EMPOWER MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
The 2015 Legislative Session kicked off this week as lawmakers made their way back to Jackson for the final three-month session before voters go to the polls later this year. All 174 members, along with the Governor and Lt. Governor, are up for re-election. The primary election is August 4th and the general election is on November 3rd.
To run for office this year, candidates must file their paperwork before 5:00 PM on February 27th. Many incumbent legislators have already filed for reelection, while some have announced their intentions to retire. In total, due to retirements and redistricting, there will be at least eleven open seats in the House and three open seats in the Senate.
ELECTING THE SENATE’S #2
Both chambers convened at noon on Tuesday with the Senate quickly taking care of one important piece of business. Senator Giles Ward (R-Louisville) was elected President Pro Tempore of the State Senate, where he will serve as the number two under Lt. Governor, Tate Reeves and number three in the line of succession to the Governor. This election was necessitated by the untimely death of former Sen. Terry Brown (R-Columbus) last fall.
Ward was nominated for the post by Senator Terry Burton (R-Newton) and Senator Willie Simmons (D-Cleveland) seconded the nomination. Simmons was very complimentary of Ward, noting that Ward may not always agree with you, but “he is never disagreeable.” During his two terms in the Senate, Ward has a conservative voting record and has been a champion of education choice, earning an A+ on our Education Choice Scorecard. Ward announced in July that he will not be running for reelection, leaving his seat open that includes Leake, Neshoba, and Winston counties.
COMMON CORE RALLY
On Tuesday, families from as far away as DeSoto County descended on the Capitol to voice their opposition to the Common Core educational standards. The effort to replace Common Core in Mississippi has gained momentum recently as Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn have all outlined their concerns with these standards. Governor Bryant spoke at the afternoon rally and was joined by Senators Phillip Gandy (R-Waynesboro), Angela Hill (R-Picayune), Michael Watson (R-Pascagoula), David Parker (R-Olive Branch), and a host of other legislators. It appears increasingly likely that the legislature will vote to replace the Common Core standards. The only remaining question seems to be, what will they replace them with? Look for legislative leaders to propose an alternative in the coming weeks.
Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee held joint meetings this week to discuss performance-based budgeting efforts designed to streamline services and build a more efficient and effective state government. Under this system, agencies are required to outline clear goals and provide detailed information on whether or not a program is working. This is intended to help legislators make better decisions in appropriating taxpayer money. Legislation was first enacted in 1994 to implement performance-based budgeting, though it has generally not been enforced until recently. If fiscal responsibility is important to you – and it certainly is important to us at Empower – performance-based budgeting is a great step to help ensure we as taxpayers get the most bang for our buck. Next, once state agencies are more efficient, let’s eliminate a few.
Legislative attorneys are working hard on both ends of the Capitol to finalize all the bills that legislators have requested be drafted. There are two important deadlines fast approaching: Wednesday, January 14 is the deadline for legislators to make requests for general bills to be drafted and Monday, January 19 is the deadline for general bills to be introduced. Appropriation bills face a different set of deadlines.
In a typical session, over 3,000 bills are introduced. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of those bills do not make it very far. Some of the bad bills already introduced include bills that: expand Medicaid, ban texting while driving, prohibit smoking in public places, make kindergarten mandatory, and create a statewide lottery.
We will keep watch as more bills are introduced, alerting you to the good, the bad, and the ugly.