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Norris News – May 18, 2018

The restored Memphis Belle on the 75th anniversary of her final mission in World War II.

The restored Memphis Belle on the 75th anniversary of her final mission in World War II.

The Memphis Belle

The Memphis Belle, America’s first B-17 to successfully complete 25 missions in combat during World War II, made history again this week.

Presenting Lt. General Jack Hudson with a signed copy of Public Chapter 33 naming the Memphis Belle as Tennessee’s official state airplane. General Hudson is the Executive Director of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Speaking is Memphis Belle Memorial Association President, Brian Pecon.

Presenting Lt. General Jack Hudson with a signed copy of Public Chapter 33 naming the Memphis Belle as Tennessee’s official state airplane. General Hudson is the Executive Director of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Speaking is Memphis Belle Memorial Association President, Brian Pecon.

On the 75th Anniversary of her final mission, after 13 years of magnificent restoration by the United States Air Force, the Belle debuted as the newest exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

Chris and me with our friends...in front of the restored Memphis Belle.

Chris and me with our friends…in front of the restored Memphis Belle.

I was fortunate enough to represent Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly at the ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by thousands who came to celebrate this magnificent machine and pay homage to the men and women who fought so valiantly to keep us free.

Richard “Buzzy” Davis in his original uniform with reenactors. Mr. Davis was a B-24 tail gunner in World War 2.

Richard “Buzzy” Davis in his original uniform with reenactors. Mr. Davis was a B-24 tail gunner in World War 2.

The General Assembly recognized and codified the Memphis Belle as Tennessee’s official airplane pursuant to Public Chapter 33 of 2017 which I sponsored together with Representative Ron Lollar.

On Thursday, it was my honor to present a signed copy of PC 33, framed with an official medallion (see below), to Lt. General Jack Hudson who is the Executive Director of the National Museum.

Bob Moses of Brownsville joined us in Dayton for the unveiling.

Bob Moses of Brownsville joined us in Dayton for the unveiling.

The Memphis Belle Memorial Association was represented by President Brian Pecon, Dr. Harry Friedman, and David White from Memphis. We also saw P.Z. Horton of Germantown and Mike Cross of Bartlett, and we met Bob Moses from Brownsville.

Wes Stowers flew his P-51 Mustang to the event from Knoxville and participated in the flyover.

Buzz Davis with the Memphis Belle in the background.

Buzz Davis with the Memphis Belle in the background.

We were also joined by two of my life-long friends, Van Pedigo and Richard “Buzzy” Davis from my hometown, Richfield, Ohio. Buzzy was a B-24 tail gunner. At age 94, his original uniform still fits him like a glove. He wore it proudly and was the center of attention for many who personally thanked him for his service. It was a fitting tribute.

Official medallion of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association

Official medallion of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association

In the News:

http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/why-some-experts-say-attempt-reform-juvenile-justice-tennessee-came-short#stream/0

https://www.memphisflyer.com/NewsBlog/archives/2018/05/16/child-held-in-state-prison-released-on-bond

http://clevelandbanner.com/stories/in-reflection-brooks-eyes-his-special-bills,80167

https://www.tennessean.com/story/money/2018/05/11/tn-economic-incentives-film-video-game-scores-music/602055002/

http://www.therogersvillereview.com/rogersville/article_8e103ddc-d0d9-5956-a265-83535b0e23bb.html

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Norris News – May 11, 2018

I was happy to be with United Health Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation to announce grants totaling $81,000 to 39 Tennessee schools & youth organizations to build or expand existing vegetable gardens and nutrition education. I also sponsored legislation this year for a study on how to overcome “food deserts” so that our urban communities will have access to fresh food.

I was happy to be with United Health Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation to announce grants totaling $81,000 to 39 Tennessee schools & youth organizations to build or expand existing vegetable gardens and nutrition education. I also sponsored legislation this year for a study on how to overcome “food deserts” so that our urban communities will have access to fresh food.

Third in a three-part series on the recently-adjourned legislative session reviews bills to aid veterans, reform welfare and remove unnecessary barriers to entry into Tennessee’s workforce

The 2018 legislative session of the 110th General Assembly concluded on April 25 headlined by passage of the state budget and legislation to curb opiate abuse, increase job opportunities, enhance education, and protect students and teachers. In this third in a series of three articles regarding the recently-adjourned session, we will look at other key action taken this year to aid veterans, reform welfare, and remove unnecessary occupational barriers on the right of individuals to earn a living.

