Senator Mark Norris – District 32 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 17:40:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Attorney General Agrees for Us to Proceed with the Lawsuit! http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/07/13/the-attorney-general-agrees-for-us-to-proceed-with-the-lawsuit/ Wed, 13 Jul 2016 20:25:06 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6509 As recent events have dramatically demonstrated, enforcement of the law is essential to our safety. It is essential to our sense of order and society. It is critical to the preservation of Liberty.

Thanks to the support of SJR467, the Refugee Resettlement Resolution, we are now free to enforce your rights against unconstitutional refugee resettlement.

My petition to the Attorney General gained over 17,000 signatures from Tennesseans who want action. Although he personally declines to assume responsibility for enforcing our rights in a court of law, he has now delegated his authority to us to do so instead.

“We the people” will hold Washington, D.C. accountable.

We will hire outside counsel to sue for a declaration of our rights as a sovereign state; to uphold the constitutional principles by which we foster freedom.

Serious questions remain whether the federal government is complying with the Refugee Act of 1980; whether the “Syrian surge” threatens our sovereignty; whether increased outbreaks of tuberculosis and measles are because of poor refugee vetting; whether federal cost-shifting violates the Tenth Amendment and the sovereignty of the states which have withdrawn from the refugee resettlement program; and whether your peace, safety and happiness is truly in jeopardy.

The Attorney General acknowledges the General Assembly’s serious concerns about the potential impact of the Refugee Resettlement Program on this State. He respects the fact that, as the legislative body of this State, we have taken extraordinary measures to voice those concerns, and he supports our desire to resolve those concerns with independent counsel through the adjudicative process.

Several outside lawyers and firms have offered to take our case at no charge to the taxpayers. We are interviewing them and will evaluate how best to proceed, and with whom, as our counsel.

I remain committed to keeping Tennessee safe. Thank you for your support!

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Legislation attempts to fight elder abuse http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/07/02/legislation-attempts-to-fight-elder-abuse/ Sat, 02 Jul 2016 22:02:19 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6502 State Sen. Mark Norris knoxnews.com
July 1, 2016

They call it the “Silent Crisis.” Too often, crimes of elder abuse go unreported, leaving its helpless victims to suffer silently. And far too often it happens at the hands of those whom they trust the most.

It is difficult for most of us to even fathom how someone could hurt any elderly person, much less a relative who is in their care. While most caregivers and family members look after senior citizens with love and compassion, there are those who carry out unconscionable acts of violence. The abuse can take many other forms, including psychological cruelty, wanton neglect and financial exploitation. For seniors targeted with financial crimes, this can mean the loss of lifelong savings and pension benefits. Unable to return to the workplace, these elderly victims often go without food, medication or other necessities, or find themselves dependent on public assistance.

Tennessee is seeing a rise in the number of offenses committed against our older citizens. According to information compiled by the state of Tennessee, the number of simple assaults against older adults rose by almost 20 percent from 2009 to 2013. The number of reported cases of fraud against older individuals increased by 21 percent over the same time period. Even more alarming is that it has been projected that the number of unreported cases of elder abuse may be as high as one in 23.

Why don’t older adults report abuse? Sadly, it is due to shame, fear of losing independence, fear of being moved or because the caretaker abuser is a family member. The individual may also be too incapacitated to report or may be fearful of reprisals.

This is an issue that should not be hushed up. That is why our General Assembly passed several bills during the 2016 legislative session to protect senior citizens from both physical harm and financial exploitation. One such bill is legislation I sponsored creating Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigation Teams in each judicial district in Tennessee.

The purpose of this new law is to coordinate the investigation of suspected instances of abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult. The information generated by the multi-disciplinary adult protective services team can then be reviewed to determine what further action can be taken to protect these vulnerable citizens. In addition, the budget, which became effective July 1, contains funds to support staff training on elder abuse through Tennessee’s District Attorneys General Conference.

Another important new law passed this year requires that a background check must be met before an employee may be hired by a facility as a caregiver. Applicants for a position that involves providing direct care must supply fingerprint samples, submit to a background check and provide past references. This law was passed at the recommendation of the General Assembly’s Elder Abuse Task Force.

To combat financial exploitation, a resolution was passed this year directing the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability to work with the Tennessee Bankers Association, the Tennessee Credit Union League and other appropriate organizations to develop a list of recommended changes that would assist financial institutions in protecting vulnerable adults from fraudulent and other questionable transactions. This measure was also a recommendation of the members of the Elder Abuse Task Force.

Tennessee’s seniors should be treated with respect and dignity to enable them to continue to serve as leaders, mentors, volunteers and active members of our state and our communities. Their well-being concerns all of us.

Report abuses to Tennessee Adult Protective Services at 1-888-277-8366. In an emergency, always call 911 first. It is time we end the silence.

State Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, is the Tennessee Senate majority leader.

