Mississippi’s 2014 legislative session late Wednesday left a debris field of unfinished and botched work in the wake of adjournment – with some good measures brought to within minutes of enactment and that should be revisited next session or in a special session, which can be called only by Gov. Phil Bryant.
Legislators obviously became influenced in bad blood between the House and Senate, driven in part by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ insistence on two issues: Teacher pay raises under his plan and an appropriation in 2015 highway funding to address issues on congested and crumbling Lakeland Drive in northeast Jackson and Rankin County.
An angered House killed the appropriation outright in response, but in a special session within the regular session the House reversed itself and approved the funding.
Some issues were all but dismissed as unimportant, including more progress toward full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
Sen. Hob Bryan and those who agreed with him had succeeded in adding $60 million to the MAEP funds in Senate floor debate, but that was a drop in the bucket compared to full funding, which would have required an additional $255 million.
The Legislature, which passed MAEP in the first place, has routinely ignored the mandate designed to provide funding for a minimum level of adequacy in all public schools.
The shortfallls so far approach $1.5 billion, which leaves many schools gasping for enough money to pay an adequate number of teachers, provide strong curriculum and move learning forward as needed in the 21st century.
Education supporters should continue their relentless pursuit of doing what’s right for public schools and forget tangents of seeking to divert funds in various guises to private education.
A movement has started to pass a constitutional mandate to fully fund MAEP, a goal that should be pursued with energy and determination.
The House, in a display of unvarnished irresponsibility, killed a texting-while-driving ban that it had previously passed. Republican Rep. Bill Denny of Jackson made a motion to hold the bill for reconsideration, and the House failed to table the motion.
Whatever the motivation, killing the texting ban was dumb. Only seven states don’t have texting bans as a matter of safe driving, much like states ban driving under the influence, which has a similar kill ratio to texting while driving.
The ban should be passed in the next session, special or regular.