Sen. Norris: Military security ramped up, youth well-being report assessed

Sen. Mark Norris issued the following updates in his Aug. 7 newsletter.

Tenn. increases security at key state facilities

Tenn. Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville)
Sen. Mark Norris

TMD-logoMaj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General, on Aug. 7 announced that the Military Department has taken steps to increase the security of its personnel and facilities to include allowing Tennessee Army amd Air National Guard members with valid Tennessee State Handgun Carry Permits to carry handguns at State Armories and facilities.

Haston’s decision follows Governor Bill Haslam’s directive, issued earlier this month in the aftermath of the deadly shootings in Chattanooga, to review current Guard personnel who are authorized to be armed in the performance of their duties, and identify and arm Guardsmen where necessary to protect themselves, citizens and Guard facilities.

“We have been very deliberate in making the decision to arm our Tennessee National Guard,” said Haston. “This is not a step that we take lightly, but it is apparent that military personnel have been targeted and the protection of our soldiers and airmen is of utmost importance. Physical security and risk assessment is something that we continually do as part of our day to day obligations.”

Haston also announced that selected Guard personnel working on Federal facilities would be allowed to carry federally issued handguns.

“Federal law prohibits carrying a personally owned weapon on a Federal facility,” said Haston. “Therefore, selected personnel working on Federal property will draw and carry a federally issued firearm for protection.”

Governor Haslam also directed Maj. Gen. Haston to review security policies and procedures at National Guard armories, storefront recruiting facilities and other installations to ensure the safety of Guardsmen, citizens and property.

“Operational security prohibits me from detailing other measures taken to increase the protection of our personnel and facilities, but as I said before, the protection of our Soldiers, Airmen and their families is of the utmost importance,” Haston said.

Under the direction of Haslam, Haston immediately moved Army National Guard recruiters from storefront locations to nearby armories after a lone gunman attacked two Chattanooga military facilities, killing four Marines and one Sailor on July 16. The temporary move allows for Guard personnel to evaluate what measures can be taken to enhance the security of these locations.

“The Military Department will continually evaluate security measures at both its state and federal facilities based on threat information obtained from numerous agencies to insure that our Soldiers, Airmen, civilian employees and their families are safe and secure,” said Haston.

Wellbeing of Tenn. children must be priority

aecf-the2015kidscountdatabook-cover-2015“I am on record that Tennessee’s ranking in the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation annual report on children’s well-being is unacceptable, Norris stated.

“For a state that prides itself in being first in everything from lowest state debt per capita to highest growth in personal income in the Southeast, it’s wrong that we rank 36th in child well-being because so many of our children live in poverty.”

The report, Kids Count, compiles 16 different measures across four major categories of how children are faring in the states. The new 2015 report released last week ranks Tennessee 36th overall — the same as 2014.

“The good news is that we improved or remained the same in 11 of 16 measures, but conditions in the state worsened on five indicators — two of which concern economic well-being, Norris said.
Of the four domains of children’s well-being, the state ranks 38th in economic measures, 37th in family and community, 36th in education, and 30th in health.

“Our economy is the great equalizer in this equation,” Norris said. “According to Casey, the number of children whose parents lack secure employment and children in poverty has increased in Tennessee. Although we are working hard and meeting with success on a number of fronts, we must do better for future generations.

“Tennessee is not alone. In 2014, I launched a nationwide initiative called ‘State Pathways to Prosperity,’ a workforce development and education initiative of The Council of State Governments, which I chaired last year.

“Our goal is to help all states close the pervasive skills gap between 21st century manufacturing opportunities that abound and the current realities of a workforce ill-equipped to do the jobs that are available.

Child poverty and nutrition are specifically addressed in the Pathways to Prosperity initiative as challenges all states must address.

What are we doing here in Tennessee? Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise are providing last-dollar scholarships and mentoring for traditional students to continue their education after high school at no additional taxpayer expense. Tennessee Reconnect is making it possible for adults to return to colleges of applied technology and community colleges.

These initiatives will soon have a positive impact because it is well established that those who have certificates or college degrees have much higher earning capacity.

Last year, I authored and implemented LEAP — the Labor Education Alignment Program, which recently helped provide funding for, among 12 programs statewide, the new Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce. Through LEAP, we are providing on-the-job training and internships for students who are eager to connect with the private sector.

What else can we do in the meantime? According to Kids Count, boosting a family’s earned income early in life positively impacts cognitive development as well as academic achievement and adult earnings. That is one of the reasons we provided start-up funding this year for a new Center for Health and Justice Involved Youth at the University of Tennessee’s College of Medicine in Memphis.

According to Casey, “Neuroscience provides evidence of why the earliest years are so critical: Early brain development plays a key role in establishing the neural functions and structures that shape future cognitive, social, emotional and health outcomes.”

Working together with the state Department of Children’s Services, The Urban Child Institute, Memphis Research Consortium, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Task Force of Shelby County and others, UT hopes to bring its resources in psychiatry and neuroscience to bear as of one of the top medical colleges in the United States.

Finally, one of the additional impediments to prosperity for children is all too often a juvenile justice system that fails to distinguish between those deserving of a second chance and those for whom rehabilitation is less productive. We must better allocate resources for the right result.

De-institutionalizing status (nonviolent) offenders and keeping them out of jail is critical if we are to succeed. I will lead a team of juvenile justice experts from Tennessee to a 50-state forum sponsored by The Council of State Governments’ Justice Center on “Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System” to Austin, Texas, in November.

Annie E. Casey reminds me of the canary in the coal mine. Our children’s well-being and our ability to nurture it is a harbinger. We can rise to this challenge just as we’ve done in other ways in the past. We are doing better in Tennessee, but we must do better still.

For more information, contact Tennessee Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) via his website at blog1/.