General Assembly Passes Legislation Aiding and Honoring Veterans

The Senate approved a package of bills this year honoring the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, adding to significant legislation adopted during the first year of the 110th General Assembly. Last year’s action included a new law which provided protections to employers if they give hiring preference to honorably discharged veterans and their spouses, as well as the STRONG (Support, Training, and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen) Act, which provides funding toward a first time bachelor degree through a tuition reimbursement program for those who protect and serve our state and country.

Budget — This year, the legislature approved a state budget which provides $5.4 million in additional funds for veterans. These funds provide $600,000 for the land purchase for a new veterans’ cemetery in the Upper Cumberland, $3 million for the Cleveland Veterans Home, $100,000 for the East Tennessee Veterans’ Cemetery Fuel Dispensing Station and $700,000 for Centerstone Military Services for professional counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition the budget provides $50,000 for the Johnson City/Washington County Veterans Memorial, $250,000 for the Coolidge Medal of Honor Museum in Chattanooga and $100,000 for the Dyersburg Army Air Base Memorial Foundation.

Tax Relief – Two tax relief measures affecting veterans were passed during the 2018 legislative session. One ensures that disabled veterans and elderly homeowners can continue to qualify for property tax relief if they are hospitalized or temporarily placed in a nursing home. The other bill exempts disabled veterans who receive a modified vehicle from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) due to a severe disability from having to pay sales tax or a registration fee on that vehicle.

Stolen Valor ActLegislation was approved this year to safeguard the identities of Tennessee veterans who serve the state and nation by cracking down on instances of theft and fraud involving those who attempt to imitate them. The Stolen Valor Act creates a Class A misdemeanor for anyone who impersonates a veteran or individuals who fraudulently represent their service with the intent of obtaining money, property, services, or any other tangible benefits.

Veteran Input on Boards — Two bills were approved during the 2018 legislative session to ensure veteran input on boards that oversee important services to military men and women. One measure calls on the governor to appoint veterans to Tennessee’s university and community college systems. The state has numerous veteran programs including the Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Program which allocates resources for veterans’ successful transition from military service to college enrollment. The second bill ensures that at least one military veteran is placed on the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ Statewide Planning and Policy Council, which among other duties, oversees treatment services to veterans.

Veterans Seeking Public Office – Certain veterans seeking public office could benefit under two new laws adopted this year. One prohibits political parties from disqualifying an honorably discharged veteran or active duty guardsman in good standing as a candidate for any elected office based on the number of times he or she voted preceding the election. This would ensure that those who have difficulties meeting qualifications of voting in consecutive elections due to service overseas would not be disqualified. The second measure allows a veteran who has been called up for active military service during their elected term of office on a city council, to continue as a council member for up to 13 months via a two-way electronic audio-video communication.

Military Families — A bill was passed this year raising the amount of sick leave that may be used (after paid leave is exhausted) by an educator who is a reserve member of the United States armed forces when called into active duty to bridge any gap in pay that might occur. Military families are also the impetus behind the passage of legislation which allows a surviving spouse of a National Guard member to be issued a National Guard license plate until he or she remarries as many want to remember their loved one through renewal of the tag.

Veteran Memorials — Three bills were approved this year to help ensure our soldiers are not forgotten. This includes a new law calling for a POW/MIA Chair of Honor Memorial to be placed on Tennessee’s Capitol campus. The Chair of Honor Memorial will be placed at a suitable location if the costs are provided by private funds. A Chair of Honor is a very simple yet powerful memorial which generally includes a single back chair with the POW/MIA logo on it which is then flanked by the American Flag and the POW/MIA Flag. Another new law honoring veterans directs TDOT to erect signs acknowledging each branch of the United States armed forces along State Route 62 as “Veterans Memorial Mile” in Knox County. The third bill provides an exemption from certain property taxes for the Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga. The center, which plans to open in 2020, teaches about the six character traits all Medal of Honor recipients share, which are courage, commitment, sacrifice, patriotism, integrity, and citizenship.

