Norris News – March 23, 2018

On March 23, 2018, in News from Nashville 2018, by Mark Norris
The tomb of President James K. Polk and his wife, Sarah, is located on the Capitol grounds. Polk is the only president buried on the grounds of a state capitol. According to his will, the president wished to be buried at his home in Nashville. When the home was torn down for development, the Polks were moved to the capitol. For the past two years there have been bills before the general assembly to remove the Polks and reinter them at his childhood home in Columbia. To date, those bills have been unsuccessful.

The tomb of President James K. Polk and his wife, Sarah, is located on the Capitol grounds. Polk is the only president buried on the grounds of a state capitol. According to his will, the president wished to be buried at his home in Nashville. When the home was torn down for development, the Polks were moved to the capitol. For the past two years there have been bills before the general assembly to remove the Polks and reinter them at his childhood home in Columbia. To date, those bills have been unsuccessful.

State budget, school safety and juvenile justice headline Capitol Hill Week

School safety and the state budget headlined action on Capitol Hill this week as Governor Bill Haslam presented an amendment to his fiscal year 2018-2019 spending plan. The new proposal includes $25 million in nonrecurring and $5.2 million in recurring school safety grants to protect students. The action comes as members of a School Safety Working Group, appointed earlier this month to review school safety plans in Tennessee, are finalizing recommendations to enhance security for students.

The supplemental appropriations amendment is customarily introduced by the governor in the final weeks of the legislative session to make adjustments to the budget he submitted earlier in the year. The new amendment, which includes $74 million in nonrecurring funds and $9.8 million in recurring funds, also provides:

  • $4.5 million in recurring dollars to fund juvenile justice reform legislation;
  • $3 million in nonrecurring funds for grants to help school districts purchase school buses equipped with seat belts;
  • $1.2 million in recurring funds and $420,000 in non-recurring funds for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) research to help children with chronic trauma;
  • $3.2 million in recurring funds to adjust the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) provider rate for those who care for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens;
  • An additional $1 million in recurring funds to provide mental health treatment and recovery services as part of TN Together to curb the opioid crisis in Tennessee;
  • $2 million in nonrecurring funds for an addiction services research program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in support of TN Together
The cupola of the Capitol was replaced this week with a new flagpole. It had been removed last fall to be repaired and refinished. The scaffolding will remain while repairs are made to the interior.

The cupola of the Capitol was replaced this week with a new flagpole. It had been removed last fall to be repaired and refinished. The scaffolding will remain while repairs are made to the interior.

Legislation calling for juvenile justice reform in Tennessee is approved in Senate Judiciary Committee

Legislation to enact juvenile justice reform in Tennessee was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Senate Bill 2261, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), aims to begin needed reforms to strengthen families and communities in Tennessee, while promoting public safety and ensuring responsible and more effective use of the state’s limited resources.

“The system now doles out justice by geography,” said Senator Norris, who chaired the state’s Joint Ad-hoc Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice which did an in-depth study of the matter. “There are some inequalities based on where a child might live. Courts may not have much choice in what to do with an unruly youth, particularly in our rural communities. We have tried to address those disparities, not the least of which is racial disparity.” African American youth have a greater representation at each stage when compared to the general youth population.

Due to a lack of community-based services, many youth in Tennessee are being confined for minor offenses or conduct that would not be crimes for adults. In addition, minor violations of supervision conditions have resulted in youth returning to the juvenile justice system. Misdemeanor offenses, unruly offenses and technical violations make up nearly half of youth in costly out-of-home placements.

Studies have shown that taking these juveniles out of their homes for minor offenses increases their risk for recidivism and the likelihood that they will enter into the adult criminal justice system. It also diverts the state’s limited resources away from youth who pose a risk to the community.

The legislation sets a presumptive maximum length for sentencing, which can be rebutted, of six months custody, unless the child needs more time to complete treatment or commits a new offense. It also sets a maximum term of probation of six months with extension permitted for treatment completion. Research demonstrates that shorter intensive custody more effectively reduces reoffending.

The legislation is boosted by the supplemental appropriation submitted by Governor Bill Haslam on Tuesday which funds the proposal. It now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee where it is scheduled for consideration on Tuesday.

As part of the renovation of the Cordell Hull Building was the construction of a new parking garage. A green space has been created on the top of the garage. Workers began laying sod in the park this week. Soon it will be ready for guests and employees to enjoy when the warm weather arrives.

