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Accountability & transparency are vital to government
Mar 13, 2017 | 771 views | 0 0 comments | 65 65 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We are very late in the session and have taken only small steps toward addressing the key issues of education funding, fixing our roads and bridges, and economic development.

The House is currently involved in floor debate on Senate financial bills. Although there is still no sign of a new education funding formula, we understand that the Senate has introduced a “place holder” MAEP funding bill at level funding from last year -- which is still $ millions short of what is required to fully fund education.

We are looking forward to hosting educators, teachers, students, families and education advocates to the Capitol on March 16. The rally, dubbed “A Place at the Table,” is an effort to draw attention to the fact that education funding decisions are being made without input from the education community. Educators want to be involved in the decision-making and are asking for community information meetings and other means of involving the folks on the front lines of the issue.

I believe that government should be conducted in the most transparent and accountable way possible. Certainly a government service as vital as education should encourage as much input as it can – from the professional educators as well as all of those directly affected by the decisions.

As a practicing attorney who often represents individuals with troubled homelife, I was glad to see movement on issues involving victims of abuse in the home.

On Monday, the House passed Senate Bill 2680, which clarifies alternative relatives that may care for a child who is being abused or neglected. We adopted an amendment regarding a current divorce statute, making it easier for someone experiencing domestic violence to receive a divorce. The amendment says divorce would be allowed for people experiencing abusive physical conduct, either threatened or attempted, or abusive non-physical conduct including threats, intimidation, emotional or verbal abuse. The measure also allows for a victim to serve as the witness of the abuse. Prior to this, domestic violence victims’ testimony had to be corroborated by an eye-witness. The bill passed unopposed.

The House is holding strong for road and bridge repair and maintenance. Another attempt to provide money for roads and bridges passed in the form of Senate Bill 2939. Legislators offered an amendment to a tax bill that would provide $50 million in bonds for bridge repairs and allocate use tax to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, counties and municipalities for infrastructure repair. The bill also states that in the event sales tax, referred to as “use tax” from out-of-state sellers, becomes federal law or the state experiences revenue growth, a certain percentage will be set aside for road and bridge improvements. The bill passed by a majority vote of 109-7.

When the word came that federal inspectors had closed over 100 bridges in Mississippi because they were too dangerous to cross, it definitely got our attention. The MDOT has designated over 4,000 bridges in Mississippi as being deficient. While the measures we have passed in the House during the 2017 session offer some relief, it is only a portion of what we actually need. Some estimates say we need as much as $350 million per year for about ten years to appropriately address the very real dangers presented by the current state of our roads and bridges. We had hoped that there would be a special session called to address this important issue, but we do not think that is likely at this time.

Please go to our web site at www.legislature.ms.gov to review the daily actions of the chambers under Legislation/Daily Action Reports. You can check the Schedule/House Schedule to see when we convene and have committee meetings. Additionally, you can click on the Live Web Cast to watch us in action during floor debate. The Mississippi College School of Law has archived video of floor debates on specific bills. Go to their website at www.law.mc.edu and click on Library/Legislative History Project to view the debates.

Please contact me at nbain@house.ms.gov or call me at 662-287-1620 if you have an ideas or concerns. Also, let me know if you’re planning to come to the Capitol so that I can introduce you to our colleagues.
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