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News from Nashville – June 30, 2016 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/06/30/news-from-nashville-june-30-2016/ Thu, 30 Jun 2016 13:45:47 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6493 June 30, 2016

Norris News
Happy Independence Day!

“These are troubled times in which we live. Now, more than ever, we must re-dedicate ourselves to the cause of freedom and the knowledge required to appreciate and sustain it. With your encouragement and support, we will. Happy 240th, America! Here’s to Old Glory’s 240th next year!”

Happy 4th of July from Mark Norris

Senator Norris’ column appeared in the Tennessean this week. Click here for the full editorial.

Department of Veterans Services acquires land for West Tennessee Veterans Home

“These men and women, our veterans, served all of us as though we were worth dying for. So let us demonstrate here and now that we are worth living for too. Let us finish the task so that they may live with dignity. It’s the least we can do for them. And you know what? We will,” Senator Norris said.

“These men and women, our veterans, served all of us as though we were worth dying for. So let us demonstrate here and now that we are worth living for too. Let us finish the task so that they may live with dignity. It’s the least we can do for them. And you know what? We will,” Senator Norris said.

Click here for the full article.

West Tennessee Veterans Home

West Tennessee Veterans Home

Major new laws to address drunk driving in Tennessee to become effective on Friday, July 1st

Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to be enacted on Friday also addresses the issue of multiple offenders. Upon arrest for a DUI, vehicular assault, vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide, fingerprints must be taken of the offender and submitted to the TBI within five days. If the offender is convicted of the offense, the fingerprints must be submitted to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) within seven days.

The measure stems from a tragic crash in Mississippi involving the deaths of two Shelby County students by a driver who carried five convictions of first offense DUI and was out on bond for his sixth DUI. Records reveal three counties and one municipality in Mississippi failed to inform the Mississippi Department of Public Safety about the convictions so it could be logged into the NCIC database, which is accessible by law enforcement officers in their squad cars to check the criminal backgrounds of arrestees.

“This tragedy brought to our attention, as well as Mississippi’s, the need to have the appropriate records logged in and available so that multiple DUI offenders do not fall through the cracks and are accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said Leader Norris. “These drivers pose a serious threat to public safety.”

A separate measure sponsored by Norris that becomes effective on Friday requires a criminal history background search upon arrest to determine prior arrests for DUI vehicular assault, vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular homicide.

Click here for the full article.

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer and Senator Norris announce Lamar Avenue project in Shelby County last week.

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer and Senator Norris announce Lamar Avenue project in Shelby County last week.

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Site of Future West Tennessee State Veterans Home to be Announced http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/06/24/site-of-future-west-tennessee-state-veterans-home-to-be-announced/ Fri, 24 Jun 2016 10:34:16 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6486 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 27, 2016
CONTACT: Yvette Martinez
OFFICE: 615-253-7770
MEDIA ADVISORY

Site of Future West Tennessee State Veterans Home to be Announced

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder, Department of Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Debra Payne and Department of General Services Deputy Commissioner John Hull in partnership with the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board will formally announce the site of the future West Tennessee State Veterans Home on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. (CDT). They will be joined by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Tennessee State Veterans Homes Executive Director Ed Harries for the milestone announcement.

WHO: TDVS Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder, DIDD Commissioner Debra Payne, General Services Deputy Commissioner John Hull, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Tennessee State Veterans Homes Executive Director Ed Harries

WHAT: Formally announce the future site of the West Tennessee State Veterans Home

WHEN: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. (CDT)

WHERE: 11293 Memphis Arlington Road, Arlington, TN 38002

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Statement from Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris regarding Supreme Court ruling blocking President’s Obama’s controversial executive actions on immigration http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/06/23/statement-from-senate-majority-leader-mark-norris-regarding-supreme-court-ruling-blocking-presidents-obamas-controversial-executive-actions-on-immigration/ Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:44:29 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6481 NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) made the following statement in regards to the decision handed down today by the U.S. Supreme Court on immigration in the case United States v. Texas. The high court affirmed a lower court decision which resulted in a preliminary injunction against executive action taken by President Obama that would have provided illegal immigrants legal status and protection, effectively killing the plan for the duration of Obama’s presidency.

Sen. Norris said, “The Supreme Court struck a blow for liberty today and against regulation without representation,” regarding the decision. “It matters who governs and it matters when the power of those who govern is unconstitutionally usurped.”

“This should be a reminder of the importance of checks and balances and the separation of powers which must be observed and preserved,” he added.

“As this Administration and its unelected regulators have become increasingly disconnected from the reality of American life and law, it is up to those elected by the people to ensure the federal government stays in check. That’s why the General Assembly passed SJR 2 calling for an amendment to the Constitution for Regulation Freedom and more recently passed SJR 467 calling on the Tennessee Attorney General to sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program,” he concluded.

