Tag Archives: Mark Norris

Texas refugee lawsuit dismissed; Legislators pushing for TN lawsuit

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Texas against resettlement of Syrian refugees within the state’s borders as some Tennessee lawmakers contend health concerns show the need for similar legal action as mandated by the Legislature in April.

“This Texas decision is a strong rebuke of efforts to block refugee resettlement,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee in an email.

“It sends the clear message to other states that such attempts are not only un-American, they are contrary to the law and will fail in court. We continue to urge the state of Tennessee not to engage in litigation that contradicts our values and violates the law of the land,” she said.

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, on the other hand, said http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/06/16/tennessee-state-senate-leader-ag-must-act-without-delay-protect-public-health-risk-refugees/ declaring that 27 percent of refugees sent to Tennessee between 2011 and 2015 tested positive for latent tuberculosis infection shows a new justification for Tennessee filing a lawsuit over refugee resettlement in Tennessee.
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Some TN reaction to bathroom lawsuit

From Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee:

“Title VII and Title IX have long prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, and federal courts and agencies have recognized that this includes protections for transgender people. Like guidance issued by federal agencies for decades, the guidance in question does not change the law, but explains what agencies think existing law requires.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that you cannot sue an agency just because you disagree with the agency’s non-binding guidance. Moreover, because the guidance is nonbinding, this lawsuit appears to be nothing more than politically-motivated.

“But underneath all of the political bluster are real students, young people who should not have to live in fear of punishment or harassment every time they use the restroom like their peers, or be made to feel like second-class citizens merely for being themselves. We will continue to work toward a day when all students in Tennessee are treated fairly under the law.”

From Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville

“On behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus, we are pleased that Tennessee will join with other states in challenging the Obama Administration’s actions regarding the redefinition of the term ‘sex’ in connection with Title VII and Title IX and local education, and state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment.”

“We remain hopeful that the Attorney General will demonstrate similar resolve regarding enforcement of the Refugee Act, public safety and state sovereignty pursuant to SJR467.”

From Family Action Council of Tennessee

Today the state of Tennessee, through the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, joined a lawsuit filed in Texas by that state and several other states over the Obama administration’s attempt to redefine “sex” in Title IX to mean the “gender” by which people subjectively identify themselves, risking the privacy and safety of our citizens. (Link to complaint HERE.)

We are still reviewing the complaint, but give a hearty “amen” to the following statement in it: “Defendants have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”
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Norris grumbles to governor about refugee resolution rhetoric

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris has told Gov. Bill Haslam that he’s “troubled” and “uncomfortable with your mischaracterization” of legislation ordering legal action against the federal government over its refugee resettlement program in Tennessee.

From the Richard Locker report:

In a letter to Haslam on Monday, Norris, R-Collierville, took strong exception to the governor’s remarks on Friday about Senate Joint Resolution 467. Haslam declined to sign it, which has no practical effect other than signifying the governor’s position.

…In his letter, the senator wrote that he was troubled by the governor’s statement “and I am uncomfortable with your mischaracterization of this important resolution. First, as we have discussed, the resolution should not have been necessary in the first place. The attorney general should have acted on his own long before now.”

Despite legislative clamor during last year’s Syrian refugee crisis, Slatery did not try to block resettlement of refugees in the state. He issued an advisory opinion Nov. 30 that Tennessee cannot refuse to accept refugees the federal government has processed and admitted to the United States because “such a refusal would impinge on and conflict with the federal government’s authority to regulate the admission of aliens to the U.S. and thus would violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Norris also wrote that the resolution “is not about ‘dismantling the Refugee Act’ as you said. It is about enforcing it.” He said Haslam’s safety and homeland security commissioner, Bill Gibbons, testified before a legislative committee in December that the federal government is not providing adequate information to the state regarding the refugees it’s sending to Tennessee.

“He recently confirmed that is still the case,” Norris wrote. “Alabama and Georgia have taken action. Why can’t Tennessee?”

Norris said one of the goals of the governor’s Public Safety Action Plan, released in January and cited in Haslam’s message on Friday, is to enhance the state’s ability to analyze information for links to terrorist activity, but that federal officials are not providing the information needed for such analysis even though the state has rights to such information under the Refugee Act.

“It is ironic that your administration appears reluctant to enforce those rights,” Norris wrote. “We also need to know who is resettled, where they are resettled, whether they have been property screened for contagious diseases like tuberculosis and measles, and whether they have been properly vaccinated.”

