Nashville, Tenn.–Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris received the Distinguished Service to the States medal from The Council of State Governments at the close of its 2015 National Conference in Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 13. The medal is the highest honor awarded by CSG for outstanding and sustained leadership on behalf of the states.
The CSG Executive Committee presented the award to Norris for his “transformative leadership” during his tenure as CSG national chair, according to CSG Executive Director David Adkins. The executive committee meeting was the culmination of a four-day conference at the Omni Nashville Hotel attended by more than 750 policy leaders from 48 states.
“Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, during his service as the CSG national chair, committed CSG to an unprecedented initiative to help find ways to grow state economies and address workforce challenges,” Adkins said. “His vision transcended state boundaries and political ideology and became a robust rallying point for state leaders from throughout America. The CSG State Pathways to Prosperity Initiative builds on Chair Norris’ personal experience, which has helped shape recent innovations in Tennessee, one of the nation’s leaders in workforce development and education reform.”
The report, “A Framework for State Policymakers: Developing Pathways to Ensure a Skilled Workforce for State Prosperity,” was released in August 2015 and outlines recommendations for state-level policies that help ensure students are prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce.
“Chair Norris knew what may not seem obvious to the casual observer–that child poverty, criminal justice issues, hunger and nutrition, and military and veterans’ concerns present an array of obstacles to matching people with 21st century jobs,” Adkins said. “He connected the dots and provided CSG with a roadmap, challenging CSG to address some of the most entrenched barriers to achieving the American Dream.”
Norris also shared his passion for these issues with federal officials at the highest levels of government. Under Norris’ leadership, CSG advocated on behalf of the states in a successful effort to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which was signed into law in July 2014.
Norris was the first Tennessean to serve as CSG national chair. He also served as the CSG Southern Legislative Conference chair in 2012.
“Strong states make for a strong nation, and CSG gives us strength to carry on as guardians of state sovereignty in this great republic,” Norris said. “I am humbled by the opportunity to have served, humbled by this honor, and I accept it on behalf of all who have worked so hard to help me at the helm of CSG. The best is yet to come.”
Norris also was recognized for founding the CSG Campaign Against Hunger, held in conjunction with CSG regional and national conferences. During the event, meals are packaged for local food banks. On Sunday, Dec. 13, state leaders attending the 2015 National Conference in Nashville, Tenn., packaged 31,000 meals for Second Harvest Food Bank, which will distribute them to the food insecure in central Tennessee. CSG also presented a check to Second Harvest to underwrite an additional 20,000 meals. Norris helped celebrate the 500,000th meal packaged by CSG during the event on Sunday.
Founded in 1933, The Council of State Governments is the nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. CSG is a nonpartisan, region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy.