Norris News – April 6, 2018

On April 6, 2018, in News from Nashville 2018, by Mark Norris
Designed and cast by William Kaye at the Kaye Foundry in Louisville, the bell was housed in the bell tower’s spire until 1924 when it was moved to the bell tower itself. It was recovered from the tower in 2016 for protection and restoration.

Designed and cast by William Kaye at the Kaye Foundry in Louisville, the bell was housed in the bell tower’s spire until 1924 when it was moved to the bell tower itself. It was recovered from the tower in 2016 for protection and restoration.

I photographed this bell during a visit to Clayborn Temple in February. This week, on April 4 at 6:01 PM (the time of his assassination), it was rung 39 times during the Martin Luther King memorial service I attended at the National Civil Rights Museum this week. Dr. King was only 39 years of age when he was assassinated. We are working to support the restoration of Clayborn Temple, a National Historic Landmark.

Lawmakers Remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Senate observed the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Wednesday morning at the beginning of the legislative session. Afterward, the General Assembly adjourned so that members could travel to Memphis for the ‘Day of Remembrance’ program. Below are excerpts from the Senate’s proceedings.

Terri Freeman, President of the National Civil Rights Museum and Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel and Board Member of the Museum, presiding at the Day of Remembrance on Wednesday.

Terri Freeman, President of the National Civil Rights Museum and Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel and Board Member of the Museum, presiding at the Day of Remembrance on Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, (D-Memphis), “Today marks the 50th anniversary of that fateful day when Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. Dr. King was one of our country’s most famous proponents of equality. Dr. King was a person willing to stand up and ultimately die for what his conscience demanded.”

MLK50 105 HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) Legacy Voices. The choir performed multiple times throughout the Day of Remembrance.

MLK50 105 HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) Legacy Voices. The choir performed multiple times throughout the Day of Remembrance.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) remarked, “I noticed the flags are appropriately at half-staff here in the capitol, and we appreciate that. Too often, I think people feel that this is a Memphis thing. Obviously we know that is not the case. It’s an international thing. But, folks should appreciate the fact that many parts of this state were active participants in the civil rights movement and in making history along that trail. In fact, we now have a civil rights trail across the state in cooperation with the federal government who designated 10 spots across the state. I was interested to learn that more of them are here in Middle Tennessee than anywhere else in the state and I would commend that to your attention. Yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, we took a big step towards creating a new office within the existing Office of Minority Affairs a new center to study civil rights crimes information, research, and reconciliation. And reconciliation is a big part of the business we should all be about. We give thanks today for the life and the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who gave his life 50 years ago today. And we give thanks for the lessons he taught in which his legacy continues today. Quoting him, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. The time is always right to do what is right. And in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” So, as we turn in prayer to celebrate the life that Dr. King gave, remember he was firm in his conviction that the day would come when people would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. And, as he said, we must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.”

Juvenile justice bills advance as legislature prepares to adjourn

A key juvenile justice reform bill recommended by the Joint Ad-hoc Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice and the Juvenile Justice Realignment Taskforce advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee this week as the legislature prepares to adjourn. Senate Bill 1821, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R–Collierville), prohibits a juvenile court from issuing a valid court order upon an unruly child or a child whose only offense is a status offense.

Status offenders are juveniles charged with or adjudicated for conduct that would not under the law of Tennessee be a crime if committed by an adult. Typical examples are chronic or persistent truancy, running away from home, violating curfews, alcohol or tobacco possession, and the like. Twenty-eight states have eliminated valid court orders in juvenile courts for status offenses.

“Valid court orders have been addressed at the federal level in several different ways under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act back to 1974,” said Senator Norris. “A valid court order in too many instances is being used to bootstrap what is otherwise just a status offense into an offense that could be used for detention. A court might issue a direct order saying stop running away from home or make sure you go to school regularly, and, while intended to be an exception to the federal law, then that exception ends up swallowing the rule. It takes a status offense, protected from secured and locked detention, and converts it to a delinquent act that’s not entitled to the same protection. So, after a lot of testimony and presentations, the taskforce determined it best to eliminate the valid court order as has now been done in 28 states.”

In other action, the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee voted to allow Basic Education Program (BEP) funds to “follow the child” to a learning center when a youth has been ordered by a juvenile court to attend a non-public school. Currently, there are only two caveats for BEP dollars going to non-Local Education Agency (LEA) settings: children for whose education the state is directly responsible and those in residential mental health facilities. Senate Bill 1803, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), would add a third caveat for youth who are court ordered to attend a Tennessee Department of Education-approved non-public school in order to prevent children from entering state custody.

