Adding to their energy was a governor who had their back and would trumpet their success in shifting the balance of lawmaking power sharply to the right.
There have been at least a couple of fistfights.
Legislation on all three topics has sputtered.
"Newbies" are wondering what happened. Their phones are ringing. Some are being called liars or traitors or worse. And, as usual, there's no consensus on how, exactly, their agenda derailed.
Charter schools. Who could be against this innovation to inject competition for those lazy old superintendents being paid big bucks to administer underperforming districts? Why would anyone not want our young people to have better opportunities than many have now?
Right to life. For almost 40 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that no matter how the question is asked, a state does not have the authority to override a woman's choice of whether to continue her pregnancy.
Mississippi is already the state with the most obstacles and only one abortion clinic, but the zeal to protect life continues. Three tweaks were passed by the House. Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, demonstrated the power of a chairmanship in dooming two. He simply declined to ask "his" Judiciary B Committee to vote on requiring a physician to be present when a woman takes an abortion pill or stopping an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Gov. Phil Bryant approves of the one new limitation that did make it through the House and Senate. It says abortions may be performed only by board-certified or board-eligible obstetricians with hospital admission privileges. In court, unless lawyers for Mississippi can prove this is a relevant, compelling requirement the federal courts will strike it down.
On to immigration. A no-brainer, or so it would seem to those new to the Legislature.
Every law enforcement officer, state or federal, takes an oath. Any officer, state or federal, would apprehend - even if merely to detain or hold - a person robbing a store. Nothing, at least nothing in writing, says people who break immigration laws should not be detained, or should be detained only by designated federal agents.
But as we know, that's not how it works. Immigration law is, in fact, selectively enforced when enforced at all.
Legislation to put Mississippi in step with Arizona and Alabama by commanding state and local agencies to ratchet up their efforts against illegals - legislation that seemed sure to pass - slid quietly off the table.
There's agreement in principle that America's borders should be less porous, but there's less zeal for actually kicking people out. Mississippi's sheriffs and police chiefs reportedly asked lawmakers to let this cup pass, and so it did.
Back to schools.
After charter school legislation fell to a major regular session deadline, there was plenty of finger pointing. Some observers chalked it up (sorry) completely to the "education establishment" flexing preservationist muscle.
That might be accurate, but it's also superficial.
Truth is, realigning how schools are funded and administered is pretty serious, pretty complicated stuff. There is great risk and charter schools have not, of themselves, uniformly worked miracles anywhere they've been tried.
As Ross Perot became famous for telling us, "The devil is in the details."
As a simple proposition, the question "Can Mississippi do better by its K-12 students?" has a simple answer: Yes. It's the "how" part that's thorny, much thornier than, perhaps, some of the freshman lawmakers realized. Education reforms are enacted almost every year by the Legislature. Something, perhaps something pretty radical, will be enacted in 2012. But what?
It's also true that while one in four delegates in the 2012 Legislature were "newbies," three of four were returning veterans. There's a saying: "Age and treachery will defeat youth and skill," or, in this case, "youth and zeal."
More likely, however, is that the new lawmakers have found fixing what they think is broken isn't as easy as they thought it would be. Most jobs look a lot easier from the outside than they prove to be on the inside.
Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at Box 1, University, MS 38677, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.