Finally, a new law was approved this year that prohibits local governments from adopting or enforcing regulations that ban or restrict the display of flags of the U.S., Tennessee, POW/MIA or those representing any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Signing the adjournment resolution on the last day to adjourn the 110th General Assembly

Signing the adjournment resolution on the last day to adjourn the 110th General Assembly

General Assembly approves legislation during the 2018 session to strengthen the integrity of Tennessee’s assistance programs

Welfare reform was on the 2018 legislative agenda this year as a major legislation was approved strengthening the integrity of Tennessee’s temporary assistance programs for needy families. The new law is designed to reduce fraud and abuse, incentivize work, and encourage self-sufficiency. It calls for Tennessee to join a multi-state cooperative to identify dual recipient participation in the state’s programs and improves fraud investigation, including the trafficking of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card replacements. It also encourages family stabilization by linking the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) maximum benefit to the current standard of need in Tennessee, as well as offering transitional benefits in order to provide an incentive to get enrollees back to work.

Another meaningful reform bill passed this year encourages self-sufficiency for those receiving TennCare. The legislation directs TennCare to apply for a Medicaid waiver from the federal government to require enrollees who are able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 64 and don’t have children under the age of 6 to work, volunteer, or further their education. The legislation does not set policy; rather it directs TennCare to negotiate with the federal government. The waiver request must meet the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines, which means that per CMS policy, it would not apply to individuals with disabilities, elderly beneficiaries, children and pregnant women, as well as those who are caregivers or are undergoing job training or education, among other categories.

Encouraging Self Sufficiency by Removing Barriers to Licensing – The Tennessee General Assembly approved key legislation this year which encourages self-sufficiency for low-income individuals by waiving the initial license fee for trade professions which can be a barrier for entry. Low income is defined under the bill as someone who is enrolled in a state or federal public assistance program, including but not limited to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Bills approved during recently-adjourned legislative session remove unnecessary barriers to entry into the workforce in Tennessee

Legislative action taken this year continues the General Assembly’s multi-year effort to address a rising tide of government licensing requirements by removing unnecessary barriers to entry into the workforce in Tennessee. In 1950, just one in 20 American workers were required to have a license or certificate in order to obtain a job, as compared to 30 percent who need it to earn a living today. Action taken this year includes passage of a key bill that helps to ensure Tennessee’s occupational licensing does not keep offenders who have served their time in prison from obtaining employment and getting a fresh start in life. The state requires a license for about 110 different jobs, many of which impact “blue collar” workers. The Fresh Start Act reduces barriers to entering a profession by only allowing a state licensing board to deny licenses for past crimes that are directly related to the job sought, excluding certain felonies.

Legislation was approved this year aiding workers seeking to enter Tennessee’s workforce through a licensed profession by establishing an apprenticeship program. The program affects professions regulated by the Division of Regulatory Boards of the Department of Commerce and Insurance by requiring certain licensing authorities to issue licenses to those who complete apprenticeship programs. Both the employer and the employee benefit from this job creation measure which makes it easier for the employee to obtain “hands-on” learning” to get their licenses.

These bills build on measures passed last year to relieve excessive regulations on the right of an individual to pursue a chosen business or profession when it does not directly pertain to the health, safety and welfare of the general public. It also included passage of the Freedom to Prosper Act which prohibits local entities from imposing fees on occupations that go beyond the state’s requirements, except those associated with first responders and emergency service providers. All of these new statutes follow the Right to Earn a Living Act adopted in 2016 which compelled various licensing authorities to review their entry regulations in various occupations to help remove unnecessary restrictions and demands.

Conferring with Senate colleagues on the last day of session.

Conferring with Senate colleagues on the last day of session.

Wide variety of bills seek to improve life for Tennesseans

A wide variety of other bills passed by the General Assembly seeking to improve life for Tennesseans winds up this series of three articles on the 2018 legislative session. The legislation includes:

  • A consumer bill which addresses the growing problem of websites that use deceptive names and trademarks posing as places of entertainment and entertainers, in order to confuse consumers into buying tickets at a considerably higher price;
  • Legislation to repeal and replace emissions testing for Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson Counties where the test is still required prior to vehicle registration or renewal;
  • A measure that changes the focus of a parent’s relocation to the best interest of the child in cases of divorce;
  • A law directing the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to conduct a study examining the overall effects of creating a grant or loan program for food relief enterprises who sell fresh food in low-income and underserved areas of Tennessee;
  • Two bills to help firefighters, with one exempting volunteer firefighters or rescue squad members from having to pay the regular registration fee for their license plate and the other calling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) counseling for EMS or professional firefighters;
  • A bill protecting landowners by allowing local governments to regulate the wind energy industry in Tennessee; and,
  • Legislation that creates a “free-use area” in state forests where Tennessee residents are allowed to remove downed and dead timber under certain conditions.