As part of the renovation of the Cordell Hull Building was the construction of a new parking garage. A green space has been created on the top of the garage. Workers began laying sod in the park this week. Soon it will be ready for guests and employees to enjoy when the warm weather arrives.

Legislation supports work-based learning apprenticeships for students

Legislation was approved by the Senate Education Committee this week to support students who are involved in work-based learning apprenticeships. Senate Bill 1649, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Norris (R-Collierville), incentivizes employers to hire secondary education students in work-based learning programs by granting employers immunity from liability for actions relating to the students unless the employer acted willfully or with gross negligence. Under this legislation, employers may elect to provide worker’s compensation insurance, and the student’s local education agency would be required to maintain liability insurance to compensate the student for any injury not covered by the employer. It also authorizes employers to claim a $500 tax credit against franchise and excise tax liability.

“The bill does two things. It clarifies the liability framework for students who participate in work-based learning and creates a tax credit of $500 for employers who participate,” Senator Norris said. “When we first enacted LEAP, the Labor Education Alignment Program, several years ago, one of the great opportunities envisioned by that legislation was the opportunity for students to work, earn, and learn. That means that they could be gainfully employed, earn a wage, and, at the same time, get school credit for the work they were doing.”

Passed into law in 2013, the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) created a statewide, comprehensive structure enabling students in Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) and community colleges to participate in technical training developed with input from area employers. The program is designed to ensure colleges are producing graduates with the skills and credentials Tennessee employers actually need. Designed to eliminate the skills gap across the state, programs were established using data-driven proactive research to encourage collaboration between institutions of higher learning and employers.

Now in its second iteration, the LEAP program continues this effort by encouraging and facilitating the alignment of local workforce and education partners through a $10 million competitive grant process led by the Governor’s Workforce Subcabinet. These funds are available to local collaboratives through a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

“We’ve all made great progress in supporting work-based learning through that and a variety of other initiatives, but we’ve got a little glitch and that is that some prospective employers are worried about the liabilities that may attach if those students come on site,” Senator Norris said. “So, working with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, NFIB, and others, we’ve attempted to allay those concerns here and, also, to provide a little bit of incentive for those employers through the tax credit of $500.”

According to the Department of Education, the number of students enrolled in work-based learning program in fiscal year 2016-17 totaled 10,501. Under present law, students in colleges of applied technology may participate in work-based learning, which provides credit for work experiences such as internships, practicums, or clinicals. Work-based learning is incorporated into coursework or related to a specific field of study.

In Brief

UT Board / FOCUS Act — Legislation empowering the University of Tennessee (UT) Board of Trustees to operate more efficiently and effectively like the state’s other four-year universities was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. Senate Bill 2260, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), would reconstitute the board from 27 members to 11 who would serve staggered terms. The board members would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. An amendment added to the bill calls for at least five of the members to be UT alumni and that the governor should strive to appoint those members from different University of Tennessee institutions. The legislation also creates seven-member advisory boards at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Tennessee at Martin, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and UT Health Science Center. The advisory boards would submit recommendations regarding operating budgets, tuition and fees, strategic plans, campus life, academic programs and other matters related to the institution.

Adult Family Caregivers – On Monday, the full Senate adopted a House amendment and sent to the governor legislation to allow religious organizations or institutions to provide limited respite services for primary in-home caregivers of elderly or vulnerable adult family members. The programs for these caregivers are similar to “mother’s day out” programs for young children. Research has shown that caregivers need these breaks for a variety of reasons. It also provides socialization and different activities for those elderly or vulnerable adults participating. Senate Bill 1487, sponsored by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), would limit the program to no more than six hours per day or 12 hours per week. It also calls for registration of the program with the Department of Human Services. It is estimated that Tennessee will go from 970,000 elderly citizens to over 1.4 million in the next 15 years.

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Here are links to some recent articles I thought you’d appreciate:

Bill Haslam’s juvenile justice bill advances with broad support after tweaks from judges

https://tinyurl.com/y7pkaz8v

Compromise may mean limits on opioid prescriptions in Tennessee

https://tinyurl.com/y9umklmr

“The negotiation was to make a meaningful change in prescription practices without interfering with the discretion and the right to practice medicine,” Norris said after a Senate session Monday. “Not to be presumptuous, but I think the House is comfortable with it, and I think the prescribers are comfortable with it, so I think we’ve got a good compromise.”

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