The governor’s press secretary, Jennifer Donnals, said later on Tuesday, “I’m sure the governor and Leader Norris will have a chance to talk about this at some point but the governor stands by his statement issued Friday.”

Norris won’t run for Congress

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris won’t be joining the crowded field of Republicans running for the 8th Congressional District seat this year, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Norris, R-Collierville, said Thursday he won’t be a candidate for Congress and will run for a fifth four-year term in the state Senate.

“I have my own re-election to run and have pulled my petition to run for re-election to the state Senate,” he said.

There had been some speculation that Norris might run, heightened this week when he unveiled an online petition drive in support of a legislative resolution he is sponsoring challenging the federal government’s Refugee Resettlement Program. He unsuccessfully ran for 7th Congressional District seat in 2002 when that district included parts of Shelby County.

Senate votes 27-5 to sue feds over refugees

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state attorney general would be directed to mount a legal challenge to the federal refugee resettlement program in Tennessee under a resolution approved by the Senate on Monday.

The chamber voted 27-5 to pass the measure despite Republican Gov. Bill Haslam raising “reservations” last week about the Legislature trying to instruct the attorney general to sue. The governor also said some of the concerns raised about the identities of refugees in the aftermath of last year’s attack in Paris have been addressed.

“It’s public record,” Haslam said. “We get from the federal government all the refugees who have come in, where they’re from, age, gender.

“I don’t think at this point in time that this is something that’s stressing our system,” he said.
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Norris predicts gov will grant Memphis budget wishes

Memphis and Shelby County business and governmental leaders flooded the hallways of the Legislative Plaza Wednesday and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris told them he expects Gov. Bill Haslam to approve much of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s legislative agenda, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Norris told the crowd that he and other Shelby lawmakers are “working hard” with the governor on a supplemental amendment to Haslam’s state budget plan that will include the local priorities outlined Wednesday. The governor proposed a $34.8 billion state budget Feb. 1 and he and legislative leaders always draft a comprehensive amendment that includes legislative priorities every year before the final budget is approved, in late April.

“I’m not going to spill the beans here but all the things that are important to you are important to me and important to Gov. Haslam,” Norris said. “There aren’t any bad proposals. There’s just a question of funding availability and timing for that funding. I meet with (Haslam) every Wednesday. We’re working on every single project that’s been mentioned here today and it’s hard work.

“Some of these things now are projected to be funded. If I talked about them it would be premature and they might be at risk. But we are working very hard to meet your expectations and to help move the community forward.”

Senate spurns resolution honoring La Raza chair

Most Senate Republicans refused to vote one way or the other Monday on a resolution honoring Renata Soto, a Nashville woman who chairs the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group.

HJR506 had passed the House 66-10-4 earlier after some delay and controversy. On the Senate floor, it got just nine yes votes and six yes votes. The rest would take no position and, since 17 votes are needed for passage, the resolution failed.

The group refusing to vote included Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, notes WPLN.

He said he has no problem with Soto, but many GOP senators take issue with La Raza, particularly its advocacy for undocumented immigrants. Norris cited one protest in particular.

“An event one day last year where illegal aliens were encouraged not to show up for work, and that sort of thing. And it was just more than some of my members could take,” he said.

Norris was referring to the Day Without An Immigrant walkouts in 2006. La Raza was not an official organizer of those protests, but Soto was quoted in a local newspaper article as supporting the event.

Norris said he asked the resolution’s Senate sponsor, Nashville Democrat Jeff Yarbro, to remove references to La Raza.

Yarbro declined, saying Soto and La Raza are no more controversial than others who’ve been honored by the state legislature. He cited the Eagle Forum, the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League as examples.

Note: Democratic sponsors press release below.
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Norris leads Tennesseans at national juvenile jailing conference

News release from Sen. Mark Norris, via Senate Republican Caucus
AUSTIN, TX-November 9, 2015-On the heels of new data showing a reduction in the number of youth incarcerated in Tennessee, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) led a team of Tennessee officials to a summit in Austin, Texas sponsored by the Council of State Government’s (CSG) Justice Center and the MacArthur Foundation. The group was joined by leaders in other states on Monday and Tuesday to address the next big challenge they all share: reducing the likelihood youth will be rearrested and end up in the adult criminal justice system.

Other Tennesseans at the summit include Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby, Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, and Deputy Commissioner of Juvenile Justice Debbie Mitchell.

