Gunn speaks little; listens a lot - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gunn speaks little; listens a lot

House Speaker Philip Gunn introduces his program at the town-hall meeting in Picayune, then he let the others do the talking. (Photo source: WLOX News) House Speaker Philip Gunn introduces his program at the town-hall meeting in Picayune, then he let the others do the talking. (Photo source: WLOX News)
PICAYUNE, MS (WLOX) -

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn did more listening than talking. Gunn ended his town hall tour in Picayune Thursday.

He calls the project "Mississippi Solutions - An Ideas Tour."

The Picayune stop was the last of a four-day, eight-city tour in Mississippi.

This is the third year of Gunn's idea tour, and each year, he says he strategically selects cities to widen the network of residents involved.

Gunn says it's important for government to reach out, because it's too difficult the other way around.

"Every year, we're positioning ourselves within an hour's drive of every citizen," Gunn said. "And I call that bringing the legislature to the people. We want to get out; we want to hear what's on your mind; what your thoughts are; what your concerns are and hear any ideas you may have for improving our state."

Gunn said that the process has worked. Last year's tour yielded two ideas that were eventually signed into law: a law that reactivates the Mississippi Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program; and a law that provides a tax credit on vehicle tags for law enforcement officers and firefighters injured in the line of duty.

More than 50 people gathered at Picayune City Hall to speak out and hear others. Along with Gunn, the team of listeners included city officials and state legislators. And the suggestion box got stuffed.

Sue Suter of the United Way of South Mississippi, urged continued support of early childhood education.

"I just hope that continues, that focus on early childhood as an indicator, when a child's brain is 90 percent developed by the age of 5, it's too late by the time they get to third grade," she said.

Other suggestions included animal cruelty law reform; support to add more internet access in public libraries; and campaigns championed by the state department of education aimed to improve family values and parenting skills.

Among the more impassioned pleas came from Jeremiah Boddy, a 20-year-old college student from Jackson.

His concern? Election reform for a divided political state.

"I believe that I as a Republican should determine who I want to be the nominee," he said. "I don't believe that people from other parties should be able to come in and disenfranchise my vote for which millions of men have died to give me the right for it in the first place."

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