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NOTE: Technically, at issue in the U.S. v. Texas case was (1) Whether a state that voluntarily provides a subsidy to all aliens with deferred action has Article III standing and a justiciable cause of action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to challenge the Secretary of Homeland Security’s guidance seeking to establish a process for considering deferred action for certain aliens because it will lead to more aliens having deferred action; (2) whether the guidance is arbitrary and capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law; (3) whether the guidance was subject to the APA’s notice-and-comment procedures; and (4) whether the guidance violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution, Article II, section 3.

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Norris News – June 14, 2016 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/06/14/norris-news-june-14-2016/ Tue, 14 Jun 2016 21:27:27 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6469 June 14, 2016

Happy Flag Day 2016

Happy Flag Day!

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in Washington, D.C.. last week on the cost of federal regulations and negative impacts upon state and local government.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in Washington, D.C.. last week on the cost of federal regulations and negative impacts upon state and local government.

This is Flag Day. It is the day set aside by Congress to salute Old Glory and honor her legacy.

Today, the Stars and Stripes are at half-staff. 239 years after the Second Continental Congress adopted the flag of the United States, we mourn the murders in Orlando by lowering this symbol of freedom, bravery and opportunity in recognition of the loss but with the resolve to defend our homeland and defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

I was proud to sponsor legislation signed last week mandating timely reporting of DUI offenses in Tennessee. WMC's Andy Wise covered it carefully after two Briarcrest Christian High School students were killed by a repeat offender in Mississippi last year.

I was proud to sponsor legislation signed last week mandating timely reporting of DUI offenses in Tennessee. WMC’s Andy Wise covered it carefully after two Briarcrest Christian High School students were killed by a repeat offender in Mississippi last year.

Every day is Flag Day in Tennessee.

Fourteen years ago, I proudly co-sponsored Public Chapter 841 requiring that the Pledge of Allegiance be a part of the daily school schedule, requiring students to learn it and demonstrate their knowledge of it, allowing local school boards to determine the time of day for the Pledge, asking local organizations to provide flags for classrooms, making exemptions for those who object, allowing for disciplinary action to be taken for disruptions, and requiring the state board of education “to develop guidelines on constitutional rights and restrictions relating to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag in public schools.”

T.C.A. 49-6-1001 requires instruction of the “the uses, purposes and methods of displaying the American flag and other patriotic emblems” as well as the history of the Pledge of Allegiance and other patriotic symbols.

Proud to sponsor the FOCUS Act signed at the University of Memphis last week restructuring higher education and giving the U of M, ETSU, Austin Peay, MTSU, TSU and Tennessee Technological University independent boards.

Proud to sponsor the FOCUS Act signed at the University of Memphis last week restructuring higher education and giving the U of M, ETSU, Austin Peay, MTSU, TSU and Tennessee Technological University independent boards.

I am proud to salute the American Flag today and every day. As we approach our nation’s 240th Anniversary on July 4, let us recommit ourselves to courage and “to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Enjoyed addressing the Statewide Arts Conference in Murfreesboro last week. With Executive Director, Anne Pope, Arts Commission Chair, Stephanie Conner, and others from Bartlett City Schools and Kiran Sirah, Pres. of International Storytelling Center, Jonesborough, TN.

Enjoyed addressing the Statewide Arts Conference in Murfreesboro last week. With Executive Director, Anne Pope, Arts Commission Chair, Stephanie Conner, and others from Bartlett City Schools and Kiran Sirah, Pres. of International Storytelling Center, Jonesborough, TN.

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Norris News – June 1, 2016 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/06/01/norris-news-june-1-2016/ Wed, 01 Jun 2016 19:53:57 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6457 June 1, 2016

Visiting with Veterans at West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on Memorial Day

Visiting with Veterans at West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on Memorial Day

Celebrate Statehood Day!

220 years ago today, on June 1, 1796, Tennessee was admitted as a state into the Union by an Act of Congress signed by President George Washington. See it here: http://tinyurl.com/tn-1796

Tennessee became the 16th state in the nation.

Thomas Jefferson referred to our Constitution as “the least imperfect and most republican of the state constitutions.”

Article I, Section 1, provides “that all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness…”

From Mountain City to Memphis, “the people have the right of exercising sovereignty, and the right of soil, so far as is consistent with the Constitution of the United States, recognizing the Articles of Confederation [and ] the Bill of Rights.” Article I, Section 31.

Since that date in 1796, Tennessee’s history has been full of men and women standing with, and for, the rights of this state, her people and our sister states.

30,000 Tennesseans “volunteered” to help defend Texas during the Mexican-American War. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the thirty-sixth and final state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provided women the right to vote. History is replete with similar examples of Tennessee’s devotion to state sovereignty.

Remembrance and respect at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day

Remembrance and respect at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day

The fight to keep Tennessee safe continues.

This year, Rep. Terry Lynn Weaver and I sponsored SJR467 which calls upon the Tennessee Attorney General to enforce our rights as a sovereign state under the Refugee Act of 1980 and the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; to insist that the federal government communicate with us before relocating certain refugees here, and to assure that no expenditure of taxpayers’ funds be coerced by the federal government without lawful appropriation by the Tennessee General Assembly.

With your help, the General Assembly adopted SJR 467 by overwhelming majorities in both the Senate and House.

Earlier this year, we also adopted SJR2, the Regulation Freedom Amendment, and combating federal regulation without representation.

Tennessee became the eighth state in the nation to call for a constitutional amendment requiring that major regulations be approved by a majority vote of Congress.

Just last week, Tennessee joined 10 other states to sue the federal government over President Obama’s transgender bathroom edict.

Nowhere, perhaps, is Obama’s regulatory infringement of our rights more egregious than in “environmental protection.” His Clean Power Plan (111(d)) and Waters of the State regulations are both embroiled in litigation, and the State of Tennessee has intervened in the water case joining states which assert the federal government has gone too far.

Touring IES Manufacturing in Gray, TN. They hope to hire 100 new employees in the next year.

Touring IES Manufacturing in Gray, TN. They hope to hire 100 new employees in the next year.

Next week, I will participate in two related events.

On Monday, the “CNG from Sea to Shining Sea Road Rally” will cross our state en route from California to Washington, DC to demonstrate that alternative technology applied to existing energy resources is abundant and affordable without resorting to regulatory entanglements that kill jobs and strangle our economy. We will be making stops in Memphis, Trenton and Dickson.

On Tuesday, I’ll testify in Washington before the Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s War on Coal, and some 3,000 EPA regulations are costing Tennesseans thousands of jobs and keeping other businesses from expanding. I’ll be there to remind Congress that states like Tennessee matter. We are not incidental bystanders, and we will not stand for regulation without representation.

This is a day to celebrate our statehood and our sovereignty as a state. It is also a day to be mindful that our Constitution also provides “(t)hat government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”

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News from Nashville – May 23, 2016 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/05/23/news-from-nashville-may-23-2016/ Mon, 23 May 2016 19:14:12 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6444 May 23, 2016

Collierville High School groundbreaking

Collierville High School groundbreaking

Norris statement on President Obama’s transgender “guidance letter”

On May 13, the US Department of Education released a guidance letter describing that it would begin enforcing Title IX discrimination policies to require Tennessee schools to allow transgendered students to use the restroom or locker room of their “gender identity” rather than the one that corresponds with their anatomy.

In response Senator Norris gave the following statement:

“I consider the ‘guidance letter’ to be of neither legal force nor effect. A letter is not the law. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has issued the letter as though it were law.

Governor Haslam issued a statement which is a good first step. He states that the guidance letter “does not make any additional requirements under the law” and, although it is “not an enforcement action,” the Governor finds it “heavy-handed.”

The problem is this: if nothing has changed, why did Obama do it? The air needs to be cleared now that this unprecedented guidance has been issued.

It is important for us, as a state, to make it clear that we will not acquiesce in the guidance per se but will, instead, continue to administer our schools in the same non-discriminatory manner as we always have.

We want to make sure that nothing will be done to give this ‘guidance’ any effect. I met with the Attorney General in Nashville this week, and I am confident that it will not.

Receiving the Dunavant Public Service Award from the East Memphis Rotary Club

Receiving the Dunavant Public Service Award from the East Memphis Rotary Club

Norris Refugee Resettlement Resolution Authorized by Haslam

On Friday Governor Haslam reluctantly allowed SJR 467 for the commencement of legal action to force the federal government to comply with the Refugee Act of 1980.

In his statement Governor Haslam said, “I trust the Attorney General to determine whether the state has a claim in this case or in any other, and I have constitutional concerns about one branch of government telling another what to do. I am returning SJR 467 without my signature and am requesting that the Attorney General clarify whether the legislative branch actually has the authority to hire outside counsel to represent the state.”

In response, Senator Norris said, “I am relieved he did not attempt to block us, but we are concerned at the apparent lack of urgency. Recent outbreaks of disease, like measles in Memphis, may be traceable to refugees relocated in our community and elsewhere without adequate vetting. This needs to stop now. The Attorney General needs to do his job or we will find someone else who will.”

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2016/05/20/haslam-opts-allow-tennessee-sue-federal-government-over-refugee-resettlement/84457538/

National Police Week

Senator Norris was honored to keynote the annual Tipton County Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service on Wednesday May 18.

National Police Week with Mark Norris at the podium

“We have work to do. It begins anew. Recognizing, as we do here today, those who’ve given their lives that we may live in peace, safety and happiness. And those who give life every day to the cause and commitment to keep Tennessee safe.”

Mark Norris National Police Week

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Haslam will allow Tennessee to become first state to sue feds over refugee resettlement http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/05/20/haslam-will-allow-tennessee-to-become-first-state-to-sue-feds-over-refugee-resettlement/ Fri, 20 May 2016 15:08:32 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6435 By Joel Ebert, USA TODAY NETWORK, The Tennessean, KnoxNews.com
May 20, 2016

Despite having concerns, Gov. Bill Haslam will allow Tennessee to become the first state in the nation to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement on the grounds of the 10th Amendment.

