Legislature reconvenes Tuesday

On January 4, 2012, in News 2012, by Mark Norris

By Cynthia Bullion, SuburbanCommunityNews.com
January 4, 2012

When the 107th General Assembly reconvenes Tuesday, the state’s finances, redistricting and plans for spurning business will be atop legislators’ To Do list.

“Really job one is the budget and the economy,” said Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). “And, approving new district lines will also be one of the first orders of business.”

Norris said Tennessee is sitting well going into the budget process, as it is one of the lowest debt states in the country and in the first four months of the 2012 fiscal year saw general fund revenues of $69.5 million more than budgeted.

He added, however, the overall economic picture for Tennessee will require continued attention in order improve.

“One of the challenges we’re facing in the state is workforce development issues,” Norris said. “We may have a new business opportunity and we’re short on the skilled workforce it takes to support that.”

The senator said he has faith recently created Regional Entrepreneurial Accelerators across the state and a Medical Device Council through the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce – which is also lobbying for a multi-million dollar Tennessee Life Science Center – will do well in promoting start-up business and attracting more medical technology and research companies.

But, ideas for preparing workers to fills resulting positions still must be sorted through.

“What’s at stake for Shelby County in the economic recovery is to build on the momentum we’ve started,” Norris said, noting he has recently fielded three calls from companies concerned about finding qualified employees if they were to expand tomorrow.

Some of his suggestions, which he plans to share with fellow legislators in coming weeks, include opening the door with tech development centers and schools that could carve out programs tailored to local needs.

Norris said he also plans to introduce his Educate and Employ Bill encouraging more businesses to offer tuition reimbursement to employees. The bill would allow businesses to claim up to a certain amount as expense on federal and state tax returns, rather than solely on federal tax returns as currently allowed.

In redistricting matters, Norris’ aims is to simplify representation so cities are not split into multiple districts. The Bartlett area, for example, currently is served by three senators and two representatives.

“It would be ideal to have one (legislator) for the House and Senate in each city,” he said. “But you have to balance population with race and other voting rights issues, so sometimes there’s just no way to do it.”

Based on 2010 Census results, Shelby County will likely lose one of its six Senate seats and could lose two seats in the House.

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