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Lawmakers ready to return to Capitol

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The top issues for the next legislative session have already started to take shape. They'll be back at the Capitol at noon Tuesday.

The state's top man wants to see public safety at the center of reforms in the capitol this year.

"Make sure we put the victims first. Make sure we have public safety in mind. But to spend taxpayer money wisely when it comes to incarcerating violent offenders and see if there are opportunities for those non-violents," said Governor Phil Bryant in December.

A corrections and criminal justice task force finalized its recommendations on the issues last month. They say it will be a good starting point for crafting legislation.

"I'm optimistic about us being able to put together something for public safety in three months because I don't think it's a partisan issue. Everybody wants the same thing," explained Senator Kenneth Wayne Jones-D who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus.

Meanwhile, education advocates are all ears after Speaker Philip Gunn recently voiced support for across the board teacher pay raises.

"If we're demanding more. I think we should pay them more," said Gunn.

Senator Jones said Monday, "We don't need to get bogged down in the politics of that, give the teachers more money so we can recruit more teachers."

A more controversial issue is waiting in the wings..Common Core. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say the governor's order isn't the end of the discussion.

"We're looking at it now. We're pulling back the pages. We're looking at the legality of common core," described Senator Kenneth Wayne Jones.

Others are extending the call for more money to the roads and bridges. Senator Willie Simmons-D led a task force that traveled across the state discussing the infrastructure problems. He thinks a new gas tax could be the answer. Lt. Governor Tate Reeves disagrees.

"We've got to find other areas in the budget to cut to free up resources to do that," said Reeves.

Democrats say they'll start up the Medicaid expansion debate again this year. But know they'll have plenty of opposition.

The session starts at noon on Tuesday.

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