Legislature takes on new look

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Eight women will take the oath of office Tuesday to become members of the Mississippi Senate, the most in state history.
While eight women in the 52-member chamber may not sound like a lot, it’s three more than served the previous year. Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, was elected in a special election last January making it five.
“I am looking forward to working with them,” she said. “I can’t say I know any of them very well, but I think they will bring a fresh look to a lot of issues. I am excited about the prospects.”
During the 2000-04 session, there were six women senators, plus Amy Tuck presided over the chamber as lieutenant governor.
While Treasurer Tate Reeves is the lieutenant governor-elect for the next four-year term, two women – Lynn Fitch as treasurer and Cindy Hyde-Smith as commissioner of agriculture and commerce – were elected in November, marking the first time two women will serve simultaneously in statewide posts.
“We need to be represented by everybody,” said Rep. Preston Sullivan, D-Okolona. “I am not saying we haven’t been, but it is a good thing,” to have women in office.
In the 122-member House where Sullivan serves, there will be 21 women members, the same as last term.
There is history being made in the House, though. Republicans will hold a majority in the chamber for the first time since the late 1800s.
Despite the change in leadership, Sullivan said, “We don’t need to be fussing and fighting. We are too far down the ladder for that. We don’t need to be cutting each other’s throat.”
Overall, there will be 37 black members of the House, the same as last term. There will be 12 black members of the Senate, one less than last term.
There will be 47 freshmen members. The 47 new members include two – Nolan Mettetal of Sardis and David Baria of Bay St. Louis – who are new only in the sense they are switching from the Senate to the House.
Eleven new members will represent at least a portion of a Northeast Mississippi county. Plus, Collins and Sen. Russell Jolly, D-Houston, will begin serving their first four-year terms. Collins did serve through most of the 2011 session. The 2012 session will be Jolly’s first.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com