The Clarion-Ledger, 3/3/8

With half of the 2008 session over, state lawmakers this week are heading back into committee rooms, where they will decide whether bills – some controversial – are changed, remain the same or simply die.

House and Senate members will consider the opposite chamber’s legislation – including a cigarette tax increase and bills that would either strengthen or loosen Mississippi’s marriage laws.

Lawmakers also will get more serious about deciding how the state’s $5 billion budget will be divided for the next fiscal year, as the cutoff to pass appropriations and bond bills is next week.

The Senate already has passed two bills that would put money toward some of the state’s deficits – including Medicaid’s shortfall – and recommit funds unused in fiscal 2008, which ends June 30.

“We’ve handled a lot of legislation so far, but … now we’re moving to the second stage of the process,” said Sen. Doug Davis, R-Hernando, vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee.