Norris News – January 13, 2017

On January 13, 2017, in News from Nashville 2017, by Mark Norris

Senator Norris meets with lawyers regarding refugee lawsuit

This week while the General Assembly convened in legislative session, meetings were ongoing with the legal team hired by the state to pursue a lawsuit in accordance with Senate Joint Resolution 467. The legal team that was hired at no expense to the state traveled in from Michigan and North Carolina to discuss case details and strategy.

The group of legislators leading the legal team hope to have a complaint ready to file by the end of the month. More information can be found by in this Tennessean article. Click here to read more.

Taking my 5th Oath of Office on our family Bible.

Taking my 5th Oath of Office on our family Bible.

Legislators, Cabinet Members, Supreme Court Justices, Constitutional Officers and Attorney General pack meals for Tennessee Food Banks

Members of the Tennessee General Assembly, the Governor’s cabinet, the Supreme Court, and the state’s constitutional officers joined Senator Norris in the third annual “Campaign Against Hunger” event was sponsored by the General Assembly’s Nutrition Caucus in conjunction with Outreach, Inc.

The group of almost 300 from across state government packaged approximately 51,000 meals. The meals were distributed to the 5 regional food banks that collectively cover all of Tennessee’s 95 counties.

“You know, food insecurity, let’s call it what it is, hunger, is a problem in Tennessee just like every state, and it’s really unacceptable to us so we do what we can to help alleviate that. We provide funding each year for several food banks statewide but this gives some extra oompf,” said Senator Mark Norris.

You can see news coverage of the event by clicking here.

Packing food for Tennesseans in need with Lt. Gov. Randy McNally

Packing food for Tennesseans in need with Lt. Gov. Randy McNally

In Brief:

The 110th General Assembly has begun as state lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to take the oath of office, elect officers and organize the business of the 2017-2018 legislative sessions. The first order of business after the 16 newly-elected senators were sworn in was the election of Lt. Governor Randy McNally, who also serves as Speaker of the Senate. McNally, who is the second Republican Lt. Governor since reconstruction, follows Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey who did not seek re-election last fall.

Members of the Senate in prayer.

Members of the Senate in prayer.

The opening week of the 2017 legislative year was also marked by re-election of the state’s three constitutional officers, Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Treasurer David Lillard and Comptroller Justin Wilson. The state’s constitution provides that the legislature selects the officers in a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives during the organizational session of each General Assembly.

State Senate recognizes Human Trafficking Awareness Day

State Senators paused to recognize National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Wednesday and reflect on Tennessee’s continuing efforts to combat this growing crime. The recognition follows the arrest on Tuesday of 23 people in Bradley County in an operation targeting human-trafficking networks and prostitution.

The General Assembly has approved a series of bills over the past five 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. A follow up to the 2011 report was released in 2014 that shows sex trafficking of minors occurs in rural and urban areas of Tennessee and has an effect in both wealthy and poor households. It was also discovered that minors who come from impoverished households are especially vulnerable to victimization.

The legislature is expected to continue to address human trafficking in the 2017 legislative session.

Lawmakers also recognize victims and responders of Sevier County wildfires and children who died in Chattanooga school bus tragedy

In other action on the Senate floor this week, the State Senate paused to pray for the families of the six victims who were tragically killed in a school bus crash in Chattanooga in November.

Governor Haslam has called for a wide-ranging look at school bus safety, including how private transportation companies are selected and standards for drivers. Training for school bus drivers is another safety measure that could come under discussion during the 2017 legislative session.

In addition, the General Assembly unanimously adopted House Joint Resolution 23 recognizing the victims of the Sevier County wildfires and expressing appreciation to those who provided assistance.

Broadband — Access to broadband is expected to be an issue for the 2017 legislative session. Recent legislation calling for municipal utilities to provide fiber optic services beyond their current service area prompted a study by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) regarding the state’s access to broadband and the needs of citizens and businesses to those high speed Internet services. Their report will serve as the foundation for legislation this year. Of particular concern is providing broadband to underserved rural areas. One of the topics for consideration could be whether rural electric cooperatives should be allowed to provide Internet services in partnership with existing providers, including municipal electric utilities or private companies.

Juvenile Justice Reform — The General Assembly could tackle several criminal justice reform measures during the 2017 session, including proposals which come from the Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force on the most effective ways to deter juvenile crime. While Tennessee has made recent progress in reducing the number of incarcerated youth, the state still lags behind in other ways.

Criminal Justice Reform – Similarly, expect criminal justice reform measures to be debated this year which come from organizations looking to promote rehabilitation and re-entry for convicted offenders, a move they say will relieve overcrowding in local jails. Part of the proposal includes seeking education opportunities that will give offenders a stable career or the ability to learn specific vocations or trades. Another key proposal includes increasing the employability of those with criminal convictions by taking steps to help them keep or obtain driver’s licenses or state photo identifications.

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