Despite his esteemed position as majority leader in the Tennessee senate, Mark Norris says constituents are sometimes confused about what it is he does.
“I’ve gotten lots of emails from people asking me ‘what the heck are you doing up there in Washington?’ he said. Sometimes he gets irate messages asking why he lets Democrat senators speak on an issue on the floor. Sometimes people don’t realize that he serves the people of his district, 32, which encompasses Collierville, Dyer, Tipton and Lauderdale counties. Norris shrugs and says that’s why he insisted civics be put back in Tennessee schools – an effort “that took me six years to get passed.”
Norris also attributes the ignorance to the job and the media. He says the things the legislature does are often boring. “They are things you don’t see in the paper. They’re not sexy. They may be important, but if they don’t generate hits on the CA website, you won’t see them. And, journalism is pretty much dead now and the fourth estate is not about keeping us honest.”
But throughout his career Norris has found out that governing is not just about passing laws. As he has told his fellow Republicans, “it matters who governs, but also how we govern.”
Norris explained the complexities of his job with a focus on the jobs issue. He says we don’t lack for jobs in Tennessee. “We have 12,000 jobs looking to be filled right now in our state. We just don’t have the people with the skills they require,” he said.
The senator cited a recent experience with Unilever. The company came to Tennessee because of the favorable business climate. “They relocated to Covington and needed 400 employees to run robots for Klondike bars. Although they got thousands of applications, they couldn’t find 400 skilled workers. They were tearing their hair out and regretting that they came to Tennessee.”
After they called Norris to complain, he got together with some of our community schools and asked them to custom make a curriculum for Unilever. It was accomplished in eight months and Unilever had its employees. The company was so pleased, “now they are consolidating their worldwide operations here,” Norris said.
“The days of train and pray – in which we would send kids off to school and pray the can find a job – don’t work anymore,” he added.
Norris says that good government has to be more than just passing laws and leaving them. A good leader will work with all groups to implement them.
That’s why he says President Obama’s recent immigration executive order will not work. It leaves the states without any help on what to do and confuses everyone. “It’s not good leadership.”
Hopefully the new and even more Republican Tennessee Legislature in 2015 can follow his advice and govern well. He’ll be right there to lead them.