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Legislators hear from the public: Breakfast meeting features Q&A with lawmakers

THE DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY / Sen. Sally Doty (left) talks with Cindy Moore of Brookhaven and Mayor Joe Cox at Monday morning's Legislative Breakfast at Poppa's Fish House. The event was sponsored by the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.

THE DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY / Sen. Sally Doty (left) talks with Cindy Moore of Brookhaven and Mayor Joe Cox at Monday morning’s Legislative Breakfast at Poppa’s Fish House. The event was sponsored by the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.

A crowd of around 125 turned out to hear from Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, and Reps. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, and Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto at Monday’s Legislative Breakfast sponsored by the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce at Poppa’s Fish House on Highway 51.

The legislators had a few minutes to introduce themselves before the audience sent questions to the front for master of ceremonies Tillmon Bishop to deliver.

“We have three hard working lawmakers here for you today,” Bishop said. “A Methodist, a Baptist and an Episcopalian – I’ll let you figure out who is who.”

Doty told the audience that she supported criminal law reform.

“We must decide who we are mad at and who we are afraid of and sentence them accordingly,” she said, quoting Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps.

Currie, who serves on education committees, told audience members that she is talking to community colleges and is supporting legislation that will give high school graduates two years of paid education at the community college level.

“To know that this will be provided,” Currie said, “lets me know that this will change our workforce. Industry is already interested in Mississippi for other reasons, but we need to show them that we have a workforce that is ready.”

Moak wanted to make two important points when he spoke – that the state needs to fully fund education and that the president’s new health care plan is a new way of paying medical providers.

“We need to make MAEP [Mississippi Adequate Education Program] a priority and fully fund our educational system,” Moak said. “I fully support teacher pay raises across the board.”

On the Affordable Care Act Moak said, “They are changing the way medical providers are getting paid,” he said. He explained that administrators at Southwest Mississippi Medical Center who recently let go of five physicians told him they did that to keep from letting go of 140 other employees.

Reps. Becky Currie (left), R-Brookhaven, and Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, talk with guests before the Legislative Breakfast on Monday at Poppa's Fish House.

Reps. Becky Currie (left), R-Brookhaven, and Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, talk with guests before the Legislative Breakfast on Monday at Poppa’s Fish House.

The first question given to legislators was concerning a hotel tax. Currie responded.

“We want to ask for a hotel tax to help us do things for Brookhaven – like build a new sports complex and improve our roads.”

The audience asked legislators to comment on Medicaid expansion.

Currie is a nurse and doesn’t agree with who Mississippi has administering Mississippi Medicaid.

“The dumbest thing we do in Mississippi is funnel money to MississippiCAN,” Currie said. The Division of Medicaid is administered by a Coordinated Care Program called Mississippi Coordinated Access Network (MississippiCAN). “We’ve not made them show us where they are spending money,” Currie continued, “they are now putting CHIPS under this organization’s care. They are not paying our hospitals, and they are making medical providers jump through hoops to get paid nothing. They spent $105 million more than they anticipated and haven’t shown where that was spent. This is not working – you look at those hospitals that are laying off and shutting down, and I guarantee you those hospitals haven’t been paid by Medicaid properly in over a year.”

Moak said that dismissing Medicaid expansion rejects millions in funding for medical providers.

“If we accept Medicaid expansion, we accept $3 million a day for our medical providers,” Moak said. “This is not a Democratic or Republican thing, a black or white thing. We are talking about providing care for people who make under $11,000 a year.”

The audience asked about crime reform and drug offenders. Moak responded, and said he was speaking for all legislators, Democrats and Republicans

“The Family Drug and Youth Drug courts have shown a record of success,” he said. “We have two judges – Strong and Taylor – who make it the success that it is. We are working on getting them more than $3 million to fund these courts.” He explained that those sentenced to drug court pay fees that go towards funding them.

A question about driving and texting brought Doty to the podium.

“I’ve been working on a text and driving bill,” she said, “there’s one in the house and senate – I filed a couple of these bills. An addition to the careless driving bill from the house has it just illegal to text up to age 18. I don’t know how that will go, but I think we all should be responsible and not text and drive.”