By Bobby Harrison | NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The Northeast Mississippi legislative delegation has a long-standing tradition of acting in unison on issues of benefit to the region.
In 1987, for instance, area legislators to a large extent led the effort to pass a major statewide four-lane highway program, including a tax increase to pay for it, because at the time no region of the state suffered more from a lack of adequate highways than Northeast Mississippi.
In recent years, though, partisan politics has sometimes trumped regional interests in the Legislature.
Still, Northeast Mississippi legislators of both parties have proven they could come together to pass proposals that benefit the region. During the past term, for example, most area legislators came together in support of a plan proposed by Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, to provide state funds to help enhance the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo.
When the new term begins Jan. 3, there will be 11 new legislators whose districts include Northeast Mississippi counties. Plus, there are two senators – Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, and Russell Jolly, D-Houston – who were elected earlier this year to fill unexpired terms and will begin serving their first full four-year terms in January.
The new members said despite any partisan differences, they plan to continue the tradition of the Northeast Mississippi delegation working together for the betterment of the region.
Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie, who defeated Mark Duvall, D-Mantachie, to capture the District 19 House seat, said “I have talked to some of the current members (about regional cooperation.) We are going to work with each other.”
Chris Brown, R-Aberdeen, who defeated Jimmy Puckett, D-Amory, agreed.
“Democratic, Republican, I think we will work together for the betterment of the region and of the entire state,” Brown said.
On the other side of the political aisle, the sentiment is the same.
“We have a great relationship. I don’t anticipate that (regional cooperation) changing,” said Nick Bain, D-Corinth, who is replacing District 2 Rep. Harvey Moss, D-Corinth, who did not seek re-election.
Said Jody Steverson, D-Ripley, “I have already talked to a lot of new and older members from both sides of the aisle. We talked about looking for areas to work together. I am sure we will.”
Steverson is replacing Greg Ward, D-Ripley, who opted not to seek re-election to his House District 4 seat.
Of the potential for regional cooperation, Steve Massengill, R-Hickory Flat, who is replacing House District 13 Rep. Jack Gadd, D-Hickory Flat, who also did not seek re-election, said, “I think it will be good.”
In 2007, seven new members from Northeast Mississippi were elected. In 2003, 11 were elected. In addition to a large number of new members from Northeast Mississippi being elected in November, they will be replacing members with long tenures, such as Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, who has 32 years of experience; Moss, with 28 years, Gadd with 20 years; Rep. Warner McBride, D-Courtland, with 20 years; and the late Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, with 35 years.
“We are ready to get started,” said William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville, who is replacing the retiring McCoy. “We want to work to make Mississippi as business friendly as we can to bring business and industry to the area because the citizens deserve and need it.”