Missouri News Horizon
July 12, 2011

One-third of Tennessee’s state’s lawmakers are planning a trip to Memphis this weekend to mingle with hundreds of legislators from other Southern states.
 
The Southern Legislative Conference, which is closed to the public, is chaired this year by Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris, of Collierville.
 
“It’s good for business, it’s good exposure, it’s great,” said Norris, who said the conference will bring an estimated $3 million financial boost. “From an economic development standpoint, selfishly speaking, it will be great for West Tennessee.”
 
The annual event is the 65th of its kind for the Southern Office of the Council of State Governments, which represents 15 states. The first meeting, according to Norris, was held in Memphis.
 
State lawmakers attend courtesy of state taxpayers who cover their $200 registration fee, a $176 daily per diem to cover meal and hotel expenses and 46-cents-per mile reimbursement to drive there.
 
Forty-five members of the Tennessee Legislature plan on attending the conference, which runs from Saturday to Wednesday. The list includes top Republicans like Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell, along with other high-ranking leaders like the top Democrat in the Senate, Jim Kyle, who hails from the Memphis area, and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner.
 
Michelle Rhee, a charter school advocate and former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools featured in the education reform documentary Waiting for ‘Superman’, is slated to lead a conference session titled “Putting Students First.” She is also the ex-wife of Tennessee’s Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, who took the job this spring.
 
Comptroller Justin Wilson is leading a session on the state’s debt management policies. Gov. Bill Haslam is also expected to attend.
 
While the conference is closed to the general public, it is open to the media and is usually attended by lobbyists, according to Norris.
 
Tennessee’s delegation is almost evenly split along party lines between the 29 representatives and 16 senators who signed up with legislative staff to attend the five-day conference. Here’s a list of Tennessee lawmakers planning to attend:
 
Senate
 Tim Barnes, D-Adams
 Mike Bell, R-Riceville
 Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill
 Lowe Finney, D-Jackson
 Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis
 Thelma Harper, D-Nashville
 Jack Johnson, R-Franklin
 Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro
 Jim Kyle, D-Memphis
 Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis
 Mark Norris, R-Collierville
 Doug Overbey, R-Maryville
 Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville
 Jim Summerville, R-Dickson
 Reginald Tate, D-Memphis
 Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville
 
House of Representatives
 Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville
 Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga
 Sheila Butt, R-Columbia
 Scotty Campbell, R-Mountain City
 Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis
 Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis
 Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson
 Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby
 Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap
 Mike Harrison, R-Rogersville
 Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville
 Sherry Jones, D-Nashville
 Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga
 Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads
 Don Miler, R-Morristown
 Larry Miller, D-Memphis
 Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville
 Gary Moore, D-Joelton
 Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington
 Antonio “2 Shay” Parkison, D-Memphis
 Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro
 Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis
 Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton
 Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville
 Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna
 Curry Todd, R-Collierville
 Joe Towns, D-Memphis
 Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory
 Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville

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