By state Rep. Joey Hood R-District 35
The 2012 regular session of the Mississippi Legislature was historic in many ways. As a result of the November general election, Republicans controlled not only the governor’s mansion, but also both chambers of the Legislature. The House also welcomed 32 freshman legislators (of 122 members total), while the Senate welcomed 14 new members (of 52 members total). In addition, a new governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house all took office at the same time. The last time this happened was in 1976. The House ended the 2012 legislative session on May 3 — a full three days ahead of the scheduled May 6 deadline. One of the biggest issues during the 2012 session was the new budget for FY ‘13, which takes effect July 1. House and Senate members were able to reach an agreement on a general fund budget of approximately $5.6 billion. Improving education is a priority of the Mississippi Legislature, with more than 60 percent of the state’s general fund budget devoted to educational pursuits (including 50 percent of the approximate $5.6 billion budget earmarked for K-12 Education alone). $500K for WCSD The Webster County School District received a $500,000 appropriation in House Bill 1593. This $500,000 is to be used by the district to offset costs incurred by the April 2011 tornado. This $500,000 appropriation would not have been possible without the assistance of our local elected officials, including Superintendent Jack Treloar, the Webster County School Board and the Webster County Board of Supervisors. Through combined efforts Reps. Jim Beckett, Bobby Howell and myself worked with House and Senate leadership to obtain this appropriation for Webster County in House Bill 1593. I am honored to represent Webster County and proud that the citizens in Webster County will be able to use this money to help rebuild East Webster High School. FY ‘13 Budget In order to avoid potentially crippling cuts next year, the Legislature also set aside nearly $200 million in reserves for next year’s budget. Some important aspects of the FY ‘13 budget include: • Medicaid received an additional $58.7 million in appropriations for FY ‘13. This is a 7.6 percent increase over FY ‘12. • K-12 education received nearly $30 million in additional appropriations for FY ‘13. This represents a 1.3 percent overall increase over FY ‘12. • Mississippi Adequate Education Program received an additional $19 million — a nearly 1 percent increase over FY ‘12. • Community colleges received nearly $4.2 million in additional appropriations for FY ‘13. This is an 1.8 percent increase over FY ‘12. School Ratings, Redistricting House Bill 707, titled the “School Start Date Act of 2012,” requires schools to push back their start date to no later than the third Monday in August, beginning in 2014. This law was prompted to allow families extended time to vacation with their children and to lower cooling costs for school districts. In an effort to establish a clearer and more understandable system for rating Mississippi’s school districts, the Legislature changed the grading system to A, B, C, D and F. The simplified grading terminology will clarify district performance for parents. During the 2012 legislative session, as is the case every 10 years following the Census, the Legislature is tasked with the issue of reapportionment and redistricting. Five new House districts were drawn in the redistricting plan passed by the Legislature: two in Desoto County, and one each in Madison, Oktibbeha and Forrest counties. The new House plan reduces the number of split precincts statewide from 537 to 172. It also makes more counties whole, increasing the number from five under the existing plan to 13 under the new 2012 plan. As is the case with any electoral change, the redistricting plan enacted by the Mississippi Legislature must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department or the federal courts before it will become effective. I would like to thank the people of District 35 for allowing me the opportunity to serve. If you have any questions or need any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime. My address and telephone number at the Capitol is P.O. Box 1018, Jackson, MS 39215; (601) 359-3339. My home telephone number is (662) 547-9818 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also please visit me on Facebook at Joey Hood.