Lawmakers seek MSA support

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 11, 2010

Brookhaven’s representation in the Mississippi Legislature tookadvantage of a slow first week of the 2010 session to begindrumming up support for the coming fight over the MississippiSchool of the Arts.

Gov. Haley Barbour suggested the Brookhaven residential highschool be moved to save state money in his executive budgetrecommendations, and a bill to that effect will be introduced inthe House any day now, said District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. Theintroduction of legislation to move MSA alongside the similarMississippi School for Mathematics and Science at the campus of theMississippi University for Women in Columbus will come as asurprise to no one and was attempted last year, she said.

To counter, Hyde-Smith plans to drop a bill in the Senate thatwould move MSMS to Brookhaven instead. MSA supporters don’t want toupset the math and science school’s operation in Columbus, shesaid, but the bill will serve as a vehicle to help protect MSA “incase something has to be moved.”

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“What we want is to keep the arts school (in Brookhaven) andintercept math and science if it tossed somewhere in the state,”Hyde-Smith said. “But things have been working well the way theyare.”

Hyde-Smith disclosed a new fact in defense for leaving MSA inBrookhaven, pointing out $2.14 million is still owed on a $3million bond the city floated to entice the state to build MSA.Moving MSA out of Brookhaven would hamper the city’s economiccondition and hurt the repayment of the 11-year bond, she said.

“The state made a commitment to us, and we made a commitment tothe state by sticking our head out for $3 million,” Hyde-Smithsaid. “With that lingering – which nobody has discussed publicly -that is helping our position.”

On the House side, District 92 Rep. Becky Currie is preparingsimilar just-in-case legislation. The Republican will almostcertainly be left out of any discussion on moving MSA out ofBrookhaven, which last year emitted from two powerful Democraticchairmen.

“They’re talking about it, they’re just not talking about it infront of me,” Currie said. “I’m going around trying to get support,trying to keep the support we had last year when we beat the billin the House. I need those 48 other Republican votes.”

Currie said some suspicion is arising that moving MSA toColumbus is meant only as a boost to embattled MUW, which has alsobeen recommended for merger into nearby Mississippi StateUniversity.

“I don’t see why else in the world we would waste taxpayers’money by moving it,” she said. “Did the Legislature do somethingwrong when they put the school in Brookhaven in 1999?”