To the constituents of House District 29 (Bolivar and Sunflower County), I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to serve you. My first year is complete. Below, I have provided a brief end of year overview. I hope you find it helpful as we continue the effort in improving Mississippi.
The 2017 Legislative session left a number of items on the table.
While a special session was already being considered, it will now be necessary in order to come to an agreement on budgets
funding bills for the Attorney General's Office and the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
As it relates to the Attorney General, the House stood firm in its resolve that the Attorney General's Office would not be hampered from seeking justice from individuals or entities who hurt Mississippians. The House offered the Senate a solution, but it was not accepted. House leadership chose to let the amended bill die on the calendar.
he Mississippi Department of Transportation budget is another reason we are going back into a special session. A solution must be found during a special session or MDOT will essentially go broke. House members made multiple bipartisan attempts throughout the session to create adequate funding for roads and bridges with all efforts being stopped by the Senate. All 121 present House members voted to recommit the Senate's proposed budget for transportation and infrastructure in order to have further discussion that would lead to a better solution during special session.
A number of budget cuts presented legislators with a challenge when crafting the state budget. This year, the Governor has cut the budget four times. This has resulted in approximately $155 million in cuts. Additionally, he has drawn another $50 million from the state's rainy day fund. This resulted in budget cuts for most state agencies; however, the Department of Finance and Administration, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Child Protective Services and the Department of Corrections did not receive cuts.
The failure to agree on these two contentious bills means that the Legislature will be called in for special session to address them. Some of us are hopeful that the special session will also include an opportunity to aggressively address the issue of a lottery as a potential source of income for the state. If this is presented, I would certainly vote yes. We continue to talk about our problem (lack of revenue) and this could be one part of the solution (increased revenue).
Although this will not cure all our budget woes, it would be start in the right direction. Mississippi needs the funds to cover the rising cost of various functions of government that impact people's daily lives. Until this year, I wasn't cognizant of the fact t
he government provides so many services to Mississippians. The ability to provide public safety, access to health care, a good public education, good roads and bridges, protections against natural disaster and other vital services are the essential components of a civilized society.
Our financial goals should be long term, and not short term in nature. While tax cuts can be good, they need to be targeted, and should result in promised job creation
. Mississippi's corporate tax cuts produced some jobs but possibly at the cost of other Mississippians who work for state agencies. I don't want to see another hard working state employee to lose their job.
An important measure that passed during the session is a funding bill for a Trooper school. The lack of officers on the road had risen to emergency level. This should help fill the ranks of those who patrol our highways. Back home in the Mississippi Delta, I have talked to several local law enforcement officers who are eager to get the training and serve on the Mississippi highways.
The effort to put the Departments of Health, Mental Health and Rehabilitative Services under the control of the Governor was thwarted. The professional boards that now oversee each of them will continue their designed functions. Additionally, a push to "reduce the footprint of government" by removing most state employees from civil service protections was halted as well. It is believed that this would have resulted in mass firings.
The issue of a new school funding formula remained an elusive topic because planning sessions were held behind closed doors. As we move forward, I am optimistic that state leadership will be more transparent about the future of education which impacts roughly 490,000 youth in the state of Mississippi.
It has been a pleasure serving you this session. If there is anything I can do for you, please call 662-344-1400 or email
. As we go into our 200 year anniversary in Mississippi, I encourage each of you to do your part in making Mississippi a better place in your individual communities.