On Friday, Haslam announced his decision to allow the measure, which directs Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government for noncompliance of the Refugee Act of 1980, to take effect without his signature.

The federal act was designed to create a permanent procedure for the admission of refugees into the United States.

In his explanation, Haslam said the resolution “directs the Attorney General to initiate legal action regarding refugee placements and authorizes the General Assembly to hire outside counsel in the event the Attorney General does not pursue action in this case.”

“I trust the Attorney General to determine whether the state has a claim in this case or in any other, and I have constitutional concerns about one branch of government telling another what to do. I am returning SJR 467 without my signature and am requesting that the Attorney General clarify whether the legislative branch actually has the authority to hire outside counsel to represent the state.

“I also question whether seeking to dismantle the Refugee Act of 1980 is the proper course for our state. Rather, I believe the best way to protect Tennesseans from terrorism is to take the steps outlined in my administration’s Public Safety Action Plan, which enhances our ability to analyze information for links to terrorist activity, creates a Cyber Security Advisory Council, restructures our office of Homeland Security, establishes school safety teams, and provides training for active shooter incidents and explosive device attacks.”

Refugee resettlement has become a hot-button issue throughout Tennessee and the rest of the country as the nation continues to take in people from around the world, including Syrians who have fled their country amid a bloody civil war.

Proponents of the measure have argued the lawsuit is necessary because the federal government has failed to consult with Tennessee on the continued placement of refugees.

Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, argue the resolution will negatively affect the state’s refugee community and perpetuate a culture of fear.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who was among the more outspoken advocates of the resolution, said it is necessary to initiate legal proceedings for declaratory relief given the fact that the federal government has not consulted with the state on the resettlement of refugees.

The legislation received wide support in both chambers, with as many as 23 Republicans sponsoring the measure in the Senate. The chamber approved it with a 27-5 vote on Feb. 22. The House voted 69-25 in favor of the resolution on April 19.

While considering the resolution, several Democrats and even Haslam, a Republican, questioned a provision in the legislation that allows the Legislature to hire outside counsel in the event that the state’s attorney general declines to sue the federal government.

Attorney General Slatery has not indicated whether he would follow the legislature’s directive.

“We are aware of the resolution and will consider it seriously and respectfully,” Harlow Sumerford, a spokesman for Slatery’s office, told The Tennessean in February.

Last week Sumerford elaborated, saying, “Our office continues to review ways to protect the State’s interests in this matter. This was certainly the case in December 2014, when we joined the Texas litigation challenging the President’s executive action on immigration. Due, in part, to inaction by Congress, there is understandable fear and frustration among many on this issue. Should the resolution become effective, it provides a number of options and we will carefully consider the best option to continue to protect the interests of Tennessee.”

Sponsors of the measure have indicated the Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit public interest Michigan-based law firm, will provide free legal services to the state.

The law center has been engaged in “fighting the culture war being waged against families by abortionists, pornographers, those against school prayer, those against the Ten Commandments, those against God,” according to a testimonial found on the firm’s website from Michael Savage of Savage Nation. Former U.S. Rep. Allen West said the law center has initiated and funded more cases “challenging the Stealth Jihad being waged against our Nation.”

Prior to Haslam announcing his decision, the ACLU and TIRRC encouraged the governor to veto the measure.

“Attempting to block refugee resettlement blames refugees for the very terror they are fleeing and erodes our own civil liberties,” Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director, previously said. “Especially in these times, using fear and misplaced blame to pursue litigation challenges the values of fairness and equal treatment that are at the heart of our constitutional guarantees.”

Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said the Legislature tried to “twist the arm of the attorney general.”

But Haslam was also lobbied by Norris, who started an online petition, with the headline, “Don’t let potential terrorists come to Tennessee,” which asks Tennesseans to join in the effort to ask the attorney general to act.

While some believed the legislation could not be vetoed by Haslam, the governor’s office noted that the state’s constitution indicates otherwise because it is actually a joint resolution.

At an end-of-session news conference, Haslam said he believed he could veto the measure because it pertained to a substantive matter but declined to say which way he was leaning.

Two other states — Texas and Alabama — have sued the federal government over refugee resettlement, Tennessee’s lawsuit will be the first of its kind in that it will be based on the 10th Amendment, which states that the federal government possesses only powers delegated to it by the U.S. Constitution and that all other powers are reserved for the states.

While arguing in favor of the resolution, Norris pointed out that although the state opted out of the federal resettlement program in 2008 under then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, the fees have required Tennessee to participate in the program.

Although 14 states, including Tennessee and most recently Kansas and New Jersey, have opted out of the federal program, that does not mean refugees are not sent to their states. Instead, voluntary agencies, also known as VOLAGs, have entered into cooperative agreements with the U.S. State Department to coordinate resettlement efforts. In Tennessee, Catholic Charities handles refugee resettlement.

