Norris serves as Majority Leader of the state Senate and has been at the forefront of legislative efforts to secure the ultimate independence of the Shelby County suburbs from city/county school merger. He also had a brush with the annexation controversy in 2012, when he co-sponsored two abortive bills on the subject.
One of them would have removed the Gray’s Creek/Fisherville area in eastern Shelby County from Memphis’s annexation reserve, and the other would have made the City’s annexations anywhere else subject to referenda by the populations to be annexed.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and the City Council reacted to that prospect by setting in motion an ordinance for the immediate annexation of Gray’s Creek/Fisherville. Pleading that he had acted only to honor constituents’ requests, Norris would subsequently withdraw the bills, which state Attorney General Robert Cooper had meanwhile declared constitutionally suspect. Wharton and the Council would also stand down.
But annexation and the need to clarify the rights of cities, suburbs, and unincorporated areas vis-à-vis each other have continued to be subjects of potential legislation and are sure to be live issues in the next session of the General Assembly. The annexation question has been a particular hot potato in Shelby County, where de-annexation has also received serious discussion of late, both in Memphis and its suburbs.
In any case, TACIR was tasked in the 2013 legislative session with conducting a comprehensive study on annexation and with making recommendations on the subject to the General Assembly in January.
“This study requires in-depth research by the staff and thoughtful consideration by the members of the commission. I am pleased to continue to lead TACIR as we look into this issue as well as many others,” Norris said following his re-election, which took place during a two-day meeting of the commission in Nashville on June 19 and 20.
Norris has served as chairman of TACIR since 2009. He is also chair-elect of the Council of State Governments.