It was a busy day three in the State Capitol. It kicked off with the Mississippi Economic Council Capital Day where legislators and MEC talked through some of the top priorities for this year’s session. They mentioned transportation, workforce development, and education.

“The second issue we talked about with your (MEC) leaders was workforce development,” said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn. “It used to be when we pursued businesses in this state they would ask ‘how much are you going to give us, what incentives?’ That seems to have changed now. Now they ask ‘Do you have an educated, reliable, qualified workforce. If we are going to prosper in Mississippi we have to have a solid answer to that question.”

Speaker Gunn stressed a rewrite of the current education formula, MAEP. He said the goal is a student-centered formula that focuses on the needs of the students directly.

Also stressed was the states failing infrastructure. President Pro Tempore Terry Burton said it takes everyone, government and business to tackle the problem of infrastructure.

“We have to get it right because we only get one opportunity to bite this apple,” said Burton. “And this will be our last chance to get it right for a very long time.”

He said it isn’t good enough to just put in a new road, you have to deal with infrastructure needs in individual cities. Once infrastructure can be repaired and restored the potential for broadband accessibility to spread will raise.

After MEC wrapped up for the morning the House prepared to tackle several bills on the floor that were passed yesterday in committee meetings.

The gavel swang and immediately HB354, a bill to provide a percentage of growth funds for repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, was brought up and passed. HB357 and HB359 were thrown in the mix with the first passing quickly, but no such luck for HB359 or the new road moratorium.

The debate began as Chairman of House Appropriations Committee Charles Busby answered questions on what projects would be prohibited and what would be allowed if the bill passes. During the conversation, an amendment was added to take out any mention of state aid roads, which only leaves MDOT roads.

Rep. Hines got heated asking Rep. Busby if this was another bill to promote the prosperity of the “have’s” while limiting the “have not’s.” Busby responded that this bill would ensure no “pet projects” were pushed by lawmakers and that the roads the state already has are maintained with the funds currently available.

The vote was settled at 71-41 in favor.