When State Senator Mark Norris came to speak at the Midtown Republican Club last night, it was his fourth event of the day. He explained that met with Bartlett leaders in the morning. He then had a second meeting at the University of Tennessee Medical School, where he is on the advisory board. After that, Norris then joined other members of the General Assembly to meet with the local mayors and other groups in Shelby County to discuss issues.
When he joined us a little after 6, he seemed just as energetic and engaging as if that had been the only item on his agenda.
It says a lot about leadership; in particular his leadership. Norris is an experienced man. He knows the ropes, knows his state and knows it is important to meet with Tennesseans. Norris most likely will be rewarded for his leadership and retain his status of Senate Majority Leader when members vote on it next week. He acknowledged that will happen “unless there is a coup. In that case I hope it’s a bloodless coup,” he quipped.
Norris has been called the most important elected official in the state next to the governor. As such, it’s a big responsibility. “In some ways it was more fun when we just had 15 members (Republicans in the Senate). We could rant and rebel. Now we have 28 Republicans out of 33 senators. We have a superduper majority. Our mantra is it matters who governs, but it also matters how we govern.”
That’s a big task when the legislative session resumes in January.
“Without an enemy, we tend to fight among ourselves,” Norris said. “That’s the nature of the beast. I always caution the caucus that it’s great being a super majority. They forget we can pass whatever we want, but I tell them sometimes your head is still there (in the past minority days). We must think out of the box in a more constructive ways” he says of the challenges ahead.
Norris commented that the number of Democrats now in the Senate is so small he can “tweet all their names in 140 characters or less.” Lee Harris, the Memphis City Council member who won a senate seat in November, will be his counterpoint – the minority leader. Harris has not been in state government before, but now has been elected to that important leadership post. “Already he’s said two dumb things,” Norris said.
“Harris said ‘I will continue to dwell on the vulnerable.’ Then he said ‘It’s time for a hard reset.’ Republicans will answer that we dwell on how to empower the vulnerable and to help them overcome. Secondly, you never want to put yourself in a corner politically, which is what he’s doing talking about a hard reset.
“Why waste your time with all this when you only have five votes? It’s not how I am wired. We all care about Tennessee and we are all looking for solutions.”
Next: Norris discusses taxes in light of the passage of amendment 3 in November.