October 16, 2015

Motorcycle Rally for Veterans Event Tomorrow

Motorcycle Rally for Veterans Event Tomorrow

NASHVILLE — The West Tennessee Veterans Home proposed for construction in Shelby County will get a lift from patriotic bikers tomorrow, October 16, from hundreds who will rally to raise awareness and funds on a 30-mile ride from Collierville to Millington.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) will lead the pack on his Shadow as the rally departs for the Naval Air Station at Millington from Carriage Crossing in Collierville at 10:30AM tomorrow.

“We will show Washington how much we care for the 70,000 Veterans living in Shelby, Tipton and Fayette Counties who’ve earned our devotion to this cause,” said Norris. “We must show Nashville, too,” said Norris who oversaw funding by the General Assembly to acquire the land where the planned 148 bed facility will be built.

The State of Tennessee will fund about $10 million of the cost of construction once $15.2 million of private and local funds can be raised. Shelby County government has allocated $2 million. The Plough Foundation has pledged another $2 million, and some $2 million in additional private pledges and donations have been raised.

The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 18-6, a not-for-profit Veterans Association, will host the ride from Collierville to Millington tomorrow. As many as 500 motorcycles plan to participate.

Registration opens at Carriage Crossing in Collierville at 7AM. The ride will depart at 10:30AM.

“I appreciate the Combat Veterans and their service then and now,” said Norris.

LEAP grants aim to fill void in Tennessee workforce

LIVINGSTON — On a bright October morning in a small town about half an hour northeast of Cookeville, Bob Young pulled a student out of class at the local technical college for a job interview.

Young has come to depend on students from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Livingston to help out at his small business, which manufactures metal goods for the automotive industry. The students have interned there for a few years, and when there’s a job opening, they are the go-to candidates.

The impromptu meeting delighted government officials who were visiting the TCAT last week to celebrate its new mechatronics program, which Young helped develop. It’s one of several programs paid for by $10 million in state funding that is meant to fill a void of qualified workers that lawmakers, education leaders and industry officials say was frustrating Tennessee manufacturers while keeping other companies away from the Volunteer State.

That money went toward 12 Labor Education Alignment Program grants, which the state awarded last year to regional teams across Tennessee that included representatives from colleges, businesses and school systems. Many of the grants paid for mechatronics equipment that replicates the robotic fixtures of a modern assembly line.

Lillian Hartgrove with the Highlands Economic Partnership said local businesses had been complaining for about three years that potential employees lacked hands-on mechatronics experience.

“We kept hearing it, and we knew it was escalating for us,” she said. “But we didn’t have the money. We didn’t have the funding to be able to go forth and implement.”

State Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who sponsored the LEAP legislation in 2013, said he was motivated by similar complaints in West Tennessee. A Unilever plant in Covington initially had trouble filling positions with qualified workers. The company partnered with Dyersburg State Community College to create a curriculum that would pump more qualified workers into their pool.

That local model, Norris said, inspired the statewide approach. During an event celebrating Livingston’s LEAP grant, Russ Deaton, interim executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said employers throughout the state would soon reap the benefits.

“We recognize that there is a disconnect in our past, sometimes, between industry workforce needs and education,” Deaton said. “This is part of that solution. This is part of us solving that problem.”

Article first published in The Tennessean on October 12th.

Attending Governor's Economic Development Conference with Jean Majeau, VP Kruger inc., Susan Maynor, Greater Memphis Chamber, and Gwen Fischer, Regional Dir. of TN Department of Economic and Community Development

Attending Governor’s Economic Development Conference with Jean Majeau, VP Kruger inc., Susan Maynor, Greater Memphis Chamber, and Gwen Fischer, Regional Dir. of TN Department of Economic and Community Development

Broadband in Tennessee Topic of TACIR Meeting
Study to facilitate internet access initiated by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) will hear from a panel of broadband providers, users and others regarding broadband development and deployment in Tennessee as part of a study now underway. The study was initiated by TACIR Chairman and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).

The meeting will take place on October 21 at 1:00 pm CST in Room 30 of the Legislative Plaza.