Norris has argued that the state is being forced to appropriate funds for as many as 11 programs, including Medicaid, to support refugee resettlement.

Catholic Charities has said funding for resettlement comes entirely from the federal government.

Beyond the cost issue, another reason advocates have argued for the measure is due to safety concerns about continually allowing refugees to come to Tennessee — although Haslam previously said he does not share such concerns.

In December, Haslam said the state should not “abandon our values by completely shutting our doors to those who seek the freedom we enjoy.”

As the measure made its way through the Legislature, some lawmakers pointed to the March 22 terrorist attack in Brussels to further that point.

“I just don’t understand how at this time with all that’s going on in the world … how we could not do everything we can to stop the influx of refugees from countries that we know have ties to terrorism, such as Syria,” said Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, during a March 22 committee meeting.

Between last October and March, only 17 of the 702 refugees, or 2 percent, who were resettled in Tennessee came from Syria, according to statics maintained by Catholic Charities. The vast majority — 514 — were from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Somalia and Iraq.

Overall, Tennessee was 18th in the nation in terms of the total number of refugees received during that time period, according to federal statistics.

Those defending the resettlement program have noted the financial benefit refugees provide to the state. A 2013 report presented to the Joint Government Operations Legislative Advisory Committee determined that refugees and their descendants provided $1.4 billion in revenue for Tennessee between 1990 and 2012, compared with requiring $753 million in state support.

Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman, Spencer Bowers, criticized Haslam’s decision.

“Governor Haslam caved to right-wing extremist, once again, today by allowing Tennessee to be the first state in the nation to sue the Federal Government over the refugee resettlement. Refusing refugees who are in desperate need of place to seek shelter from war and hardship creates a culture of fear for the immigrant communities in Tennessee. It’s not who we are as a state and Governor Haslam should be ashamed of his inaction today.”

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News from Nashville – April 26, 2016 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/2016/04/26/news-from-nashville-april-26-2016/ Tue, 26 Apr 2016 14:12:06 +0000 http://www.marknorris.org/blog1/?p=6424 April 26, 2016

The end of Session press conference with; (from left) House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, House Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson, Governor Bill Haslam, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris

The end of Session press conference with; (from left) House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, House Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson, Governor Bill Haslam, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris

109th General Assembly adjourns with tax reduction and public safety highlighting final week of legislative action

The 109th General Assembly adjourned on April 22nd to become a part of Tennessee history with the last week of legislative action seeing passage of some of the most important bills of the 2016 session. This includes legislation to phase out the Hall Income Tax, a bill to aid 100 percent service-related disabled veterans and the elderly disabled with property tax relief, the Public Safety Act to reduce crime and improve public safety, and the Rural Economic Opportunity Act to spur economic development in some of Tennessee’s most economically distressed counties. The Senate also approved major legislation cracking down on drunk drivers and a key bill to address opioid abuse in Tennessee.

On the final legislative day, the General Assembly approved historic legislation reducing the Hall tax rate from six percent to five percent, a seventeen percent cut from the total dollars collected by the state for fiscal year 2016. Senate Bill 47 calls for an annual reduction of at least one percent until the tax is eliminated. Furthermore, the bill provides that by January 1, 2022, the Hall Income Tax will no longer be collected and eliminated as a legal means of taxation in Tennessee.

The General Assembly also approved Senate Bill 1796 before adjourning, which increases property tax relief for disabled veterans, and/ or their widows or widowers, by repealing the income cap that was put in place last year. The legislation also raises the property value limit for the low-income elderly and the low-income disabled from $23,000 to $23,500.

The resolution to adjourn the 109th General Assembly ‘sine die’ which is from the Latin ‘without day’. This signifies the end of a two-year General Assembly.

The resolution to adjourn the 109th General Assembly ‘sine die’ which is from the Latin ‘without day’. This signifies the end of a two-year General Assembly.

2016 legislative session see passage of major legislation strengthening Tennessee’s DUI laws

The State Senate passed legislation in the closing week of the 2016 legislative session creating stricter penalties for DUI offenders in a year that has seen major legislation strengthening Tennessee’s drunk driving laws. Senate Bill 2065, sponsored by Senator John Stevens (R-Huntingdon), requires a judge to order an ignition interlock device for all convicted DUI offenders unless the judge provides a finding of fact for not ordering the device.

Although Tennessee currently mandates the use of ignition interlock devices, there is only about 15 to 20 percent compliance rate with the law because judges must provide a reason why the device should be placed on a DUI offender’s vehicle. This legislation flips that requirement by providing that a judge must state findings of fact on why an interlock device should not be installed on the offender’s vehicle.

Under the bill, offenders must have the ignition interlock devices in their car and operating for 365 consecutive days or for the entire time their license is revoked, whichever is longer. To ensure compliance, the legislation establishes penalties for the unauthorized tampering or removal of the interlock device. If the device is removed during the 365-day period, the offender must start over until it is served consecutively.

