Thursday marks the third day of the 2016 Mississippi Legislative Session and the first year of a four-year term.
This year follows an election season and local lawmakers said they hope this will bring bold leadership and new ideas for Pine Belt citizens.
“We’d really like to see the historic tax limit raised,” State Representative Toby Barker (R- District 102) said. “That would help spur a lot of downtown development in Hattiesburg and so we hope that happens this year.”
State Senators Joey Fillingane (R-District 41) and John Polk (R-District 44) said they would like to see a focus on economic growth this year.
“Economic development would be my goal for not only the entire state, but specifically our area, we need good paying jobs,” Fillingane said.
Polk said, “I’d like to see us finally get one of those big mega plants I think it’s time for people in South Mississippi to get recognized for their good work and good effort as those in North Mississippi have in the last few years for getting Nissan, Toyota, and several other large plants.”
Education reform is a top priority for a number of local lawmakers.
“We’ve done things for kids with special needs and it’s time to take it to the next level,” Barker said.
“I’m working towards some dyslexia legislation that will continue to help improve on what we have and give better access and services to children with dyslexia,” State Representative Larry Byrd (R-District 104) said.
Many lawmakers said this will not be a happy time for budgeting.
“We’re going to end up this year with a budget deficit of 64 million dollars and the governor may well have to make some cuts,” Byrd said.
“Everything we do in budgeting, every policy decision that we make needs to be driven by data so that we can have an expected internal investment so we can get the most bang for our buck,” Barker said.
The session will end in early may to give lawmakers enough time to make final decisions.