison walls. We must aggressively address this threat.”

Introducing contraband into a correctional facility is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

The resolution now goes to the House of Representatives for their approval.

I was honored to address the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) members for their “Day on the Hill” in Nashville this week. The NFIB is America's leading small business association, promoting and protecting the right of members to own, operate and grow their businesses.

I was honored to address the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) members for their “Day on the Hill” in Nashville this week. The NFIB is America’s leading small business association, promoting and protecting the right of members to own, operate and grow their businesses.

Senate Education Committee approves bill to give students who suffer dependency on alcohol or drugs greater opportunities to succeed

The Senate Education Committee approved major legislation this week which authorizes Local Education Agencies (LEA) to create recovery high schools for certain students with alcohol or drug abuse dependency like Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or Major Depressive Episode (MDE). Senate Bill 1626, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), authorizes LEAs that open recovery schools to enroll eligible students, including those who are in another county.

“The staff of recovery high schools most often includes administrative staff, teachers, substance abuse counselors, and mental health professionals, with each playing a critical role in supporting their students,” said Sen. Gresham. “This bill will help students keep up with their studies, while having the best supports possible to help them recover.”

The bill authorizes the State Board of Education to promulgate additional rules and policies in consultation with the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to ensure best practices are employed as schools are authorized. It will also allow LEAs to collaborate with other school districts to establish a school to serve their students.

Introduction into a recovery high school would be voluntary under the bill. Students who graduate from the recovery school would receive a diploma from the high school they attended prior to enrollment to lessen the possibility of a stigma being attached. Grades earned would also be transferrable to other high schools.

Research shows students who attend treatment and go back into their normal high school have about a 70 percent chance of relapse. That number drops to approximately 30 percent when the student attends a recovery school after treatment. In addition, a recovery school in Houston found that about 98 percent of the students who attended had planned to drop out of school due to their addiction. After attending a recovery school, 90 percent of the students graduated, and over 80 percent went on to seek a post-secondary degree.

“Research on recovery schools show it is a game changer for kids that were headed towards a very dangerous path in life of dropping out of school and possibly ending up in jail down the road,” added Senator Gresham. “As we battle drug abuse in Tennessee, it is important that we apply every means possible to get these kids back on the right path so they have the best opportunity to be successful and addiction-free.”

The bill now goes to the full Senate for final consideration.

State Senate observes Veterans’ Day on the Hill

State Senators stopped to honor Tennessee’s veterans on Wednesday as they observed Veterans’ Day on the Hill. The day was set aside for lawmakers to speak to veterans about issues affecting them and to show appreciation for their sacrifices to this state and nation.

“Today is ‘Veterans’ Day on the Hill’ and it’s a time when we, as a body, as an assembly, celebrate the men and women who have been willing to write that blank check payable to the people of our great state and our great country,” said Senator Green (R-Clarksville), a former US Army Special Ops Flight Surgeon. “The United States of America has been at war for 16 years and we have produced thousands of combat veterans. Many of these were wounded or came home with the unseen scars of war.”

Each Senator wore a pin with the number 22 on it to honor, respect, and bring attention to the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day in America. Veterans in Tennessee are more than twice as likely to commit suicide than a non-veteran according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans between 35 and 54 and over age 75 have a higher suicide rate than other age groups.

“It’s an unconscionable number and one that is tragic,” Green continued.

The Senators had a luncheon where they got to meet and talk with a number of veterans.

Approximately 470,000 veterans live in Tennessee and Clarksville has the second highest concentration of veterans in the U.S.

Alvin C. York statue on the Capitol grounds. Also known as Sergeant York, he was one of the most decorated United States Army soldiers of World War I. He received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 35 machine guns, killing at least 25 enemy soldiers, and capturing 132. York's Medal of Honor action occurred during the United States-led portion of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France, which was intended to breach the Hindenburg line and force the Germans to surrender. Sgt. York was from Pall Mall, Tennessee. Veterans’ Day on the Hill was observed on Wednesday. Sgt. York’s son, George York, was memorialized by the General Assembly on the occasion of his passing. He was an ordained Nazarene minister, as well as a caseworker for abused and neglected children for the state.

Alvin C. York statue on the Capitol grounds. Also known as Sergeant York, he was one of the most decorated United States Army soldiers of World War I. He received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 35 machine guns, killing at least 25 enemy soldiers, and capturing 132. York’s Medal of Honor action occurred during the United States-led portion of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France, which was intended to breach the Hindenburg line and force the Germans to surrender. Sgt. York was from Pall Mall, Tennessee. Veterans’ Day on the Hill was observed on Wednesday. Sgt. York’s son, George York, was memorialized by the General Assembly on the occasion of his passing. He was an ordained Nazarene minister, as well as a caseworker for abused and neglected children for the state.

Issues in Brief

K-8 Scholars Guide – The full Senate approved legislation this week calling for students in grades K-8 to receive a “Scholar’s Summer Guide” prior to the last day of the school year. Senate Bill 730, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), is designed to assist parents and students to better prepare for the next school year by providing them with a list of skills and materials that could be reviewed over the summer break. The student’s incoming and outgoing teachers would collaborate on requirements in formulating the guide so it is customized for each child. The bill would also allow teachers to customize this guide for students that they feel need work in specific areas prior to entering the following grade.

Tree plantings — The Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved a resolution on Thursday designating February 24th as “Tennessee Tree Day.” Senate Joint Resolution 482, sponsored by Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Steve Southerland (R-Morristown), aims to encourage Tennesseans to participate in tree-planting events in their communities. The Tennessee Environmental Council has been organizing large-scale, statewide tree-planting events that have grown from 5,000 trees in 2007 in a few Tennessee counties, to 100,000 trees in 2017 in all ninety-five counties. The Council hopes volunteers will plant 250,000 seedlings on Tennessee Tree Day. Tennessee is the most biologically diverse inland state in the United States.

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Senator Mark Norris - Proudly Endorsed by the National Rifle Association

 

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