/Backdrop of statewide elections likely to dominate 2019 session

Backdrop of statewide elections likely to dominate 2019 session

Rep. Nick Bain (D-Corinth) said, “I’m sure that will play an important role.” The Senate’s presiding officer Tate Reeves is running for governor. Robert Foster, a freshman Republican from Hernando, will challenge him in the primary. Jay Hughes (D-Oxford), is also running for lieutenant governor. Buck Clarke, R.Hollandale, is running as treasurer. Who knows who might be eligible for which offices after the March 1 deadline. All 174 legislative seats are up for re-election in the second half of this year. As Democrats attempt to regain some political power, the House and Senate Republicans will be trying to retain their three-fifths supermajority while the Democrats, who controlled the Legislature in the 20th century, try to keep it. “I don’t believe it will be very contentious. “It is an election year,” stated Steve Holland, D.Plantersville. “There might be some effort at one-upmanship by (Republican] super majority.” However, the consensus is that major, controversial legislation is dealt with in the third year of the four-year term and not the year when lawmakers prepare to run for reelection. But, Speaker Philip Gunn (Republican-Clinton) said that “As we’ve repeatedly said — not just to my caucus, but to others who have asked — this is not a year for nothing.” We are going to do something. We were brought up to work. Just because it is an election year does not mean that we are allowed to take a break. Gunn admits that 2019 will not be a contentious session. Gunn stated that controversial issues such as last year’s failed attempts to reform the school funding formula and expand scholarship accounts similar to school vouchers, will not be considered this year. Gunn stated recently that while the main issue appears to be about teacher pay increases, Gunn also said that any attempt to give teachers a raise should include state employees. Leaders have not provided any details on potential pay increases, but they acknowledge that the final decision will depend on the outlook for revenue growth. In 2014, the last teacher raise was approved. Teachers received a $2,400 all-inclusive pay increase over a period of two years. The legislation also allowed teachers to get smaller raises depending on their schools’ performance starting in the third-year. According to the 2017 National Education Association statistics, Mississippi ranks last nationally for average teacher pay at $42,925 annually. The national average teacher pay is $59,660. Although state employees have not received an all-encompassing raise since 2007, legislators have allowed agency directors greater flexibility to give raises to employees for multiple reasons such as meeting educational benchmarks. The average annual salary for Mississippi state employees is $37,911 annually, which is lower than the average of other states. The federal Affordable Care Act permits the expansion of Medicaid to cover the working poor. This could cause some controversy. Governor Phil Bryant and legislative leaders have rejected efforts to expand Medicaid. Phil Bryant and the governor have rejected attempts to expand Medicaid. However, Mississippi Today learned that Bryant might be changing his stance as his administration quietly discussed an expansion. There has not been any indication that the legislative leadership is changing their position on Medicaid expansion. Gunn stated recently that he doesn’t believe it will be an issue during the 2019 session. Reeves has not yet commented on the 2019 session. Bryant could seek support from the Democratic minority if he does attempt to expand Medicaid. “All Mississippians require greater access to better, more proactive healthcare that could prevent many from ever having to visit an emergency room,” stated Sen. Derrick Simmons, Greenville, who heads the Democratic caucus. Rural residents need to have access to hospitals closer to their homes. Because Medicaid expansion was denied in our state, rural hospitals are closing down and vital services are being cut. “Legislative Democrats support Medicaid expansion since 2011.” Criminal-justice reform is an area that could see significant legislation. These efforts have been promoted by both Bryant and Democrats. Simmons stated that “our criminal-justice system requires more overhauling so that our jail populations can be reduced and taxpayers’ dollars are saved and reinvested.” Both low-level and nonviolent offenders should be released into society with dignity, respect, and rehabilitation. However, the Senate Pro Tempore Terry Burton (R-Newton) and House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden (R-Meridian) could cause some controversy. Both are currently facing the consequences of recent arrests for driving while impaired. Reeves in the Senate said that he believes Burton should be removed from the pro-tem position, while Gunn in the House said that he will ask the Ethics Committee to examine the matter. It is possible to address drunk driving issues early in the session. To remove one of these officers from the leadership positions, it would need to be voted on by the chamber.