Norris Announces for Re-Election

On April 7, 2012, in News from Nashville 2012, by Mark Norris

April 7, 2012 Happy Easter! “He takes men out of time and makes them feel eternity.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson We were visited this week by Brennan Brister, Ryan Demato, Michael Equi from Shelby County 4H. Revised budget amendment reflects good news on Tennessee’s revenues/ Proposal further reduces food tax and restores additional ‘core services’ […]

April 7, 2012

Happy Easter!

“He takes men out of time and makes them feel eternity.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We were visited this week by Brennan Brister, Ryan Demato, Michael Equi from Shelby County 4H.
We were visited this week by Brennan Brister, Ryan Demato, Michael Equi from Shelby County 4H.

Revised budget amendment reflects good news on Tennessee’s revenues/
Proposal further reduces food tax and restores additional ‘core services’ for the state’s most vulnerable citizens

Governor Haslam rolled out a revision to his proposed appropriations bill this week to reflect new estimates on increased state revenues.

The Governor’s new proposal includes funding to restore additional ‘core services’ for some of Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens and a plan to reduce further the food tax from 5.5 to 5.25 percent, rather than 5.3 percent as proposed earlier this year. Haslam’s original budget proposal restored more than $100 million of a total of $160 million in cuts to “core services” first identified as reductions in last year’s budget but were delayed until this year due to the use of one-time federal money.

“These budget revisions reflect Tennessee’s priorities of encouraging job growth, reducing crime, making government more efficient and effective and providing core services for our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), sponsor of the budget bill. “It also continues our efforts to provide Tennesseans with tax relief as we recover economically.”

Among core services restored are: $1.4 million for Mental Health peer support centers; $1 million added to the $4.5 million restoration in funds for continued statewide family support services through the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; $3 million to fund family resource centers across the state; $3.9 million to fund Health Start and Child Health and Development programs; $250,000 to support the Amachi mentoring program for children on inmates through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization; and $250,000 for Child Advocacy Centers in Tennessee.

In addition, the revision proposes $300,000 for maintenance of the West Tennessee River Basin Authority; $4 million to increase the daily per diem payment to local jails by $2 from $35 to $37; $375,000 to fund a Poison Control center that provides statewide services; and $5 million for Tennessee Career Centers to address the past practice of funding annual operating expenses with non-recurring federal dollars. The revised budget amendment also provided $122,000 to fund legislation that requires unemployment recipients to verify their job search efforts and $115,500 to fund an online system to send businesses unemployment insurance notices electronically and to allow employers to submit relevant information electronically.

Statewide Anti Meth Campaign — In other action on Tennessee’s war on illegal drugs, Governor Bill Haslam rolled out a comprehensive “Meth Stops Now” campaign designed to inform Tennesseans about consequences of violating the “I Hate Meth Act,” which took effect on July 1, 2011. The campaign specifically addresses the portion of the anti-meth law that increases the penalties for making or using meth in the presence of children and for purchasing pseudoephedrine products for non-medical uses.

The communications campaign targets the counties in Tennessee where there have been the highest number of children removed from homes due to meth-related incidents and the greatest number of meth lab seizures. In 2011, the Department of Children’s Services removed 321 children from their parents’ custody due to meth use or manufacturing. Law enforcement officials also seized 1,687 meth labs in Tennessee last year, the second highest number in the nation, according to the Tennessee Meth Task Force.

State Senators give final approval to Small Business Incentives Act

State Senators voted Thursday to provide small business entrepreneurs with a “one stop opportunity” webpage to help incentivize and encourage small business activity throughout Tennessee. Senate Bill 2496 directs the Department of Economic and Community Development, in conjunction with the Office of the Comptroller’s Small Business Advocate, to develop a web page to aid job creators desiring to form a small business in obtaining information concerning state laws, regulations, and requirements that apply to the specific type of small business the user desires to form.

“Small businesses are the backbone of Tennessee’s economy,” said Senator Tracy (R-Shelbyville), sponsor of the bill. “As we look to remove any unnecessary regulatory roadblocks, we must also refashion government to be a resource for these job creators in Tennessee.”

The web page must contain hyperlinks to relevant laws, regulations and requirements, including:

    • Forms or documents which a state department or agency requires to be filed for that type of business to operate in the state;
    • Contact information and web sites for boards and commissions which regulate the specific type of entity to be formed; and,
    • Notices regarding potential and pending rule making hearings for the various boards and commissions.
Erin Rausch, 8th grade student from Dyersburg Middle School
Erin Rausch, 8th grade student from Dyersburg Middle School

L’Dor V’Dor – “From Generation to Generation”
Tennessee State Day of Remembrance Ceremony
Tennessee Holocaust Commission

Monday, April 2nd was the annual Holocaust Day of Remembrance Ceremony in Legislative Plaza. Dyersburg Middle School student, Erin Rausch shared her reflections from the Holocaust Education Conference. Students were asked to reflect on the following statement, “Accepting of responsibility makes for a better society. So, what must I do to make things better for people now and in the future? Is mere acknowledgement of a wrong and guilt with an expression of sorrow sufficient or is there more?”

Erin shared the following reflection:

“They say one person can’t make a difference, but I know that’s not true. All it takes is one person to make things better for people now and in the future. I can be that person. I can have a positive attitude, be a Good Samaritan, and go out of my way to make others feel better.

Having a positive attitude might helps someone else be more positive about things. For instance, when someone is down, I can say something positive and give them encouragement. To be a Good Samaritan, I must be willing to drop whatever I’m doing to do a good deed. Going out of my way to make another person feel better will make their day. Simply saying “hello” or complimenting someone will mean the world to them. Having a positive attitude, being a Good Samaritan, and going out of my way to make others feel better are three ways to impact people today and later in life.”

