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Legislator expects to see ‘big topics’ in the year ahead

With the a new year laid before them, policymakers from across Mississippi will soon make their cyclic pilgrimage to Jackson.

Tuesday marks the official start of a new legislative assembly, and District 39 Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, who serves Lincoln, Lawrence and portions of Copiah and Walthall counties, anticipates a relatively hectic schedule.

“I think it’s going to be a very busy session, because we have some big topics to discuss,” she said.

One of the most contentious issues up for debate is the possible creation of a state lottery.

District 92 Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, who serves Copiah, Lawrence and Lincoln counties, is in favor of a statewide game of chance.

“In 1992, the people of Mississippi voted to have a lottery,” she said. “And I’m not going to step on the will of the people.”

However, not every local legislator supports the initiative.

District 53 Rep. Vince Mangold, R-Brookhaven, who serves Franklin, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Lincoln and Pike counties, is still unsure of how he’ll react if the lottery comes to an official vote.

“I’m waiting to see the full report from the House committee, but, so far, I haven’t been for it,” he said.

Lottery proponents believe a statewide sweepstakes could have a positive, long-term impact on the Mississippi economy. Currie said states with active lotteries — like Louisiana and Tennessee — gross $80 million per year on average from ticket sales.

“We lose a lot of business with people going to other states to play their lotteries,” she said.

The ever-contentious topic of road and bridge maintenance is another issue that will likely be contested in the statehouse.

“There are plenty of viewpoints on how to address that problem,” Doty said. “The problem didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight. It’s going to take a mix of sources to find a reasonable fix.”

A great deal of pressure has lately been placed on county supervisors to address the growing problems surrounding aging, local infrastructure. But Currie believes a solution must be reached through the combined efforts of federal, state and local lawmakers.

“Once you build or pave a road, you’ve got to keep it up,” she said. “We all know that, and the president is making it one of his number priorities in 2018.”

Currie said she voted for a $30 million increase in infrastructure spending last session, but the initiative failed to pass an assembly-wide vote.

“We’ve got to come together, or the problem will continue to get worse,” she said.

Mangold has also made road and bridge maintenance one of his chief concerns.

“We’ve had several proposals we’ve pushed through that haven’t passed,” he said.

In the coming months, legislators also plan to address recent fiscal cuts to public education, and Currie hopes to do everything she can to stabilize academic endowments.

“I need to know that my schools are going to be OK,” she said.

Doty serves on the state legislature’s joint budgetary committee, and she said the 2019 financial plan is already being considered. But, with the 2018 budget well underway, she does not foresee any further slashes to educational spending in the near future.

“We don’t expect any cuts this year, but that depends on our revenue,” she said.

Overall, local lawmakers are optimistic about the coming assembly and look forward to undertaking the challenges set before them.

“Our state gets some negative press, but we have a lot of positive things happening,” Doty said. “I’m very enthusiastic about Mississippi’s future.”