At noon, we officially gaveled in the start of the 2010 Legislative Session for the Mississippi Legislature. We welcomed in newly-elected Rep. Scott Delano (R-Biloxi) to the Mississippi Legislature, who replaced Rep. Michael Janus in a special election this past summer. Visiting the Capitol also was Mr. James Meredith, the first African American to attend Ole Miss.
When everyone asks what the big issue for the Mississippi Legislature will be this year, it's a very easy response- the budget. This seems like a very cliche answer, and I can tell folks from the local media may get frustrated with us, because when asked on the issue of the day, it's always the same: the budget. But indeed, how we pay for the state's needs when the money just isn't there this year remains a huge unknown. We can't appropriate more money than we have revenue to cover. And everyone and every agency understands that, until it's their agency or program that's going under the knife.
The budget problem will be one that in many cases, is solved behind closed doors. About 10 people in the Mississippi Legislature (actually it's probably less than that) control the final budget proposals, and once you get those 10 to agree, then the rest of us have an opportunity to vote a proposal up or down. While any legislator can be as influential as he chooses to work for in terms of general policy and legislation, "fighting for funding" for a program or agency important to your district doesn't involve great speeches or progressive legislation- it really comes down to constantly being in the ear of the Chairman, and hoping, at the end of the day, there's enough revenue to go around.
And so we're off and moving now. I know I say it every year (and by every year I mean this is the third year I've said it), but here's hoping we finish everything in three months and avoid special sessions.