The Mississippi Legislative Session is wrapping up in Jackson this week as the last bills come through the House and Senate. At the capitol, it was a busy day Wednesday. Legislators first thought they might finish all their business Wednesday, but after the Governor called a special session, and debate continues about funding for public transportation, it looks like the legislators will be at the capitol until Friday. As the session started to wrap up, News 25 met with several coastal representatives to talk about the greatest bi-partisan efforts this year. Mississippi's 2014 Legislative Session was heated, but on key issues, legislators across the aisle were all able to vote together. One of the biggest bi-partisan efforts of the season was the 2014 budget.
Representative Michael Watson, (R) District 51, says, "Those come from different parts of the state, different representation, different senators, so we had really to work ‘bi-partisanly’ across the aisle to make sure, number one, that we had a balanced budget, but number two, that the moves we took, the budget that we presented, was responsive to the needs of the people." The budget was balanced and a ‘rainy day’ fund was increased by 5% in case of future disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The budget is just over $6 billion, an increase in response to greater revenue and growing financial demands of many government organizations. One of those organizations was Mississippi teachers, who will receive a pay raise under an education bill.
Representative Angela Hill, (R) District 40, says, "I was a teacher in my previous life and it’s probably the hardest job that I have ever done, and in order to get the best teachers and retain the best teachers, I think it's a market driven thing, we're going to have to pay them, to get the best teachers. We've got great teachers in Mississippi and we need to compensate them for what they do.” Another crucial bill to be discussed in the capitol building was the Criminal Reform Bill. It focuses on mandatory sentences for violent criminals and rehabilitation for non-violent criminals who had been arrested for drug-related or property crimes.
Representative Brice Wiggins, (R) District 52, says, "It was Republicans and Democrats coming together. In the Senate, when we passed it the first time, we only had a few ‘no’ votes." The Criminal Reform Bill will ultimately save tax payers money by hopefully keeping fewer non-violent criminals behind bars. While the budget, teacher pay raises, and the Criminal Reform Bill are just three of the many issues to be covered this session, their passage reassures the citizens of Mississippi that their legislators are working together to best protect and serve them.