New legislature will see familiar debates - - The News for South Mississippi

New legislature will see familiar debates

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

A new year will usher in a new round of debate on some old political sticking points at the state capitol.

The biggest being the fight over charter schools, supported by Governor Phil Bryant and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves.

"This year must be the year for transformational change in education," said Bryant. "We must get that done this year to give opportunities to children who are in failing districts or who are in districts that need help."

Not all lawmakers are on board with the idea, which expelled the charter school bill last year.

"It's nothing but a siphoning of public money off for private education and I'm just not going to support that," said Representative Steve Holland, a Democrat from Plantersville.

On the education front, Bryant will also be pushing legislation for teacher merit pay. Another debate will be whether to expand the state's Medicaid program to include more than 300,000 Mississippians to the roles.

"It's a huge public health and economic opportunity for our state," said Ed Sivak, director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center.

"It simply is not affordable for state and local governments," said Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves.

You can expect another round of immigration reform as well. Several bills have already been filed, setting the stage for more political showdowns. All of this, as a budget must be put in place by early April. Two proposals are already in place, one from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and one from Governor Bryant.

While lawmakers propose a $5.5 billion spending plan, Bryant's is higher at $5.8 billion. That's also slightly higher than what the state is currently spending at $5.7 billion. While there are some big differences between the two, there is a common thought.

"What you've got to expect is people are going to ask for way more than we're going to give," said Senator Terry Brown, a republican from Columbus.

It'll all play out over the next three months as new faces are added to the chambers because of deaths and resignations of former members. The 2013 session is set to begin on Tuesday at noon.

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