Issues in Brief

Tennessee tops states for lightest tax burden — Tennessee has one of the lightest tax burdens in the country, according to a non-partisan Tax Foundation. Research done by the Tax Foundation shows how long taxpayers must work to pay off their state and federal taxes. Tennessee, at March 31, is much better than the national average of mid-April. Connecticut has the heaviest tax burden. For more information go to: Volunteer State Taxpayers Off the Hook Earliest: Study | Tennessee Report

Jaclyn’s Law / 911 Responders – Legislation advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that makes it clear that emergency responders have immunity if they force entry into a home after someone calls 911 and then doesn’t answer the door. Senate Bill 2480 is named Jaclyn’s Law, for a California woman who died after first responders failed to use forcible entry because of liability concerns. The legislation was brought to lawmakers by the woman’s sister who is a Tennessee resident. The bill seeks to clear up any gray area regarding the right of first responders to force entry after receiving a 911 call to render emergency medical assistance if no one answers the door, without fear of criminal or civil charges. The bill is sponsored by Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin).

Prescription Drug Abuse / Hospital Employees — The Senate Finance Committee has approved Senate Bill 2407, sponsored by Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), to authorize the Controlled Substance Database Committee to provide a hospital an employee’s prescribing information. The information could be forwarded to that hospital’s Quality Improvement Committee if there is suspicion that the employee was writing prescriptions for his or her own personal use. Under current law, a hospital’s Quality Improvement Committee exists to evaluate the safety and quality of care provided to patients as well as qualifications and competency of healthcare providers in a confidential and privileged environment. The bill would give hospitals more information about any potential for prescription abuse by their own employees.

Home Improvement Contractors / Consumers – The full Senate voted this week to clarify legislation passed in 2010 that required home improvement contractors to provide a physical mailing address to homeowners utilizing their services. Senate Bill 2486, sponsored by Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), closes a loophole in that law to ensure homeowners are notified if the home improvement contractor changes their address to ensure that homeowners can send any needed correspondence by certified mail.

Voluntary Yellow Dot Program / Emergency on the Highways – The full Senate has voted to establish a voluntary “Yellow Dot” program in Tennessee to alert emergency medical personnel to important health information of the driver or a passenger. Senate Bill 2277 is designed to assist citizens and first responders in the event of an automobile crash or other medical emergency involving the participant’s vehicle. Participants of the program would receive a “Yellow Dot” decal, a “Yellow Dot” folder and an information form with the participant’s name, an identifying photo, emergency contact information, personal physicians’ information, medical conditions, recent surgeries, allergies and medications being used. A “Yellow Dot” decal on the driver’s side rear window of a vehicle alerts first responders to check in the glove compartment for the corresponding “Yellow Dot” folder. It is sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville).

False Claims Act — Legislation putting Tennessee into conformity with the federal False Claims Act received Senate approval on Thursday. The federal False Claims Act imposes liability on persons and companies who defraud governmental programs. Claims under the law have typically involves health care, military, or other government spending programs. Senate Bill 2378 passed this week ensures that Tennessee continues to receive federal funds covered by provisions of the federal act, which are estimated at $5 million. TennCare has recovered approximately $143 million in false claims from providers. The bill is sponsored by Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City).

School Districts / MunicipalsSenate Bill 2908 to lift the statewide ban on new municipal school districts beginning January 1, 2013 was approved by the State Senate on Monday. A ban was placed on creation of municipal school district in 1998. The bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris to seek re-election

State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) today announced his bid for re-election to the State Senate representing Senate District 32. Norris filed his qualifying petition prior to the deadline for the August 2, 2012 Republican Primary. The district contains Tipton County and suburban Shelby County, including Collierville, Arlington, Lakeland, and Bartlett.

Elected by his peers as Senate Majority Leader, Norris has served as the prime sponsor of Governor Haslam’s legislation since 2011, including passage of a balanced budget each year.

“Better schools, safer streets and a sound economy are critical to our continued success,” said Leader Norris. “We’ve come a long way in Tennessee. We’ve made too much progress to turn back now. I appreciate the opportunity to serve the citizens of the 32nd District in the State Senate and hope they will see fit that I continue to serve as their voice in Nashville.”

Norris led the successful effort governing the transition of schools in Shelby County last year. He also fought for citizens’ rights to vote on whether they support smaller, neighborhood schools in the legislative session currently in progress.

Known for his tough stand on crime, Leader Norris successfully passed a series of criminal justice reforms strengthening sentences against ‘crooks with guns’ and combating gang violence. Those new laws focus state resources on keeping the most dangerous criminals who use guns in commission of a crime behind bars longer and giving law enforcement authorities stronger tools to curb violence in Tennessee. This year, Norris is sponsoring legislation strengthening penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders.

Norris has been named Legislator of the Year numerous times by various professional and civic associations including the Chiefs of Police, District Attorneys Conference, Tennessee School Boards Association, Tennessee Medical Association, Tennessee Development Districts. Just this week Norris was honored by the Memphis Area Association of Governments by being named Legislator of the Year for 2012.

“We have tackled some of the most difficult budget years in Tennessee history over the past four years by cutting our budget and holding the line on government spending,” Norris continued. “At the same time, we have provided tax relief for many citizens and have worked hard to create a pro-growth climate in our state.”

Norris said Tennessee had a very productive year with 28,500 jobs announced earlier this year, the highest mark since the recession began in 2007. “Our state is moving in the right direction and I want to continue the pro-growth work we have begun as we turn our economy around.”