Tennessee’s juvenile incarceration rate has decreased by 76.5% from 1997-2013, according to new numbers from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Despite the reduction, there’s been less progress ensuring youth released from facilities or under community supervision succeed by staying crime free, achieving academically and getting jobs. At “Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: A 50-State Forum,” a two-day event, states are given the opportunity to collaborate, learn from each others’ experiences and understand the latest research from national experts.
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Norris, Cohen talk on rape kits at Memphis conference

Memphis has gone from a cautionary tale for its handling of untested sexual assault kits to a model for other cities, state Sen. Mark Norris said at a summit on the issue Monday.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:
Following his address at the second annual Sexual Assault Kit Summit for Cities at the Cook Convention Center, Norris said the more than 12,000 untested sexual assault kits Memphis had at its peak were a “prologue, not a backlog.”

Memphis has become an important example for other cities wrestling with the same problem, said Norris, the Senate majority leader and sponsor of three laws since 2014 to erase backlogs in Memphis and across the state.

“It’s not just a Memphis problem or a Tennessee problem,” Norris said. “It’s a national one. And they’re looking to us for best practices.”

Reporters were turned away from the closed meeting, which brought together representatives from 13 other cities to talk about best practices for reducing backlogs. Dewanna Smith, spokeswoman for Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, said the meeting was closed to media to allow the free exchange of information between participants.

Congressman Steve Cohen, who also spoke at the summit, criticized the event organizers for closing the meeting — a move he said “made no sense whatsoever.”

Even though the city has taken steps to reduce its backlog, it still faces two class-action lawsuits filed in 2013 and 2014 over the city’s initial handling of the kits. Cohen said the city failed to protect women from serial rapists by not processing the kits.

“We were a model in ineffectiveness at first because we had one of the biggest backlogs going,” he said.

Cohen helped the city get $4.1 million in federal money for testing, while Norris helped push through laws that required a statewide inventory of sexual assault kits, that repealed a statute of limitations on cases reported in the first three years, and one that goes into effect this January that requires kits to be processed in 60 days.

At the end of August, Memphis had completed analysis on 5,250 kits, 42 percent of its original backlog. The other kits were either at the laboratory awaiting analysis (18 percent) or needed additional analysis (39 percent).

TN Republicans warming to Trump? (despite ‘crazy things’)

Tennessee’s Republican officeholders are not endorsing Donald Trump, but some are offering favorable commentary about the billionaire presidential candidate who is leading national polls and who won a straw poll in Nashville after speaking the National Federation of Republican Assemblies on Saturday.

Examples of Tennessee GOP commentary on Trump from media reports last week:

“Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls, because he is speaking in a language that we all want to hear. Now, does he say some crazy things? Yes, he does. Will he be a crazy president? I think he would be. But he is speaking the language of people … who are fed up with the direction that we’re going,” said U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, at a Shelby County GOP gathering, as quoted by Jackson Baker.

At the same Republican Women’s Club gathering, state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said Trump has evoked some “rancor,” but he thinks that’s a good thing overall.

“He’s stirring up the status quo, and people want straight talk. They want to hear what we’re doing to address the issues that they care about,” Norris said. “Problematic as it may seem, good for Trump for doing this, getting people fired up. It’s fine. It’s fine. … Good for Trump. … Do we disagree sometimes? Heck yes, we disagree. And Trump would have it that way, too.”

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann told the Times-Free Press that voters see Trump as “a straight shooter.”

“He’s not dependent on donors and lobbyists,” said Fleischmann. “He’s saying things most conventional candidates don’t say.”

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburgh, told the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro that Trump “has been really interesting because he speaks with no political filter.”

“I think some people find that appealing because they are really tired of politicians promising things and not getting things done. That’s not an endorsement of Trump. I just think it should tell people that they want to hear true speak and not political speak,” DesJarlais said.

At the Saturday speech to the Republican Assemblies group in Nashville, Trump was introduced by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, who also made clear she wasn’t endorsing Trump, though praising him. She had introduced Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz previously at one of his presidential campaign visits to Tennessee.

Blackburn told Newsmax before the event that Trump has excited conservative voters because of his talk about issues.

“Trump has said, ‘Wait a minute, the national security issue is at the top of the heap. The Iran deal is a bad deal. China debt, it’s a bad deal. Having the anchor-baby issue continue, bad deal. Not securing our border, that’s a bad deal,’ ” Blackburn said.

In the NFRA straw poll, Trump was the choice of 52 percent of those voting, Newsmax said, getting 220 votes of 420 cast. Cruz finished second with 100 votes, followed by retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson with 46. Next in line were Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul with 15 votes and former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina, with 11 votes.

Of the others on the 17-candidate straw ballot, the rest were either in single digits or got no votes at all.