Local lawmakers ready for new session

Published 10:45 pm Saturday, December 31, 2011

    Mississippi lawmakers are preparing for a new legislativesession, and two local representatives will find themselves inreversed roles since last year.


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    District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bouge Chitto, has served in theHouse since 1984 and breezed to reelection this year with noopponent.

    As Moak prepares for a new term however, the political landscape ofthe House has changed. For the first time in his legislativecareer, Moak will be in the minority party.

    In the November elections, voters gave control of the House toRepublicans for the first time since Reconstruction.

    “There’s a new Republican group coming in, and they’ll have anopportunity to lead,” Moak said.

    District 92 Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, is ready for thechallenge.

    “The responsibility lies solely with the Republicans to clean thisup,” Currie said. “We have a lot to do.

    Currie stands on the threshold of a second term.

    Both Currie and Moak agree that budget concerns will loom large inthe upcoming session that begins Jan. 3 at noon.

    Number one is going to be money,” Moak said, looking ahead at whatissues he believes will dominate the session. “There’s no morestimulus package funds, no more Katrina funds.”

    Moak is concerned by what he sees as early signals that Republicansmay try to cut education funding.

    “I see where Haley (Barbour) brought his budget out, and there’scuts to education,” Moak said.

    Incoming governor Phil Bryant has yet to released a proposedbudget.

    Looking ahead at budgeting, Currie said she would rather not dipinto the state’s reserve funds to cover shortfalls.

    “I tried to say last year, we spent a billion dollars of one-timemoney, and now we don’t have that money any more,” Currie said.

    Aside from budgets, both plan to pursue legislative goals of theirown. Moak said he keeps a running list of legislation to introducebut does not know yet which to introduce immediately thissession.

    Currie plans to pursue reform of the state’s mental health system,something she attempted throughout her first term.

    Currie feels buoyed by the recent release of a report by theDepartment of Justice criticizing the state’s mental healthcare.

    “It says we’re about fifty years behind,” Currie said of thereport. “I feel a little bit vindicated.”

    Currie also said she plans to introduce Alabama’s immigration bill.Previously, she had introduced Arizona’s immigration bill, only tosee it gain no traction in the House.

    In the previous session, an Arizona-style immigration bill clearedthe Senate but got no further.

    Currie also said she knows of GOP colleagues that plan to introducebills providing for more flexible charter school laws.

    Currie said she knows that Republican control of the House willbring new challenges and new criticisms.

    “You can never make everyone happy, but if you are honest and fairand try to do the right thing, that’s about all you can do,” Curriesaid.

    For his part, Moak is concerned that Republican power might resultin an influx of “far-right” legislation that was previously unableto get very far.

    “We’ll see how they approach that,” Moak said, speaking ofRepublican leaders.