Local legislators talk accomplishments, goals at breakfast
Published 10:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2023
Lincoln County’s state legislators shared a meal and information with area business people and politicians at the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Legislative Breakfast this week.
Representatives Vince Mangold and Becky Currie, as well as Senator Jason Barrett, all of Lincoln County, spoke at the event conducted at Mitchell’s Catering.
“It was a good session, very busy,” Currie said.
Her main talking points were the success the Legislature had with following up the defeat of Roe v. Wade with a stronger focus on helping women and children. Laws were passed to make adoption and fostering easier, and to expand postpartum reform past the current 60 days.
Tax incentives for private businesses were also expanded, to give business owners the opportunity to donate up to $10 million annually to faith-based groups in lieu of paying state tax. In 2022, the Legislature passed the largest teacher pay raise ever in the state, and repeated the move this year for teachers’ assistants.
More than $100 million extra was given to public education, and $103 million to rural hospitals. King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven will receive approximately $1 million.
Currie also mentioned state money provided to improve Brookway Boulevard and for improvements at the county’s Government Complex. In the past, a fallen law officer’s weapon could be given to his or her spouse, but a new law allows a non-spousal family beneficiary to receive the service weapon.
“Brookhaven makes it so easy,” Currie said. “You make it easy for us to go and fight for you.”
Rep. Mangold said the recent session ended “on a wild note,” with the final vote cast at 2 a.m. on Saturday, April 1. It was a fitting end for a very busy session, he said.
“We believe we’ve gotten Mississippi in a better place once again.”
Along with Mangold, Sen. Barrett repeated some of the accomplishments Currie mentioned, stressing their importance. Barrett noted that Lincoln County was also one of only seven counties to be allowed an additional assistant district attorney position.
“MSA is funded more than it has ever been,” he said, and mentioned financial benefits to Franklin County in an $8 million allocation for the Lake Okhissa project; and $1 million for roads near Georgia-Pacific in Lawrence County.
Barrett did mention one place he believe the Legislature had failed.
“We had some short comings. Co-Lin was left out, and we’re speaking with our higher ups to try to right that wrong,” he said. “Community colleges are vital and we want to help you guys. It’s our job to work on your behalf.”
Two questions were asked from the attendees. The first was to address the MAEP funding and formula for public schools.
“The formula is broken,” Barrett said. “The Senate had a fully-funded formula … and for whatever reason it did not pass. Wording is everything … on paper it sounds perfect. But we’ve heard that it’s like a grant to us but more like a loan to them, according to local superintendents. That’s a problem.”
Education has been fully funded twice in the past, Mangold said — once when Democrats were in charge and once when Republicans were in charge. He believes it can be done.
“It’s got to be fixed,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
The second question was what could be done to address economic development, because the rural hospital bills are “a bandaid” on the long-term sustainability concerns.
“It’s the large insurance companies,” said Currie, a registered nurse. “They are getting filthy rich and it’s hurting providers. The governor vetoed a bill that passed the House and the Senate — the only bill he vetoed — to make insurance companies pay at least enough to cover (providers’) costs to provide service.”
“If we don’t support our hospitals, they may not be here some day,” she said.
Barrett said the concern of many potential developers is what they call an uneducated workforce.
“It’s why WorkKeys, community colleges, etc. are so important here,” he said. “I’m so frustrated that (other large areas) get everything … I’m so frustrated with Southwest Mississippi not getting the economic development we deserve.”
It’s a problem with sites not being ready to go, also, Mangold said.
“We’re blessed here in Brookhaven because we’ve got a good team that’s pushing for Lincoln County and Brookhaven,” he said. “We’re in better shape than most.”
Mangold said more sites like the Linbrook Park spec buildings are needed, as well as a greater, educated workforce, improved infrastructure and site/land availability.
“We’re good at what we can do, but we’ve still got work to do,” he said.