Norris News – June 14, 2017

On June 14, 2017, in News from Nashville 2017, by Mark Norris

Happy Flag Day


Mark Norris

America’s freedom deserves continued celebration
We must rededicate ourselves to the cause of freedom and the knowledge required to appreciate and sustain it.

Flag Day, June 14, marks the celebration of the 240th year of our national symbol. Under various congressional resolutions, the people of the United States have been called upon this June “to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days from Flag Day … (June 14) through Independence Day … as a time to honor America, to celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.”

While there may be too much ignorance of our rich history to fully appreciate it in some quarters, many of us in state government are working hard to assure that future generations will not forget the freedoms and ideals for which our forebears have fought and often sacrificed their lives.

During the 109th General Assembly, I proudly sponsored the new law requiring threshold proficiency in basic citizenship as a prerequisite to graduation. This, in turn, supplements the 2012 requirements I championed to assure that civics is taught and assessed in our elementary and middle schools.

Every day is Flag Day in Tennessee thanks to Public Chapter 841, which I proudly co-sponsored in 2002 with Senators Rusty Crowe, Randy McNally and Mae Beavers (who served in the House at that time), requiring, among other things, that the pledge be a part of the daily school schedule and that students learn it and demonstrate their knowledge of it. Local organizations are encouraged to provide flags for classrooms.

The Tennessee Supreme Court received a national recognition for its SCALES Project (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students), which has educated more than 25,000 high school students about the judicial branch of government through interactive experience involving actual cases before the court.

The secretary of state’s office also has a program to foster the teaching of civics, and the Tennessee Historical Society organizes History Day, in which hundreds of students compete as part of National History Day each year.

The General Assembly also helps fund the publication of history books that are available to teachers for use in supplementing the teaching of Tennessee history.

Let us mark the beginning of the next two centuries of freedom by honoring the beginning of Old Glory’s 240th anniversary all year long.

Let’s do that by assuring that our classrooms are sufficiently adorned with American flags and equipped with materials and the means appropriate to patriotic education.

Let’s work to better coordinate the civics, history and good government programs already underway to assure that we leverage them in meaningful ways, and adequately fund them to support our schools and teachers with the right resources to get the job done.

I’m committed to working with my colleagues in the Senate and the House to make sure we do these things. We’ve contacted each school in my district to determine that they have what they need, starting with an American flag in every classroom. So far this year we’ve provided over 50 flags to classrooms in Shelby and Tipton counties.

These are troubled times in which we live. Now, more than ever, we must rededicate ourselves to the cause of freedom and the knowledge required to appreciate and sustain it. With your encouragement and support, we will.

Here’s to Old Glory’s 240th!

Flags for Freedom event at Collierville High School

Flags for Freedom event at Collierville High School

Norris appointed to lead Tennessee Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) has been appointed to co-chair Tennessee’s new Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force that will undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s juvenile justice system. The announcement regarding the formation of the task force, which is comprised of top leaders from all three branches of Tennessee government, was made by Lt. Governor Randy McNally and Speaker Beth Harwell today. Harwell will co-chair the panel with Norris.

The 19-member group is charged with developing evidence-based policy recommendations that will lead to potential legislative action this year to protect public safety, hold offenders accountable and contain costs, while improving outcomes. It includes Governor Bill Haslam or his representative, several juvenile court judges, public defenders, attorney generals, lawmakers, commissioners of the Department of Children’s Services, Education and the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and other key stakeholders.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to get juvenile offenders back on track for success, while holding them accountable for their actions and protecting the public,” said Norris, who served last year on the state’s Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force. “This task force is a significant opportunity for us to examine fact- and evidence-based data to reform our system to achieve all of these goals.”

Norris sponsored and co-sponsored legislation recommended by the Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force during the recently-adjourned session. This includes legislation providing juveniles with new educational opportunities to place them on a path to success, rather than a life of crime, and new laws to scale back court practices which are overly punitive, while balancing the need for public safety.

The new Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice is expected to hold monthly meetings with recommendations following by the end of the year, in time for the 2018 regular session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Norris applauds upward movement of Tennessee’s status on child well-being

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) called the announcement that Tennessee has climbed three places in the national ranking for child well-being “a significant step in the right direction.” Norris made the statement after the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 KIDS COUNT® released their report showing the state has moved from 38th to 35th.

