Hyde-Smith again selected to chair Agriculture panel

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 15, 2008

As the first week of the legislative session ended Friday,District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith found herself in good position toeffect change in Mississippi during 2008.

In making committee assignments, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant namedHyde-Smith as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. TheDemocratic senator from Brookhaven was also held the post the lastfour year under former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck.

Now that Hyde-Smith knows where she stands for the remainder ofthe term, she is prepared to proceed with the next 100 days oflawmaking. She said her appointment will allow her to have abearing on other committees as well.

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“Normally, the chairman is very vital to many committees, notjust the committee that he or she chairs,” Hyde-Smith said. “If thelieutenant governor thinks enough of you to make you a chairman,you’ll have some pretty good influence in the Senate.”

Hyde-Smith’s influence will be immediately felt at theagriculture table, where she hopes to help the state lessen itsdependence on petroleum.

“I’m really looking forward to working on alternative fuelissues,” she said. “I’m very proud of the ethanol plant that justopened in Vicksburg, and I’m a huge fan of biodiesel as well.

“If we can figure out some ways to produce our fueldomestically, instead of depending on foreign oil and petroleumproducts, that would be a very positive move for Mississippi.”

Hyde-Smith will also have a say in state districts’representation.

The time for redistricting Mississippi will arrive whileHyde-Smith serves on the elections committee. She foreseesadditional seats in the Senate for at least one county thusfar.

“DeSoto County is growing so fast, it will probably be awardedanother seat,” Hyde-Smith said. “It’s looking that way, based onthe population growth of the area right now. We will be taking acloser look at DeSoto as the time goes by, and we will be ready todraw the new lines.”

There will also be tougher issues ahead for the Senate, like theexamination of the state’s Medicaid program and the high costs ofoperating the state’s corrections budget. With her appointment tothe public health and corrections committees, Hyde-Smith will befront and center for the upcoming debate.

“There will be plenty of issues on both of those committees,”she said. “Medicaid and Corrections are the two biggestbudget-busters in the state. Hopefully, we can address the highcost of medical care in Mississippi and the skyrocketing Medicaidbudget.

“I’m also looking forward to dealing with issues concerningchildren’s health and the department of human services,” shecontinued. “I’ve always been very active on both of thoseissues.”

Another issue of great discussion facing the legislators in bothchambers this year is the proposed grocery tax cut and tobacco taxincrease, as well as the overall tax structure of the state.

Hyde-Smith said she is ready to delve into the task ofdetermining whether or not adjustments need to be made for thestate’s tax structure. However, she is approaching the issue with acareful eye.

“I want to take a look at lowering the grocery tax again, butthere are several different things on the table right nowconcerning the tobacco tax,” she said. “I’m just going to focus onthe grocery tax to start with.”

However Hyde-Smith decides to lean on the issues before theSenate this year, she will lean publicly, before the eyes of anyonewho wishes to tune in. The Senate unanimously agreed to allow alive feed webcast of the entire session.

“It makes the proceedings more open, and it’s free to thestate,” Hyde-Smith said. “Most importantly, this will giveclassrooms around the state the opportunity to tune in and learnmore about how the governmental system works.”