State Budget / State of the State Address Highlight Action on Capitol Hill

On February 3, 2012, in News from Nashville 2012, by Mark Norris

February 3, 2012 State Budget / State of the State Address Highlight Action on Capitol Hill  Report shows 2011 job growth is best in 5 years Governor Bill Haslam presented his State of the State / Budget Address to the General Assembly this week outlining his proposals for promoting job growth; improving education; enhancing public […]

Norris News

February 3, 2012

State Budget / State of the State Address Highlight Action on Capitol Hill
 Report shows 2011 job growth is best in 5 years

Governor Bill Haslam presented his State of the State / Budget Address to the General Assembly this week outlining his proposals for promoting job growth; improving education; enhancing public safety; providing a more customer-focused, efficient and effective state government; and, keeping taxes low. Asking citizens to believe in better for Tennessee, the Governor said, “We can believe in better for how state government serves Tennesseans. We can believe in better when it comes to the education of our children, and we can believe in better when we talk about a stronger, healthier economy for our state.”

The budget provides funding for the governor’s legislative proposals announced earlier in the year that include tougher sentences for certain gang-related crimes and gun possession by those with prior violent felony convictions along with mandatory incarceration for repeat domestic violence offenders. The proposals also call for raising the exemption level on the estate tax in Tennessee from $1 million to $1.25 million to lower the tax burden on family farmers and family business owners; and lowering the state portion of the sales tax on food from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent with the goal of reducing it to 5 percent during the next three years.

“It’s a budget I’m pleased to sponsor and will be proud to pass,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris. “Public safety, education, the economy and tax relief are priorities, and essential services are preserved.”

Highlights of the budget include:

  • Restores more than $100 million of the $160 million “core services” funding that was designated two years ago to be cut, such as the Coordinated School Health program; extended teacher contracts; alcohol and abuse treatment programs; juvenile justice grants; diabetes prevention; and matching dollars for state employee 401k programs.
  • Full funding for the Basic Education Program.
  • $264 million is proposed to fund long-deferred capital outlay projects in higher education including a new science building at Middle Tennessee State University; a science lab at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; a new patient diagnostic center at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis; plus planning money for new buildings at Nashville State Community College, Northeast State Community College, the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
  • A 2.5 percent pay increase for state employees.
  • Adds $50 million to the Rainy Day Fund, bringing it up to $356 million.
  • A continued commitment to the West Tennessee Megasite with $25 million.
  • More than $23 million to fund a new veterans home in Bradley County.

The complete text of the governor’s speech and an archived video of his speech are available at

Report shows 28,535 jobs created in Tennessee in 2011
Best record of job creation in five years

A report released by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) revealed good news this week on Tennessee’s job front. The Department’s 2011 Annual Report showed 28,535 new jobs were created in Tennessee last year, accounting for more than $4 billion in investment. This is the state’s highest mark in job creation in the last five years.

“Implementing the Administration’s economic development strategies is a privilege. Seeing them succeed is satisfying. Neighbors returning to work is a blessing,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris who sponsored most of the bills enhancing Tennessee’s pro-business environment.

Governor Haslam has stated his mission is to develop strategies which help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. The Governor and key staff have traveled the state to meet with more than 2,000 companies and over 700 economic development stakeholders.

The Governor’s Jobs4TN economic development plan, announced in April 2011, has focused efforts on key sectors where the state holds a unique competitive advantage; along with a renewed emphasis on assisting existing Tennessee companies that create the vast majority of all new jobs in the state.

To read more or download a copy of ECD’s 2011 Annual Report, please visit

Bill would provide Tennessee Highway Patrol, TBI
and other state law enforcement officers
death benefit currently provided to police officers

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation to extend a $25,000 death benefit currently provided to local police officers or sheriffs’ deputies to state employees engaged in the detection and prevention of crime. Senate Bill 2204, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), would provide a death benefit to Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) agents, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers, Park Rangers employed by the Department of Conservation and Environment, and bomb and arson officers in the Department of Commerce and Insurance. The death benefit would apply to employees who are killed in the line of duty.

“This is a benefit I hope Tennessee never has to pay. We pray for the safety of all our officers,” said Senator Norris, “but we recognize the dangers that many of them face. History involving the death of officers while performing their duties proves the need for this benefit.”

State law currently limits the $25,000 death benefit to sheriff’s deputies or any police officer employed by a municipality whose primary responsibility is the prevention and detection of crime and apprehension of offenders. The bill simply adds law enforcement officers employed by the state to those covered under that law.

“We certainly need to make sure that the families of Tennessee’s law enforcement employees have the same death benefit currently provided to local police officers,” added Norris. “We have many brave officers who work for Tennessee. They need to know their families will be considered if they die in the line of duty.”

200th Anniversary of Major New Madrid Earthquake serves as a reminder of the need for preparedness
Teachers can access valuable resources from state’s CERI Center

The 200th anniversary of Tennessee’s powerful New Madrid earthquake serves as a reminder of the need for preparedness according to Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). West Tennessee was the site of one of the most significant geological events in U.S. history with the February 7, 2012 earthquake, which was responsible in forming Reelfoot Lake. It was the largest of three Upper Mississippi Region earthquakes which began on December 16, 1811 and January 23, 1812.

“This anniversary serves as a stark reminder that we must be prepared,” said Senator Norris. “We have experienced massive growth in this region since the 1812 earthquake, which means preparedness is essential to save lives if another geological event occurs.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the February 7 earthquake was characterized by raised or sunken lands, fissures, sinks, sand blows, and large landslides that covered an area of 78,000 – 129,000 square kilometers, extending from Cairo, Illinois, to Memphis, Tennessee, and from Crowley’s Ridge in northeastern Arkansas to Chickasaw Bluffs, Tennessee. Experts believe the shaking associated with the quake was two to three times as large as that of the 1964 Alaska earthquake and ten times as large as that of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Norris said the Shelby County Office of Preparedness Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency assists local businesses in planning and preparedness. In addition the University of Memphis has the premier institute in the world for seismic study. CERI (Center for Earthquake Research & Information) which provides valuable resources to teachers and students regarding earthquakes and preparedness.

For additional information, contact the Shelby County of Preparedness at: or CERI at 3890 Central Ave., Memphis, TN 38152. Information regarding Tennessee can also be obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Senate redistricting maps with “street-level” detail available online on General Assembly website

Tennessee’s new state Senate district maps with “street-level” detail have been released. The maps give the general public unprecedented access to the same information as county election officials regarding the new district lines. Using Google’s publicly available Maps application, the Office of Legislative Information Services has created a map that displays Tennessee’s new redistricting data in a clean, detailed and easy-to-use fashion. Citizens now have the ability to find their own district as well as explore districts statewide.

Issues in Brief

Meth Registry – The full Senate approved legislation to tighten a loophole in the state’s Meth Registry. Senate Bill 2190, sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), adds those convicted of promoting the manufacture of methamphetamine and those who initiated a process intended to result in the manufacture of meth to the state’s Registry. In addition, the legislation requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to collect a driver’s license number or another identification number from those listed on the Registry so innocent citizens with similar names and birthdates do not run into a roadblock when they purchase pseudoephedrine.

Tennessee National Guard Day – March 3 would be declared “Tennessee National Guard Day” under legislation which met the approval of the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week. Senate Bill 2231, sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), honors and recognizes Tennessee National Guard personnel each year on that date for their service and sacrifices in defense of our nation and for responding to domestic missions within the borders of our state.

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