This week, our country saw the transition of presidential power.
As I watched the 45th presidential inauguration with my parents, wife, and daughter, I couldn't help but feel proud as I saw President Barack Obama enjoy the last few minutes of his presidency. I never expected things to be perfect when President Obama left office, but I desired that the world might be enlightened as they saw the world through the lens of a transformative leader. He didn't let me down.
For many, I know that the outcome of the election was devastating on many different fronts. Despite how anyone feels about President Donald Trump, we must continue to work hard as we strive to provide equal opportunities so that every American, and Mississippian, has the potential to have a high quality of life. Progress must continue and democracy must prevail.
If you didn't like the outcome, one thing is for sure, you'll have your chance again in less than four years.
The state legislature had a full schedule during the third week of the 2017 legislative session, which began Monday with a joint Education and Appropriations committee meeting, where the consulting group, EdBuild presented their recommendations to revamp the state's education funding formula.
EdBuild suggested increasing the base student cost, or the amount of money used to educate the average student, with weights added for students with specific needs.
Weights would be included for Low-Income students, English Language Learners, Special Education students, gifted students, students in the lowest and highest grade levels and students in rural or sparse school districts.
The consulting group also suggested funding schools based on their enrollment numbers instead of attendance numbers and creating a method of funding that can be easily calculated to promote transparency in education funding. It was pointed out that Mississippi's 73 percent cost guarantee in regard to education funding is much higher than that of other states. EdBuild suggested reconsidering this percentage and allowing school districts to exceed the state cap on the amount of local funds they can raise for their schools.
I want to make sure that there is no new financial burden on local communities to fund public education. To my Bolivar and Sunflower constituents, please know that I will continue to investigate how any formula will impact the rural communities around our state.
EdBuild acknowledged that this formula would have to be phased-in over a period of at least five years, because making all of these changes at once would not be feasible. In the coming months, my fellow legislators and I will be responsible for deciding how many or how few of these recommendations to implement.
(A more detailed account of the EdBuild recommendations can be found on the state website: CLICK Here!!! )
Several pieces of legislation reached the House floor on Wednesday afternoon.
The most contested was
House Bill 555
, which proposes that a three-member commission be established to approve the Attorney General's use of outside attorneys in cases that could result in hefty legal awards.
Members who opposed the bill pointed out that the Attorney General is bringing money into the state through these lawsuits, while supporters of the bill accused the Attorney General of engaging in "taxation by litigation." Personally, I feel this bill might hinder the Attorney General from doing his job without interference and stop the office from suing corporations that infringe on people's rights. The bill failed by a close vote of 58-60 but Rep. Mark Baker, who introduced the bill, made a motion to reconsider the legislation at a later date.
Other relatively uncontested bills introduced to the House floor included a measure lifting the requirement for "no parking" signage, legislation requiring drivers to slow down when encountering certain features on the road, bills creating nursing and physical therapy licensure compacts, an extension of the Infant Mortality Reduction Collaborative and a bill authorizing the Department of Health to establish a Maternal Mortality Review Committee.
Among visiting groups to the Capitol this week were members of the American Cancer Society, Mississippi Delta Community College, MEMA, Alzheimer's Mississippi and the Mississippi State Medical Association Alliance.