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Lawmakers have full plate of issues for upcoming session

Mississippi lawmakers will have a full plate of issues to digestwhen they return to Jackson next week for the 2006 Legislativesession.

The main course, obviously, will be how to handle recoveryefforts following Hurricane Katrina. Like a good steak, lawmakersmust ensure that is well done.

Side dishes include a new funding formula for the MississippiAdequate Education Program (MAEP), a tax on tobacco or other”sins,” and funding for the state’s mental heath crisiscenters.

Whatever education funding plan lawmakers and educators come upwith, they must make sure all school districts are fully and fairlyserved.

On another education topic, area lawmakers believe fundingstruggles over the Mississippi School of the Arts are a thing ofthe past. We hope so and look forward to the school continuing tocultivate the state’s best and brightest young artistic talent.

As for the other issues, there is some Legislative support butGov. Haley Barbour has shown no stomach for a tobacco tax hike. Andfunding for the mental health crisis centers, including money tobuild the planned one here in Brookhaven, needs to happen.

A north Mississippi economic development project that would seethe state commit funds for an industrial land purchase has to beconsidered a dessert at this point.

Some lawmakers are supporting the proposal even though there areno industry or business commitments for the Wellspring site. Allstate communities would like a piece of a pie like the Wellspringdeal, but the state cannot afford that.

With so many things on the plate, lawmakers must craft abalanced diet for a healthy state in 2006 and beyond.