2013 session underway - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

2013 session underway

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The echoes of a gavel brought both chambers to order Tuesday as state lawmakers begin a three-month legislative session to come up with solutions to state issues.

"I'm optimistic about this session. 2013 is going to be good for the state of Mississippi and good for the tax payer," said Rep. George Flaggs, a democrat from Vicksburg.

Although there will be plenty of new political battles stretching from gun control legislation to tax reform, the biggest challenge is getting revived from last year's session.

"The most important thing is going to be education. The charter school bill. That's going to probably dominate the session if you want to know the truth about it," said Sen. Terry Brown, a republican from Columbus.

Veteran lawmakers who may not be completely sold on the idea agree some type of education reform must be front and center.

"We have to make sure that education remains a priority because we're trying to attract industry and an educated workforce is important to attracting industry to this state," said Sen. Hillman Frazier, a democrat from Jackson.

"Economic development, hand in hand with education, I think, will be the centerpieces of this session," said Governor Phil Bryant.

The session begins the second year of a four year term for lawmakers, many of whom, like representative Steve Massengill were freshman last year.

"It's still a challenge because it's still a learning process," said Massengill, a republican from Hickory Flat.

With added experience, Governor Phil Bryant says he expects a more proactive session and more aggressive legislation.

"It takes that first year to get accustomed to understand they system which is somewhat complex here," said Bryant.

Medicaid expansion is also set to be a point of debate. Many lawmakers feel no decision will be made this year, that's if the issue is even brought up at all. While many republican leaders are against an expansion, claiming the state can't afford it, many democrats say it's move the state can't afford not to make.

"It may not be ready this year but as we work through it I think within the next two years you will see some expansion of Medicaid," said Rep. Flaggs.

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