Leaders differ over dealing with bonds, charters

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate, ended the 2012 session with differing ideas on how to deal with two key issues – charter schools and bonds to finance long-term construction projects.
Gunn sounds as if he’s looking to compromise on the issues. Reeves, on the other hand, indicates he believes he already has compromised enough.
The 2012 session ended without a a charter school bill and without a bill to authorize the issuance of bonds for long-term construction projects, especially for work on university and community college campuses.
In general, the House leadership wanted to issue more bonds than Reeves did and Reeves supported a much broader charter school proposal than a majority of the House was willing to pass.
Gunn said he hopes to reach a House-Senate compromise on both proposals with the possibility of one or both being taken up in special session. “If we are able to reach an agreement (on bonds) it is very possible the governor could call us back in special session,” he said.
Gov. Phil Bryant at one point said he was considering a special session on charter schools after the House killed the proposal. And there has been speculation he will call a special session on bonds after university officials complained that needed repairs and renovations would be stalled.
A Bryant spokesman has said it is too soon to talk about a special session.
Reeves appeared to be averse to a special session on bonds.
“I would be surprised if the governor called a session to incur debt,” Reeves said. “It would be horrible on Mississippi taxpayers. We had all session to reach an agreement. …I will tell you the Senate offered a plan that was responsible and that met the needs.”
Reeves’ reaction on charter schools was essentially the same.
Gunn said his goal is to reach an agreement on a bill that could get a majority in the House where many Republicans expressed reservations about a broad charter school bill.
If that agreement is reached, Gunn said he would not be opposed to the governor including charter schools in a special session if one is called for another reason.
Reeves, though, seemed reluctant to compromise more on charter schools. He said he supported a strong bill and wants to spend the next six to seven months trying to rally support throughout the state for the legislation.
“I look forward to passing real education reform next year,” Reeves said.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com