2011 Legislative session preview - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

2011 Legislative session preview

By Ashley Conroy

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -- State lawmakers step back into the capitol on Tuesday for the 2011 Legislative Session.

Senate lawmakers say the major items on the agenda at the start of the session will be budget, and drawing new legislative districts.

"I think the two big things on the agenda are the budget and redistricting," said Sen. Terry Burton-R Newton. "Those are going to be the two major issues."

Revenue projections have slowly crept out of the red and met state projections over the past few months.

However, lawmakers say agreeing on a budget that works is always a challenge.

"The revenues are not going up significantly enough for us to avoid any problems that we've got on the horizon," said Sen. Jack Gordon-D Okolona.

Meantime, Sen. Walter Michel says he thinks the state will see an upswing.

"I hope this is the last year of our tough times," Michel said. "But you know the economy is looking a lot better now. I think we're going to get a lot better off."

After several meetings over the past several months, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee agreed upon a recommendation of a $5.4 billion dollar budget.

However, the federal stimulus dollars the state has been using to supplement funds will run out by July when fiscal year 2012 begins.

"Money that was available from the federal stimulus package is no longer available," Sen. David Blount-D Jackson said. "That's why the revenue the state revenue is about the same as last year, that federal money is not there."

Sen. Burton who is Chairman of the Elections committee says the reason redistricting is a top item on the agenda is because of the census count.

Burton says the legislature only visits this once every ten years, and only once every 20 years does it happen on an election cycle.

"Where there's population growth there will be extra representation where there's population decline those districts will get larger in geographic terms," Burton said.

He says a few social issues like illegal immigration or passing a statewide smoking ban will be on the table, but overall all eyes will be on rezoning and the budget.

"I think we'll see the statewide smoking bill, I think we'll see the immigration reform bill similar to what Arizona's done. For the most part redistricting and budget are going to take up most of this session."

Part of the recommendation from the JLBC is to take out tens of millions of dollars from the state's health care trust fund and rainy day fund to fill the budget gaps to state agencies.


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