Committee change may boost bill on charter schools

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, has changed committee assignments in a manner that could aid charter school legislation during the 2013 session.
At the same time, Gunn named Brian Aldridge, R-Tupelo, to chair the Interstate Cooperation Committee.
Gunn said Monday the change was “certainly within the rules of the House of Representatives” and that other speakers had made changes mid-term. The changes occurred to fill committee slots left vacant by the resignation of Tommy Woods, R-Byhalia, from the House earlier this year.
Gunn tapped Aldridge to chair the Interstate Cooperation Committee and gave Linda Whittington, D-Schlater, Aldridge’s post as vice chairman of the Tourism Committee.
In doing so he removed Whittington, a charter school opponent, from the Education Committee and replaced her with Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, a charter school proponent.
Last year the House Education Committee blocked charter school legislation by one vote. During the 2013 session, Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves have said passage of a stronger charter school law is a priority.
Whittington told The Associated Press she would like to serve on Tourism to try to help her home Delta region, but said she did not want to be taken off Education.
As presiding officer, the speaker makes committee assignments at the start of a new four-year term. The speaker often has to make other changes when vacancies occur.
Gunn will have to make additional committee assignments before the 2013 session begins.
Voters in Marshall and DeSoto counties will go to the polls Nov. 27 to decide between Bill Kinkade of Byhalia and Jeremy Bryan of Barton to replace Woods. The winner will be given House committee assignments. Rep. Pat Nelson, R-Southaven, another leading charter school opponent on the Education Committee, is in a runoff for a vacant Senate seat.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com