The Daily Journal summarizes state’s 2014 legislative session

Bobby Harrison of the Daily Journal runs down the significant events of the 2014 legislative session with a two-part series:

  1. Teacher pay, justice reform biggest achievements
  2. School districts still in budget hole

In his first story, Harrison provides a recap of the following issues that the legislature tackled during the session:

  • Teacher Pay:  Initially promoted by Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), the bill provides $2,500 pay raise over 2 years.  The senate finalized the language which, under Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ leadership cut out performance requirements.
  • Criminal Justice Reform:  Sweeping reforms resulting from recommendations of judges, prosecutors, district attorneys, law enforcement and local officials.  Estimated to save $266 Million over 10-years.
  • Special Needs Payments:  Promoted by Sen. Nancy Collins (R-Tupelo), the proposal failed largely due to objections over giving “education vouchers.”
  • Religious Freedom:  Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed even after firestorm in Arizona.  Legislation changed to prevent the government from being able to force someone to take action against their religious beliefs.
  • Bonds:  $199.9 Million in new bonds were approved for Cooper Tire in Tupelo, a Tammy Wynette Museum in Tremont, the William Faulkner/Union Heritage Museum in New Albany, and renovations to Okolona College.
  • Texting:  After looking like ban on texting while driving would pass, Rep. Bill Denny (R-Jackson) entered a motion to reconsider which effectively killed the bill since efforts to table the motion were defeated.
  • Medicaid Expansion:  Republican leadership continues to oppose medicare expansion.  Both the House and the Senate rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid as is allowed under Obamacare (to cover those earning 138% of the federal poverty level).
  • Judges, Law Enforcement:  Added 16 assistant district attorneys, 50 new Highway Patrol troopers, added funds for the state Crime Lab.

The second story focuses on the budget.  According to Harrison, the $2.4 Billion public education budget was an increase of $85 Million over the previous year.  The current education budget is $255 Million short of the funding formula based on the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

In all, the 2014 $6 Billion general fund budget was an increase of about $200 Million over 2013.

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