Summit Targets Legislative Agenda

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

Mississippi lieutenant governor-elect, Phil Bryant, called a group of business leaders, lawmakers and other state officials together Thursday to discuss what issues are most important to Mississippians as a whole.

But the question still remains, can the state fund those areas?

Bryant said change is coming as he prepares for his first legislative session leading the state senate. Not only will there be no more partisan politics, but senators will be accountable to taxpayers.

"The first question is going to be, is there accountability in place and how effective is it going to be for the taxpayers?" said Bryant.

That was the idea behind a policy summit. Democrats and Republicans sat down and discussed how to fund areas that need it the most, like education and health care.

"All the requests we're making are either already in statute or grounded in research and all of the items are meant to improve student outcomes," said state school superintendent, Dr. Hank Bounds.

"We've got to fully fund Medicaid. We've got to do something about childhood and adult obesity in Mississippi and we've got to get more primary care physicians in this state," said Dr. Randy Easterling of the Mississippi Medical Association.

And the list goes on, whether it's in economic development, law enforcement or technology.

But the big question becomes how much will the legislature be able to spend with limited resources. Bryant said they may not fund everything, but they'll definitely do all they can.

Bryant laid out his ideas to the group, hoping to gain a consensus that not everything will get the money it needs or deserves.

"There are a lot of needs that are out there," said Bryant. "We've just got to fund the ones that we can. Education is part of it; it's important, but it's not everything when it comes to budget time."

Bryant said he hopes this summit will create a new way of lawmaking, one without politics and conflict. That remains to be seen. The 2008 legislative session begins Jan. 8.

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