By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, recently completed a week-long “Mississippi Solutions – An Ideas Tour” to hear from the citizens about issues in advance of the 2013 legislative session, which begins in January. During the tour, Gunn, who is in his first year as speaker, held events in nine locations, including a stop in Tupelo. Gunn answers questions about the tour from Daily Journal capitol correspondent Bobby Harrison.
1. Explain the origins of the Mississippi Ideas Tour and why you did it? Were you pleased with the level of participation by the public and by the number of House members who participated?
We wanted to bring the Legislature to the people and hear their ideas on how we can improve Mississippi. We know it can be tough getting in touch with legislators during session. These meetings were an opportunity for people to have access to their legislators. We were very pleased with the turnout from the public and our Legislative members. We had almost 100 of the 122 House members participate, both Republicans and Democrats. This shows they really care about the citizens’ concerns. Those who attended represented both sides of the aisle.
2. Talk a little about what you heard during the tour. Were you pleased with the quality of the ideas you heard?
We heard from hundreds of people during our nine-stop tour. Education and health care were routinely discussed. Many people who spoke expressed opinions regarding early childhood education, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, Medicaid expansion, vaccinations for children. We were pleased with the passion of those who spoke. We were already working on solutions to our education and health care issues. These are the two areas where we spend the most money in our state budget, so this confirmed that we are already addressing the two greatest concerns of Mississippians. We also received many new thoughts and ideas that we are going to consider.
3. What is next – based on the ideas you heard?
We garnered a lot of ideas and feedback on the trip. We plan to really look into some of the suggestions and craft them into legislation that can be addressed during the 2013 legislative session and ultimately be shaped into passable laws.