Barbour Gets Mixed Reviews

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Gov. Haley Barbour signaled early in his State of the State Address his views on one of the state's prime issues, Medicaid and its funding.

"Mississippi taxpayers should not be asked, much less required, to provide free health care to those who can work but choose not to," said Barbour on Monday.

New Medicaid director, Dr. Warren Jones, indicated to Newscenter 11 that could possibly mean removing some people from the current Medicaid roll.

"I came out of a health care environment in the military for my whole career and I had to demonstrate that I was eligible each and every time I got care," said Dr. Jones. "To me, it was just the way we lived. I think one of the things we've got to do is to make sure that, because we want to provide for those folks who really need it, we need to make sure that those folks who are in the system are those that truly need to be there."

Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat who won election last November, endorsed a plan to increase the utilization of private prisons.

"I heard many of those things that he talked about during the campaign and it's encouraging to see that we're going to look for the cheapest bang for our buck in law enforcement," Hood said. "I'd like to see us do a lot of it in the area of prevention and also of some treatment of those we have incarcerated."

Barbour also called for additional tort reform. Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck said she agrees it's needed.

"Certainly I'm going to be working hard. It takes us all working together, the House and the Senate and the executive branch all coming together, in the area of civil justice reform," said Tuck. "And as presiding officer of the state senate and as lt. governor of this state, it's certainly a priority of mine."

Educators gave Barbour mixed grades for his call to encourage the more frequent use of alternate certification for teachers.

With alternate certification, people do not need to major in education. They can study chemistry or other subjects and then take a few education courses to test for a license.

The principal of Warren Central High School, Mack Douglas, said his school benefits from having physics, chemistry and math teachers who went the alternate certification route.

But the executive director of the Mississippi Association of Educators, Frank Yates, said Mississippi should focus on quality rather than quantity of teacher certification.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.