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Norris News – May 4, 2018

End of session press conference with House Leader Glen Casada, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Governor Haslam, and Lt. Governor Randy McNally.

End of session press conference with House Leader Glen Casada, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Governor Haslam, and Lt. Governor Randy McNally.

Second in a three-part series on the recently-adjourned legislative session reviews actions taken on crime and the courts

The 2018 legislative session of the 110th General Assembly concluded on April 25 headlined by passage of the state budget and legislation to curb opiate abuse, increase job opportunities, enhance education, and protect students and teachers. In this second in a series of three articles regarding key action taken during the recently adjourned session, we will look at legislation approved this year to fight crime, reform Tennessee courts, attack human trafficking, reduce domestic violence and keep firearms from getting into the hands of persons with mental illness.

Juvenile Justice Reform – Among major actions taken by the General Assembly this year was juvenile justice reform legislation which aims to strengthen families and communities in Tennessee, while promoting public safety and providing a more effective use of the state’s limited resources. Misdemeanor offenses, unruly offenses and technical violations make up nearly half of youth in costly out-of-home placements, and many youth in Tennessee are being confined for minor offenses or conduct that would not be crimes for adults. Studies have shown that taking these juveniles out of their homes for minor offenses increases their risk for recidivism and the likelihood that they will enter into the adult criminal justice system. The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 balances judicial discretion with new guardrails on placing children in out-of-home custody, brings needed investment in treatment and other services, and ensures individualized case planning, among other improvements.

Major legislation was also approved which addresses local jails sending prisoners held for safekeeping to state custody when they think they do not have adequate facilities to house them. The bill calls for judicial review every 30 days for juveniles beginning immediately upon passage, and beginning January 1 for adults. The measure makes it clear that when the jail of a county is insufficient for the safekeeping of a juvenile that he or she can be transferred to the nearest sufficient juvenile detention facility, but removal to the state penitentiary or a branch prison for this purpose is prohibited.

Another bill passed by the General Assembly this year allows Basic Education Program (BEP) funds to “follow the child” when a youth has been ordered by a juvenile court to attend a “state approved” non-public school in their recovery program. Approximately 90 percent of students discharged from these successful prevention and early intervention centers remain out of juvenile court after completion of their program.

Reducing Recidivism – Several bills designed to reduce recidivism were approved by the General Assembly during the 2018 legislative session. This includes implementation of an innovative pilot program to provide grants to local county sheriffs or probation departments that are successful in reducing recidivism. Each year, about 5,000 Tennesseans leave Tennessee prisons after serving time for crimes they have committed, with approximately 46 percent incarcerated again within three years. The program authorized under the legislation will help identify and formulate better policies to make Tennessee’s communities safer that can be scaled throughout the state.

Another measure aiming to reduce recidivism helps ensure that Tennessee’s occupational licensing system does not keep offenders who have served their rime in jail from obtaining employment and getting a fresh start in life. The bill reduces occupational barriers when past crimes are not directly related to the job sought, excluding certain felonies, to help them become productive tax-paying citizens.

A separate bill passed by the General Assembly expands a successful Knox County program which gives indigent defendants an alternative method of paying back their court and litigation taxes in favor of community service. 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.

It was my honor to preside over the Senate session during the final week of the 110th General Assembly.

It was my honor to preside over the Senate session during the final week of the 110th General Assembly.

Human Trafficking – Legislation was approved this year that builds on the General Assembly’s ongoing efforts to attack the problem of human trafficking in Tennessee. State lawmakers have approved a series of bills over the past seven years addressing the problem after a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report showed 73 of the state’s 95 counties have reported the crime within their borders. As a result of these legislative efforts, Tennessee was voted the best in the nation last year for its laws intended to prevent child sex trafficking. Among bills approved this year is a measure which makes promoting prostitution punishable as trafficking for a commercial sex act when the victim has an intellectual disability. Another bill approved by lawmakers creates a path for juvenile victims of human trafficking to have their records expunged in order to clear their record and move forward with their lives as productive citizens.

