Local lawmakers: Education and medicaid big issues in 2013

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - The 2013 Mississippi Legislative Session launched with a few formalities. Afterwards lawmakers from both the senate and house were organized and ready to start working toward the top issue.

"Things in education reform such as charter schools," said Hattiesburg Representative, Toby Barker.

Barker believes this issue in education will go further than a discussion.

"I think there is going to be a bill this year, and I think it's got a good shot of getting through the process. However, things like which districts these schools can locate, who authorizes them, what kind of entities can operate them, those will be the issues we will have to work out," said Barker.

Lawmakers, like Jones County Representative Bobby Shows anticipate another big agenda item.

"Medicaid is going to be a hot issue. Some want to expand it, take the federal governments deal and some don't want to," said Shows.

"A lot is going to depend on how quickly the federal government moves, and writing the rules and regulations and implementing the Affordable Care Act, Obama Care," said Pine Belt Senator, Joey Fillingane.

"Medicaid expansion is going to have a hard road to go in this stage, because of a lot of concern on cost that are long term to us," said Barker.

Legislatures can't over look the state budget for fiscal year 2014.

"Everyone wants a piece of the fiscal pie, and know what they're going to be getting and having to deal with in the coming year," said Fillingane.

For Barker crafting a budget on time is important for local school districts and universities.

"These all factor into crafting a budget that is balanced, that doesn't rely too much on one time money. It also meets the many needs that we have, and tries to fill in some of those cuts we have seen over the last few years," said Barker.

Governor Phil Bryant added economic development is a centerpiece of this session.

"We were in Columbus opening Aurora, another 250 jobs. We broke ground on a new medical center, and I met with the new CEO of the company that's purchased Viking on yesterday," said Governor Bryant.

According to Governor Bryant the experience new lawmakers gained over the past year will help this legislative session, full of top agenda issues, run a little smoother.

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