Similarly, if there has been any tampering with the device in the last 120 days of the sentence, the legislation provides that the period for which the interlock system is required will be extended by another 120 days.

The bill prescribes an additional $12.50 fee to the offender for administrative costs.

The Tennessee Senate also passed Senate Bill 35, sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), this week prohibiting those convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication from being eligible for probation.

Other key bills addressing drunk driving offenses approved by the legislature this year include:

  • Senate Bill 1572, sponsored by Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), which elevates a DUI offense for those convicted six or more times from a class E felony to a class C felony and requires prior convictions for alcohol-related vehicle offenses, including those committed out-of-state, to be counted as prior convictions;
  • Senate Bill 2576, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), which requires immediate sharing of an impaired driver’s DUI arrest and conviction history with law enforcement, the courts and the National Crime Information Centers, making the information accessible by law enforcement officers in their squad cars to check the criminal background of arrestees;
  • Senate Bill 2577, sponsored by Senator Norris, which calls for timely transmission of fingerprints taken for vehicular impairment offenses;
  • Senate Bill 1582, sponsored by Senator Overbey, which allows judges to order any device necessary to ensure that the offender complies with probation conditions and a clinical assessment to better cover driving under the influence of drugs;
  • Senate Bill 2399, sponsored by Senator Overbey, which authorizes the use of the state’s Interlock Assistance Fund for transdermal monitoring devices or other alternative alcohol or drug monitoring devices when a court determines that an offender is unable to pay for it; and,
  • Senate Bill 1730, sponsored by Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), which creates a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) memorial signing program to erect and maintain memorial signs on the non-interstate highways commemorating residents who died as a result of DUI related incident.

In 2015, 267 people died on Tennessee roadways from alcohol related deaths, accumulating 27.8 percent of all traffic fatalities that year.

The members of “Three Dog Night” visited the Capitol on Monday

The members of “Three Dog Night” visited the Capitol on Monday

Major legislation to reduce crime passes legislature

The Tennessee Senate approved major legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), Senate Judiciary Committee Vice-Chairman Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), Senator Ed Jackson (R-Jackson), Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Senator John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) this week which aims to reduce crime and improve public safety. The Public Safety Act of 2016 addresses the most serious offenses driving Tennessee’s violent crime rate by establishing mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of three or more charges of aggravated burglary, especially aggravated burglary, or drug trafficking. A burglary is considered especially aggravated if the victim suffers serious bodily injury during the offense.

Under current law, those convicted three times or more of aggravated burglary and especially aggravated burglary must serve only 30 percent of their sentence before being considered for release or parole. The act sets the mandatory minimum period of incarceration to 85 percent for third and subsequent convictions for aggravated burglary, especially aggravated burglary and Class A, B, and C felonies for the sale, manufacture, and distribution of controlled substances.

On domestic violence, the legislation will allow a law enforcement officer to seek an order of protection on behalf of a domestic abuse victim. Additionally, if a law enforcement officer makes an arrest for a crime involving domestic abuse, then an automatic order of protection will be issued when there is probable cause to believe that the alleged assailant used or attempted to use deadly force against a domestic violence victim. A hearing should be held within 15 days of the automatic order of protection being issued.

A third and subsequent domestic violence conviction would change from a misdemeanor to a Class E felony under the legislation. This change maintains the current minimum 90-day sentence for a domestic violence conviction.

In addition, the measure retools community supervision to reduce the number of people returning to prison for probation and parole violations when their noncompliance does not rise to the level of a new criminal offense. The move is expected to save the state $80 million.

Of the 12,588 people entering state prison last year, 40 percent were probationers or parolees sent to prison because they violated supervision conditions. This legislation authorizes the department to utilize a robust, structured matrix of both sanctions and incentives to facilitate compliance with the conditions of supervision by the more than 71,000 state probationers and parolees.

The bill is funded by an $18 million appropriation in the state budget which passed the General Assembly last week.

Senator Mark Norris and his intern for this year, Thomas Murphy of Clarksville

Senator Mark Norris and his intern for this year, Thomas Murphy of Clarksville

In Brief

Rural Economic Opportunity Act — The General Assembly passed significant job creation bill in the last week of legislative action to spur economic development in some of the state’s most economically distressed counties. Twenty-one of Tennessee’s 95 counties are considered economically distressed, meaning that they are in the bottom 10 percent nationally in terms of unemployment, per capita income, and poverty.

The “Rural Economic Opportunity Act of 2016,” sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) has two components that aim to alleviate unemployment in these areas by supporting jobs and economic development. This includes implementation of the “Propelling Rural Economic Progress” (PREP) program that would create a grant fund to aid rural counties in building sites and infrastructure to incentivize businesses to develop in their region.

The second component of Senate Bill 2538 restructures the county tier system used for determining whether a company looking to locate or expand operations is eligible for job tax credits. This legislation would lower the job creation threshold to 20 in tier three counties and 10 in the additional fourth tier, used for the economically distressed counties. Tax credits help fuel company expansion by rewarding job creation based on the number of positions created, amount invested, type of business and location.

