As part of Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann’s recent appointment of new committee chairs throughout the Mississippi Legislature, four local legislators – Sens. Chris Johnson, Juan Barnett, John Polk and Joey Fillingane – will take on new positions for the upcoming 2021 legislative session.
The appointments were necessitated by the resignations of Sens. Sally Doty and Gary Jackson, along with the addition of newly elected Sens. Jason Barrett and Bart Williams.
“The legislature has the significant responsibility of helping lead the state through recovering from the pandemic, in addition to addressing all of the state’s other needs in education, economic issues, health care, transportation and others,” Hosemann said. “We wanted to make sure our senators knew of any committee changes well before the start of the 2021 session so they can begin attending hearings and preparing for next year.”
Johnson, who represents District 45 in Forrest and Perry counties, was named vice chairman of the Finance Committee.
He has served as the chairman of the Constitution Committee, and on the Appropriations, Business and Financial Institutions, Drug Policy, Education, Insurance, Public Health and Welfare, and Tourism committees.
Johnson served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 2016-2019 before being elected to the Senate.
“I think it’s a great appointment,” Johnson said. “Finance is a very important committee, and hopefully I’ll be able to do things that are helpful to the Pine Belt.
“It is a committee that I feel very comfortable with; it deals with taxes and revenue for the state, and bonding. My background is in finance, economics and accounting, so I feel very comfortable with what we’ll be doing.”
Polk, who serves District 44 in Lamar and Pearl River counties, has been reappointed as chairman of the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee and has been named vice chair of the Appropriations Committee.
He has served as vice chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee as well as on the Economic and Workforce Development, Education, Energy, Medicaid and Universities and Colleges committees.
“As vice chair of (Appropriations), I think my job will be to spend a lot of time with the chairman, helping him and assisting in any way I can to make sure that Mississippi gets a fair, equitable and good budget,” Polk said. “It’s a big, big job; the chairman of that committee works very hard. I’m looking forward to helping (him) any way I can.”
Barnett, who serves District 34 in Forrest, Jasper and Jones counties, has been named to the Judiciary, Division B Committee.
He has served as chair of the Corrections Committee, vice chair of the Executive Contingent Fund Committee, and on the Economic and Workforce Development, Energy, Ethics, Finance, Judiciary Division A, Municipalities, and Veterans and Military Affairs committees.
“Judiciary B and Corrections are kind of similar, because both of those deal with criminal law,” Barnett said. “So, I’m fine with that; I think it was good that the lieutenant governor considered asking me if I would rather serve in that capacity than on the municipal side.
“With the governor vetoing (the Mississippi Correctional Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2020) … we’re looking at bringing out something even better than the one he vetoed in January. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Fillingane, who represents District 41 in Covington, Forrest, Jefferson Davis, Lamar and Smith counties, has moved from chair of the Highways and Transportation Committee to chair of Judiciary B Committee, which handles criminal code sections. Fillingane has also moved from vice chair of the Universities and Colleges Committee to vice chair of the Medicaid Committee.
He also has served on the Elections, Finance, Legislative Budget, and Public Health and Welfare committees.
“I’m really excited,” Fillingane said. “Honestly, I expressed interest in the Judiciary Committee because I’m an attorney, and that’s what I do in my other job.
“To me, it made sense that I would do something that I have a lot more practical experience in, with my legal career. So, I’m excited about that change.”