OUR OPINION: Bryant lays a full table for legislators

By NEMS Daily Journal

Gov. Phil Bryant’s first State of the State address on Tuesday received an enthusiastic response from assembled legislators, but he knows that what happens when proposals move to the work of committees and in debate won’t necessarily follow that example.
Bryant said he wants to turn his vision for Mississippi to action and avoid having only an “illusion” as a reference point, and he made his first concrete endorsement in the widely supported Blueprint Mississippi, the product of the Mississippi Economic Council, which enjoys deep bipartisan approval.
He said the jobs growth and prosperity ideas in Blueprint fit “perfectly” with his “’aggressive plans” for the state’s future.
Specifically, he said he will propose a jobs-training program that would involve allowing students in high school to enroll in community college workforce programs before high school graduation to discourage dropouts and ramp up educational attainment. We agree with the concept and look forward to the details.
Bryant also said he backs further development of energy resources in Mississippi’s offshore territories, and invited dialogue from opponents of further development in the Gulf of Mexico, a reasonable approach.
He also expanded on his previous support for health care development as a driver in the economy. He proposes medical corridors statewide, not just around the Jackson metro area. Interest in the details should be high in Northeast Mississippi, which is home to the North Mississippi Medical Center system and the Baptist Memorial Hospital System/North Mississippi.
Importantly, Bryant said he will seek level funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the statewide funding mechanism, a position better than cuts proposed by some, but it is not actually adequate based on full funding models. We remain strongly supportive of a timely return to full funding for MAEP.
Bryant also voiced strong support for further exploring ways to fund and implement pre-K education more broadly in the state, citing the necessity of learning to read at grade level.
He also called for school district consolidation, an idea which has not gained traction. Institutional resistance to new ideas like consolidation must end, and we encourage the governor in that effort.
Bryant also addressed what he calls the “epidemic” of teen pregnancy, and it should be a major initiative dealing realistically with teen pregnancy prevention and births to single women. Births to single women are crippling our state with insufficient educational attainment and family dysfunction.
Realistic information and guidance as children reach puberty is a necessary component to pregnancy prevention and the related problems of deadbeat dads.
Bryant overall offered substance for further review and developing good ideas.