Small Business / SBIR / STTR Grants — The Senate passed legislation this week to aid small technology businesses across the state. Senate Bill 2606, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), seeks to take advantage of small business innovations and federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants. It would allow the Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, now known as LaunchTN, to have the authority to establish an applied research and developmental finance program to provide matching grants to small technology businesses. Fifteen other states, including Virginia and Kentucky, have taken advantage of the US Small Business Administration match-granting program and this legislation will make Tennessee more competitive with the neighboring states.

Federal Refugee Program – The Senate adopted a House amendment and sent to the governor legislation which urges Tennessee’s Attorney General to commence legal action in response to the federal government forcing Tennessee to spend state dollars for the Refugee Resettlement Program. If the Attorney General does not commence civil action, Senate Joint Resolution 467 , sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), gives the General Assembly the authority to retain outside counsel for this purpose. Recently, high ranking officials in Washington have cast doubt on the screening process. Instead of the vetting process taking 18 to 24 months which the Obama administration said was proof of how through the process was, it has now been announced that Syrian refugees will be on American soil within 90 days.

Retail Accountability Act – Legislation passed the State Senate this week making changes to the state’s Retail Accountability Program (RAP). The law was first passed in 2012 to ensure that the taxes paid by consumers for beer and tobacco products are properly submitted to the state by requiring wholesalers to report to the Department of Revenue what is sold to retailers. In the first two and a half years of the program, the state has collected an additional $60 million in previously unreported sales tax revenue, which prompted an expansion of the program last year. However, the Department of Revenue’s implementation of the expanded program was more far-reaching than legislators intended. Senate Bill 2570 more clearly defines the scope of the program, including exempting perishable groceries and frozen foods from the reporting process and creating a sunset deadline for the legislature to evaluate the program’s effectiveness at a later date. It also calls for a change from monthly to quarterly reporting. The bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).

UTK Office of Diversity / Minority Scholarships — This week, the Senate Education Committee passed legislation taking $436,000 from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) and using it for scholarships in a minority engineering scholarship program. Senate Bill 1912, sponsored by Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), reallocates the salaries of the four employees in UTK’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion for the fiscal year of 2016-2017 for the purpose of awarding scholarships to minority engineering students. The money may help up to 100 minority students in the engineering program receive a scholarship.

The bill also provides that state funds shall not be expended by the University of Tennessee to promote the use of gender neutral pronouns, to promote or inhibit the celebration of religious holidays or fund or support “Sex Week.”

In August, UTK came under fire by lawmakers, alumni and the general public for an Office of Diversity and Inclusion post on the university’s website asking students and faculty to toss out “he” and “she” when addressing students for gender-neutral pronouns like “ze” and “zir.” In December, the office posted guidance to students and faculty to ensure holiday parties at the campus are not a Christmas party in disguise. These actions follow several years of widespread disapproval over the university’s “Sex Week” which included such events as drag shows, lectures given by a porn actress, and condom scavenger hunts. Sex week has continued despite objections with an acceleration of objectionable content in this year’s list of courses.

Worker’s Compensation — This week the Senate passed a measure improving the worker’s compensation reforms adopted in 2013. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville), was brought by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and approved by the Worker’s Compensation Council. Senate Bill 2582 changes the injury notification requirement for workplace injuries from 30 days to 15 days to encourage workers to more timely notify their employer if they have been injured on the job. It also provides additional protections for workers by authorizing a worker’s compensation judge to award medical and/or disability benefits that have been wrongly denied during an expedited compensation hearing. The legislation encourages more employers to participate in the Tennessee Drug Free Workplace Act by authorizing employers to offer annual acknowledgment or notification to all employees of the provisions in that program rather than require the one hour annual training. Approximately 4,000 employers use the drug free workplace act out of 120,000 estimated employers and this law aims to create more participation. In addition, the legislation allows the Division of Worker’s Compensation to hire attorneys as ombudsman to help navigate the system.

Gang Violence — The General Assembly approved legislation this week providing clarity to a 2012 law calling for enhanced penalties for crimes committed in association with gang activity. Senate Bill 1558 requires an offense be punished one classification higher than the classification established by the offense if the defendant was a criminal gang member at the time of the offense and the criminal gang offense was committed at the direction of, in association with, or for the benefit of the defendant’s criminal gang or a member of the criminal gang. If the defendant was a leader or organizer of the criminal gang, then the offense shall be punished two classifications higher. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals recently ruled the 2012 law was too broad and that in order to meet constitutional standards that the offense committed needed to be related to gang membership in order to eligible for an increased charge.

The General Assembly worked with the District Attorney General’s Conference in crafting the legislation. “Gang warfare, gang crime, is a cancer on society,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), sponsor of the bill. “We need to equip law enforcement and the courts with all the tools they need, and that is exactly what this law does.”

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