On January 5, at high noon, the 133rd Mississippi State Legislature began the second session in its four-year term.
The first few weeks of the 90-day term are set aside for the legislature to draft, introduce, and work on legislation before it’s considered for debate and passage into law.
We had around 2,500 bills in the House and Senate filed this year. The measures reflect different ideas from all 174 legislators on ways they would like to shape and improve state government. Most of these bills will die in committee, some will be combined with other bills, and then the debate on what should pass begins.
There are several hot topics that will be up for discussion this year regarding recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, education issues such as teacher pay raises, the teacher shortage, state testing of students, workforce training, state income tax reduction, transportation and infrastructure needs, prison reform, and Medicaid will all be on the table.
I will continue to work this year on the state testing issue and am pleased to know that no students will be required to pass state-mandated tests this year in order to pass or graduate. The State’s decision regarding testing is due to the pandemic, but I and others think we need to make that decision permanent. I have several bills filed addressing this, including the test exemptions and a move to using the ACT and ACT Workkeys curriculum instead.
I’m also co-sponsoring a measure to require computer science to be taught in all public schools. It’s hard to believe that isn’t already a requirement. Our students are relying more and more on internet access, and they need the skills required to succeed in the virtual classroom.
We are seeing some real action to give our teachers a much-deserved pay raise. I am looking forward to voting for the Senate bill that was passed by that chamber unanimously last week. There are other state employees who also need pay raise consideration. I will support that effort as well. Our public servants have gone too long without even a cost-of-living raise. They deserve better from us.
We appreciate your prayers and concern for us as we are striving to stay as healthy as possible while we work at the Capitol. There are 174 Legislators and over 100 employees who are working there, not to mention others who come in and out of the Capitol on a regular basis. We are making some adjustments to allow us to operate as safely as possible and will even be meeting in meetings virtually via zoom soon. With the COVID vaccinations becoming more available, we are hoping that this time next year, things will be back to normal.
Please remember to watch my Facebook page and these columns for updates as the session progresses.
As always, if you need my help or have concerns, I’m only a phone call away. You can always contact me at my office at 601-469-7886 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.