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House speaker brings message to city

     Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn addressed a partisan crowd in a Meet and Greet event sponsored by the Lincoln County Republican Executive Committee and District 92 Rep. Becky Currie at the Lincoln Civic Center Tuesday night.

     “This is a partisan group and I want to speak in that fashion,” Clinton resident Gunn, who represents House District 56, said in beginning his speech.

      Gunn credited a Republican House majority with what he believed was a successful 2012 legislative session referencing the passage of the Child Protection Act, the attorney general Sunshine Act and the Voter I.D. Act.

     “We are fortunate to begin to see the fruits of conservatism come to life in Mississippi,” he said. “This is the kind of leadership you get when you elect conservative representatives.”

     Gunn also applauded the current legislature’s dedication to responsible spending, something he said is a contrast to the state’s previous reliance on “one-time money” such as that allotted after Hurricane Katrina.

     “Our leaders were budgeting upon that,” he said. “You can’t do that.”

     Gunn also addressed a need for job creation in the state, which he described as the number one issue for Mississippians today.

     In addition to tax incentives for potential industries, Gunn iterated the need for a qualified work force.

     “We have to be able give [industry] that assurance,” he said. “In order to do that we have to give Mississippians a good education.”

     “Our children are lagging behind,” he continued. “We have got to do some things to improve our education system.”

     Raising accountability for high schools with low graduation rates, creating performance-based salaries for teachers and a further concentration on pre-school education were among Gunn’s proposed solutions.

     Gunn also acclaimed a bill passed by the legislature requiring third-grade students to pass a state literacy test before advancing to the fourth grade.

     Charter schools were also a topic on Gunn’s Tuesday night agenda, referring to them as “just one tool in the tool box.”

     “We are not going into the charter school business,” he said. “We are just providing the opportunity for those companies to come in and set up that school.”

     Gunn explained his advocacy for charter schools with a “one-grocery-store” analogy.

     “If there is only one grocery store in town what happens if they stop carrying milk, eggs and bread? You are not being provided the basic essentials you need,” he said.

     “We don’t apply that kind of logic to any other area of life,” he continued. “Except when it comes to education we say, ‘you have to go to this school.'”

     In an interview after Gunn’s speech, District 92 Rep. Becky Currie said she believes Gunn’s message is an apt one for Lincoln County.

     “He addressed all issues we need to be looking at here,” she said. “We are trying to bring in new industry as we just hired a new chamber leader.”

     Currie continued, “We have some great schools but some schools that need some work. When they are having to teach remedial reading at Co-Lin, we have failed in K-12 education.”