Legislation also passed which protects the records of trafficking victims who seek treatment from service providers during their recovery process.

Domestic Violence – The General Assembly took action this year to protect victims of domestic violence, which, like efforts to combat human trafficking, builds on a multi-year effort to help curb the crime. This includes legislation which protects victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, stalking and other crimes from being located by an abuser through public records searches. The Safe at Home program provides victims with a government-managed substitute address for both themselves and their children, which can then be used to obtain a driver’s license, register to vote and complete most other government forms without disclosing the participant’s home address.

Similarly, a separate measure was approved that allows victims of domestic abuse to petition the court to keep the wireless telephone number used primarily by them or their children. Current law provides no mechanism for victims of domestic violence to alter a shared family plan wireless telephone contract when the abuser is the primary account holder and refuses to release the number.

To further keep victims of domestic violence safe, a new law approved during the 2018 legislative session improves upon the Public Safety Act of 2016 by imposing bond conditions on offenders designed to protect domestic violence victims. Another new law passed this year clarifies firearms notification and dispossession for offenders convicted of a misdemeanor domestic assault pursuant to federal and state law, further strengthening last year’s law providing protection for victims. Finally, domestic violence legislation was approved that expands the grounds for termination of parental or guardianship rights to include a parent’s conviction of attempted murder or being found civilly liable for attempting to cause the intentional and wrongful death of the child’s other parent or guardian.

In other bills aiding crime victims, state lawmakers voted to create a new class C felony offense for especially aggravated stalking where an adult defendant is stalking a child who is 12 years of age or less.

Sexual Offenders – Several bills were approved this year strengthening Tennessee’s law against sex offenders, including one prohibiting a person charged with incest from participating in judicial diversion. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their perpetrator, with 34 percent of the offenders being family members. Another measure passed this year strengthening the state’s sex offender laws creates an exception to the heresay rule in criminal proceeding regarding statements made by young children relative to sexual and physical abuse. It applies to non-testimonial statements made by children under the age of 12 and would be admissible under the ruling of a judge who reviews them in a separate hearing utilizing certain guidelines listed in the legislation to help guarantee trustworthiness.Lawmakers also voted to ensure sex offenders convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child are listed on the Sex Offender Registry as a violent offender.

Among bills aiming to prevent child sexual abuse is a new law requiring family life education to include age-appropriate instruction on the detection, intervention, prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse. It also allows educators who provide instruction related to child sex abuse to teach without fear of being sued. Another new prevention statute passed this year protects children on Home Owner Association (HOA) playgrounds from sex offenders by placing the sexual offender restriction applied to public playgrounds within 1,000 feet. Finally, a bill passed this year instructs the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to conduct a study and report back next year on the effectiveness of the state’s statutes of limitations, including crimes involving sexual offenses against children. According to the National Center for Victims Rights, most states have a basic suspension of the statute of limitations for civil actions while a person is a minor.

Our "class picture." The Senate of the 110th General Assembly.

Our “class picture.” The Senate of the 110th General Assembly.

Firearm Safety / Mental Health Reporting – Two major bills were approved this year to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who are mentally ill. The first measure requires acute care hospitals to report involuntary commitments in their psychiatric units to law enforcement so that they can be a part of the record used in the verification process for the purchase of firearms. This legislation closes the gap in current law, which already requires mental health hospitals to report these commitments, to ensure existing gun laws are properly enforced.

The second bill creates greater cooperation between the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and local authorities in order to prevent those with mental health issues from purchasing firearms. The legislation requires the TBI to notify local law enforcement within 24 hours when they properly identify an individual as having a mental disorder in the NICS ‘Mental Defectives’ Database has attempted to purchase a firearm. The bill also adds new identifying information to the reporting requirements of sheriffs, court clerks, and hospitals to ensure individuals who are adjudicated mentally defective are readily identified.

NEXT WEEK: Next week we will look at welfare reform initiatives, legislation to make government more accountable to taxpayers and less burdensome on the rights of Tennesseans to earn a living, as well as measures passed this year to aid veterans.

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Senator Mark Norris - Proudly Endorsed by the National Rifle Association

 

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