“This is the first improvement that has been recognized since we publicly declared in 2015 an all-out war on this unacceptable ranking,” said Sen. Norris. “A lot of work has been done to move the needle forward. Although 35th is still unacceptable, the improvement recognized this year is a significant step in the right direction in making a major difference in the lives of Tennessee children.”

Norris has led several initiatives aimed at education, workforce development, nutrition and juvenile justice. As sponsor of the appropriations bill, he pushed for state funding for food banks, community health centers and residential adolescent drug treatment programs across the state. This includes a $2.5 million grant to the Memphis Research Consortium this year focusing on children’s health and well-being and funds to create the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth at the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences.

As Chairman of the Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force, he has worked to reform the state’s juvenile justice system, especially as it affects outcomes for non-violent offenders who deserve a second chance. Last week, Norris was appointed to chair a newly formed Blue Ribbon Task Force which will work with the Pew Foundation to analyze and recommend additional reforms.

He also spearheaded funding for the state’s Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE’s) study which has already been used to implement public policy changes to help children who have chronic childhood trauma live a happy and productive life. He sponsored the initiative to provide $2 million in grants for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) work in communities across the state through the Department of Children’s Services.

“The factors young children are exposed to, like abuse and neglect, have a significant neurological impact on their long-term development,” said Norris. “This study has shed light on the problems we face as adverse childhood experiences increase the odds for later difficulties, including the chances that they will enter the juvenile justice system. This study has given us more information about what we need to do to help these children get a better start in life and divert those most affected from a lifetime of crime.”

This year Norris co-sponsored legislation, based on the ACE’s study, which establishes a Zero to Three Initiative Court. The primary goal of the Zero to Three Initiative is to reduce the time of permanency of children in at-risk environments by surrounding families of children age 36 months or younger with support services, whether it is returning them to parents, living with relatives or getting them ready for adoption.

He also co-sponsored legislation implementing an innovative truancy intervention program for students in K-12 schools. Truancy is the most frequent reason given for schools referring juveniles to court.

“If we can get at the root causes of some of these issues and maybe intervene before it’s too late with the next generation, we can make sure we have a next generation,” he said

In workforce training, Norris helped win legislative approval of the governor’s proposal for increased funding for the state’s colleges of applied technology, which teach technical skills for the workplace matching them to local job needs. He also sponsored the Tennessee Promise program and the Reconnect Program, last-dollar scholarship programs which give all Tennesseans an opportunity to receive a degree or post-secondary credential tuition-free.

“The Annie E. Casey report reminds me of the canary in the coal mine. Our children’s well-being and our ability to nurture it is a harbinger. We can rise to this challenge just as we’ve done in other ways in the past. We are doing better in Tennessee, but we must do better still,” Norris concluded.

Senator Norris on “Live at 9” discussing Juvenile Justice

Senator Norris on “Live at 9” discussing Juvenile Justice

Elderly Abuse / Financial Exploitation / Classification Higher – Public Chapter 466 was signed by the Governor on May 25. The “Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act” creates a new offense for financial exploitation, which is graded as theft but punished one classification higher. Approximately one in five seniors has been a victim of financial exploitation at a cost of approximately $2.9 billion annually.

Elderly Abuse / Financial Exploitation / Securities – Public Chapter 424 was signed by the Governor on May 18. The Senior Financial Protection and Securities Modernization Act provides a pathway for voluntary reporting by giving civil and administrative immunity to broker-dealers, investment advisers, agents, representatives and other qualified individuals for reporting the suspected abuse or exploitation. It allows those individuals to delay disbursements for a certain number of days if financial abuse or exploitation is suspected and authorizes notification to third parties previously designated by the elderly or vulnerable adult regarding any suspected fraudulent transactions. It also gives the Commissioner authority, under the state’s Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, to double current civil penalties against offender who victimize a vulnerable or senior adult.

Elderly Abuse / Financial Exploitation / Financial Institutions – Public Chapter 264 was signed by the Governor on May 12. Adds tools and greater flexibility as to how financial institutions can best protect their customers when they have reason to suspect financial exploitation of elderly or vulnerable adults is occurring or being attempted. It provides new authority for financial institutions to delay or refuse to conduct transactions which permit the disbursement of funds from the account of an elderly customer or vulnerable adult when exploitation is suspected.

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