“This is an important undertaking,” said Leader Norris. “Internet access, and the broadband we need to provide it, is critical to commerce and quality of life, especially in our rural communities. In addition to the general public’s need for reliable access, broadband is essential to the state’s education and economic development efforts. We hope this study will help to provide a clear path forward to increase reliable access statewide.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband as “high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access.” High-speed transmission technologies associated with broadband include digital subscriber line (DSL), cable modem, fiber, wireless, satellite, and broadband over power lines (BPL). Norris said the study includes the extent and quality of coverage, factors that affect the cost of deploying broadband, tax policy, and barriers to expansion by public and private providers, including pole attachment rates and governmental requirements by public and private providers. It will also encompass best practices by other states to provide broadband services.

Two panels, one representing the interests of broadband providers and the other representing the interests of users and the broader community will present information to members of TACIR. Those speaking on behalf of broadband providers are Levoy Knowles, Executive Director of the Tennessee Telecommunications Association; Joelle Phillips, President of AT&T, Tennessee; Ken Webb, President and CEO of Cleveland Utilities; Ben Lovins, Senior Vice President, Telecommunications Division of the Jackson Energy Authority; as well as representatives from the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association.

Speaking on behalf of the communities and broadband users are Amy New, Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; Sgt. Ehrin Ehlert with the Tennessee Highway Patrol; and Marshall Ramsey, President of the Morristown Chamber of Commerce; as well as representatives from the Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Farm Bureau.

Industry and government reports rank Tennessee near the middle of the 50 states in broadband availability.

“Internet access is no longer a luxury,” added Norris. “In addition to being fundamental to the economic growth of our state, broadband access is important in providing more educational opportunities, better job training and advanced telemedicine. I look forward to a healthy exchange of ideas.”

The TACIR report is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Co-Executive Producer Joe Lazarov with me on the set of "Still the King." Television, film and music production is big business in Tennessee. We encourage and enable production here. CMT's new Tennessee-based TV series, "Still the King," with Billy Ray Cyrus is now filming in Goodlettsville. 90% of the vendors and crew are Tennesseans. Visited the set this week.

Co-Executive Producer Joe Lazarov with me on the set of “Still the King.” Television, film and music production is big business in Tennessee. We encourage and enable production here. CMT’s new Tennessee-based TV series, “Still the King,” with Billy Ray Cyrus is now filming
in Goodlettsville. 90% of the vendors and crew are Tennesseans. Visited the set this week.

Norris to Speak at Multi-City Summit Grappling with Rape Kit Backlogs

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) will speak at the second annual Sexual Assault Kit Summit in Memphis on Monday, October 19. He will address a gathering of law enforcement and other officials from across the U.S. regarding progress in processing sexual assault kit evidence in communities with backlogs.

The 2015 Sexual Assault Kit Summit is hosted by the Memphis Sexual Assault Task Force. The first summit, in which Norris also participated, was held in Cleveland, Ohio last year.

“I am pleased to see us coming together again to share information about our progress and what can be done better going forward” said Sen. Norris.

“DNA evidence has revolutionized the way we apprehend and prosecute not only rape cases but many crimes. We have made major progress in the last two years so justice can be served, but we have much more work to do.”

Norris was instrumental in securing recent grant funding for the State of Tennessee and City of Memphis to reduce the number of untested kits in Tennessee. He sponsored major legislation in 2014 to require all local law enforcement agencies to inventory back-logged rape kits across the state. He also sponsored legislation this year establishing procedures for the collection and storage of rape kits and requiring law enforcement agencies to submit kits to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) for testing within 60 days. That law also directs the Domestic Violence State Coordinating Council to develop a model policy for law enforcement agencies to respond to reports of sexual assault and requires law enforcement agencies to adopt a written policy on responding to reports of sexual assaults.

“DNA evidence is not only helpful in identifying perpetrators in unsolved cases, but also prevents future assaults by prosecuting rapists early in their criminal careers,” Norris added. “It is very effective in getting these criminals off the streets.”

Norris will also provide testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday regarding juvenile justice. As Chairman of the Council of State Governments, he initiated a first-of-its-kind study that drew an unprecedented dataset of 1.3 million individual case records spanning eight years, showing youth incarcerated in state-run facilities are 21 percent more likely to be rearrested than those that remain under supervision closer to home. Norris will be talking about the study and what Tennessee can do to reduce recidivism among juvenile offenders.

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