House gavels in 2019 session with full range of emotions

By STATE REP. MISSY MCGEE,

The first week of the 2019 Regular Session is in the books. As I arrived at the Capitol on Tuesday, it felt a lot like coming back to school after a long summer break. 

All emotions were present: the excitement of seeing colleagues again, the enthusiasm of organizing your desk to ready yourself for a new year and the commitment of studying and working hard to achieve your goals.

Before the 2019 session kicked off on Tuesday, the week began on a great note. Together with the Hattiesburg Public School District administration and the city administration, we announced that HPSD was one of only five new school districts that would receive early childhood education funding.

Because of $2.5 million in additional pre-K funding during last session, school districts were able to apply for a new round of grants. Through a great application from HPSD and a lot of advocacy, our school district will receive $2.1 million over three years to reach more than 300 four-year-olds annually. 

This means that we can move more of our public school children to kindergarten readiness before they arrive for their first day of kindergarten.

Consistent with tradition, the session opened at noon on Tuesday, with the posting of the colors by the Murrah High School JROTC and the national anthem sung beautifully by the talented students from the Mississippi School for the Arts. 

Much of the week included new committee assignments and leadership posts, as the House lost several members to new positions and appointments since last year's session. 

The committee chairman carousel began after Judiciary B Chairman Andy Gipson was appointed Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. 

The Speaker appointed Rep. Angela Cockerham (D-Amite County) as the new Judiciary B Chairman, which then opened up the Energy Committee chairmanship, which went to Rep. Gary Staples (R-Laurel). 

I was also excited to take on new committee assignments. 

On Thursday, I learned I had been appointed vice chairman of the Tourism Committee. 

My other committee assignments expanded to include both the Public Utilities Committee and the Universities & Colleges Committee. 

In total, I now have the opportunity to work on seven committees.

We also learned on Wednesday that December's revenue number came in much higher than expected. December's collections came in $41 million higher than expected, and through the first six months of the fiscal year, we are running $90 million ahead of projection. 

This opens up opportunities for the Legislature to shore up state retirement and to look at other potential funding priorities as the session progresses.

While floor action was limited this week, there was a somber moment on Thursday, as the House recognized the first of two Brookhaven Police Department officers killed in the line of duty last September. 

It was an emotional moment in the chamber as the family of Officer Zach Moak was presented a resolution in his memory. 

Officer Moak made the ultimate sacrifice for his community trying to pull his fellow officer, James White, to safety. 

Those of us from Hattiesburg know the immense collective pain that comes from such an event as this.

The rest of the business of the session's first week had much to do with members working to write legislation to meet the quickly approaching deadlines. 

The final day to make requests for the drafting of general bills and constitutional amendments was Jan. 15.

Once requests of attorneys are made, members have until Jan. 21 to file those bills. 

This week, the Appropriations Committee began its committee meetings with a full slate of subcommittee hearings. All agencies dealing with healthcare or human services were scheduled to present their budget requests this week.

Week Two will also likely include the first formal discussions of rural broadband proposals. There are plenty of details to work out, but I do believe there is a likelihood a bill will be dropped this week and referred to committee. 

I am enthusiastic about the promise of what a new year will bring. 

Please feel free to contact me at mmcgee@house.ms.gov if I can be of any help to you or if you would like to share your thoughts on any policy issue. 

 

Hattiesburg’s Missy McGee represents Dist. 102 in the state house of representatives.