Mississippi lawmakers react to governor’s speech

Published 9:40 pm Tuesday, January 15, 2019

JACKSON — A sampling of reaction from legislators to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s 2019 State of the State speech, his eighth and last address:

— Rep. Robert Johnson III, a Natchez Democrat, said he sees Mississippi’s economy in a dimmer light than Bryant: “The state is losing population and economically. Although the governor has done a fine job of maintaining the status quo, we haven’t had any growth.”

— Rep. Trey Lamar, a Senatobia Republican, welcomed Bryant’s call for more funding for the foster care system: “That’s got to be done and we’ve got to move consistently toward that effort. We’re under a court order to do it. The court has been lenient with us but eventually a court order is a court order and it’s got to be complied with.”

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— Sen. Philip Moran, a Kiln Republican, praised Bryant’s look back over his service for moving the state forward and emphasized his support of a teacher pay raise: “I feel sure we’re going to see some kind of teacher pay raise this year and they deserve it. I’m going to make sure I do everything I can that they get it.”

— Sen. Derrick Simmons, a Greenville Democrat, said he hopes Bryant’s support will push lawmakers to make more changes to state prison sentencing and rehabilitation: “Gov. Bryant has done a good job, whether he talked about it or not, on criminal justice reform. I would only hope that he would encourage his counterparts in the House and Senate to work with us on moving the needle further on criminal justice reform this year.”

— Sen. Gray Tollison, an Oxford Republican who has led the Senate Education Committee, agreed with the governor’s assessment that Republican-led educational efforts have borne fruit: “He leaves a legacy of educational reform that is making a difference in achievement for our Mississippi students. That’s exciting to see, that you actually passed a program of legislation that made a difference.”

— Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, a Gulfport Democrat, said she joins Bryant in welcoming the Cleveland Clinic’s diabetes center to Biloxi, but questions the governor’s broader health care strategy: “It does still concern me that we’ve had rural hospitals closing and there was no addressing of expansion of Medicaid or addressing the closure of those hospitals.”