By Rep. Joey Hood, District 35
The 2012 Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature was historic in many ways. As a result of the November 2011 general election, Republicans controlled not only the Governor’s Mansion, but also both chambers of the Legislature. The House also welcomed 32 freshman legislators (of 122 members total), while the Senate welcomed 14 new members (of 52 members total). In addition, there was a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House all taking office at the same time. The last time this happened was in 1976. The House ended the 2012 Legislative session on May 3, 2012 – a full three days ahead of the scheduled May 6, 2012 deadline. One of the biggest issues during the 2012 session was the new Budget for FY ‘13, which takes effect July 1, 2012. House and Senate members were able to reach an agreement on a General Fund budget of approximately $5.6 billion. Improving Education is a priority of the Mississippi Legislature, with more than 60% of the state’s general fund budget devoted to educational pursuits (including 50% of the approximate $5.6 billion budget earmarked for K-12 Education alone). In order to avoid drastic spending cuts next year, the Legislature also set aside nearly $200 million in reserves for next year’s budget. Some important aspects of the FY ‘13 budget include: Medicaid received an additional $58.7 million in appropriations for FY ‘13. This is a 7.6 percent increase over FY ‘12. K-12 Education received nearly $30 million in additional appropriations for FY ‘13. This represents a 1.3 percent overall increase over FY ‘12. Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) received an additional $19 million – a nearly one percent increase over FY ‘12. Community Colleges received nearly $4.2 million in additional appropriations for FY ‘13. This is a 1.8 percent increase over FY ‘12. House Bill 707 titled the School Start Date Act of 2012 requires schools to push back their start date to no later than the third Monday in August, beginning in 2014. This law was prompted to allow families extended time to vacation with their children and to lower cooling costs for school districts. In an effort to establish a clearer and more understandable system for rating Mississippi’s school districts, the Legislature changed the grading system to A, B, C, D, and F. The simplified grading terminology will clarify district performance for parents. During the 2012 Legislative session, as is the case every ten years following the Census, the Legislature is tasked with the issue of reapportionment and redistricting. Five new House districts were drawn in the redistricting plan passed by the Legislature: two in Desoto County and one each in Madison, Oktibbeha and Forrest Counties. The new House plan reduces the number of split precincts statewide from 537 to 172. It also makes more counties whole, increasing the number from 5 under the existing plan to 13 under the new 2012 plan. Choctaw County is one of the 13 under the new 2012 plan that will be made whole. As is the case with any electoral change, the redistricting plan enacted by the Mississippi Legislature must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department or the Federal courts before it will become effective. I would like to thank the people of District 35 for allowing me the opportunity to serve. If you have any questions or need any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime. My address and telephone number at the Capitol is P. O. Box 1018, Jackson, Mississippi 39215, (601) 359-3339. My home telephone number is (662) 547-9818 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also please visit me on facebook at Joey Hood.