There are presently four Teen Learning Centers in Tennessee funded with the Department of Children’s Service’s Custody Prevention Funds. All youth served in these centers come through their respective county juvenile court orders and have a variety of status and juvenile offenses that put them at serious risk of entering state custody. The vast majority of youth served by these prevention and early intervention programs have either been removed from their local school system due to zero-tolerance offenses or have chronic truancy issues. Approximately 90 percent of students discharged from the centers remain out of juvenile court.

Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation authorizing certain courts to establish pilot regional juvenile drug court treatment programs. Senate Bill 1848, sponsored by Senator Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville), would allow parents to opt their children into supervision by regional juvenile drug courts in order to get structured treatment to aid in recovery from addiction.

“In Tennessee right now, we obviously have a significant opiate problem, and one of the main concerns is how it affects our youth,” said Senator Dickerson. “Heretofore, the only way to get at-risk youth into treatment is for the child to be in the criminal court system or under the Department of Children’s Services. This legislation allows parents, through a pilot program of 500 individuals, to put their children under the care of a judge and allows the judge to be the quarterback of their care.”

This pilot program would begin July 1, 2018 and end June 30, 2023. The legislation now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

Senate Judiciary Committee approves legislation continuing General Assembly’s efforts to protect elderly and vulnerable adults

Legislation increasing penalties for exploitation or abuse of an elderly or vulnerable adult was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, continuing the General Assembly’s ongoing efforts to protect Tennessee’s senior citizens. Senate Bill 2621, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Norris (R-Collierville), enacts the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2018.

The legislation follows enactment of a series of bills passed over the last two years protecting Tennesseans who are elderly or have diminished capacity from physical abuse and various forms of financial exploitation.

“This act is designed to streamline and complete the organization of existing code provisions that we addressed last year and close a loophole or two that exist in our elder abuse laws,” said Senator Norris. “We accomplish this by defining certain crimes more broadly; thereby, ensuring that certain criminal activities don’t fall through the cracks because they don’t fit neatly into some of the existing definitions set out in current law.”

The legislation draws distinctions between types of physical abuse of the elderly, increasing penalties for certain types of aggravated abuse including rape and murder. It creates a Class E felony offense for a person to knowingly abuse, neglect, or sexually exploit an elderly person, and Class D felony offense for doing the same to a vulnerable adult. It also increases fines for elder physical abuse and sexual exploitation.

The bill now heads to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee for consideration.

Bills in Brief

Food Deserts / Low-Income and Underserved Tennesseans — Legislation was given final Senate approval directing the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to conduct a study examining the overall effects of creating a grant or loan program for food relief enterprises who sell fresh food in low-income and underserved areas of Tennessee. Senate Bill 2634, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), calls for TACIR to weigh the benefits of creating the Fresh Food Financing Fund within the Department of Economic and Community Development in order to assist these efforts.

DUI Offenses / Alcohol Sales – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill this week that strengthens penalties for DUI offenses so that a person convicted of the crime would forfeit the privilege to purchase alcohol in Tennessee for a period of time based on the number of offenses. The legislation also establishes a new driver license format for this scenario. Under Senate Bill 1784, a first-time offender would forfeit the ability to purchase alcohol for one year, and a second-time offender would forfeit that privilege for two years. Then, third- and fourth-time offenders would forfeit the ability to purchase alcohol for six and eight years respectively. Additionally, the bill makes the purchase of alcohol by a person who has forfeited the right to purchase alcohol a Class C misdemeanor. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains).

TDOT / Three-Year Transportation Program — The Tennessee Department of Transportation released their annual three-year transportation program this week, featuring approximately $2.6 billion in infrastructure investments for 143 individual project phases on 116 projects. The program also places a high emphasis on the repair and replacement of bridges, with activities beginning on 80 structures. Ten of those bridges are on the state highway system, with the other 70 on local roads. The comprehensive program continues to build on the progress of the IMPROVE Act, which provides for infrastructure investments in all 95 counties. This year’s program budgets dollars for 195 of the 962 projects listed as part of the 2017 legislation. A complete list of projects and programs funded through the 2019-2021 three-year multimodal program can be viewed on the department’s website. For an interactive map view of the 962 IMPROVE Act projects, please visit https://www.tdot.tn.gov/projectneeds/spot#/.

Seven-Day Sales — The Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee approved legislation on Tuesday permitting retail food stores to sell wine and retail package stores to sell alcoholic beverages seven days a week. Senate Bill 2518, sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), would put retailers on par with restaurants, hotels, convention centers, tourist resorts and other businesses in Tennessee which are already allowed to sell wine and spirits any day of the week under state law. Forty states allow for seven-day sales by retailers, including five which border Tennessee. The legislation now heads to the floor of the Senate for a final vote.

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