2018 legislative session thus far leaves much to be desired

Published 9:59 pm Saturday, February 3, 2018

Two weeks into the 2018 legislative session, prominent issues expected to be taken up remain undecided, in particular education and transportation.

As legislative bills survived and died at Tuesday’s first major deadline, House Speaker Philip Gunn rushed through the House an ambitious rewrite of the public school funding formula, as well as ways to pay for infrastructure maintenance, but Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has yet to address either and has yet to assign them to Senate committees.

The House sent the 354-page education funding formula bill to the Senate on Jan. 18, and that is where it sits. The Senate did not produce its own education funding bill ahead of the committee deadline, so now we wait and wonder what will happen to school funding this year.

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Reeves spokesperson Laura Hipp did release a statement which reads the Lt. Gov. is “committed to implementing student-centered funding for Mississippi schools that better addresses the needs of the classrooms of today.”

Reeves has shown support for Senate Bill 2623, which would spend more public money to send children to private schools with a voucher program. The measure cleared committee and headed to the Senate floor for debate.

“We have a long way to go to secure enough votes in the House of Representatives, but today’s action moves us one step closer to making this a reality,” said Reeves, a Republican, in a statement.

The bill likely won’t find much support in the House where similar proposals died in committee. 

Several road funding bills also cleared the House in the first couple of weeks of the session, the most notable infrastructure bill would pull $108 million from the state budget and divert it to road and bridge funding around the state. But like the House education bill, it has not been assigned to a Senate committee by Reeves.

In the past, Reeves has spoken out against what he calls temporary fixes to the long term infrastructure problem.

After two weeks, it appears our elected officials in Jackson still have a ways to go in solving two very pressing issues. Let’s hope they can get there.