"Your Personal Invitation" and "Your 2019 Key Legislative Issues Update"
It came to my attention that some of you were not receiving my weekly legislative session updates due to a problem with my web host. So, if this is your first email from me, welcome to my blog and I'm so glad you're here. Included in this newsletter, I have a personal invite for you, and updates on the top five issues that all of you have contacted me about these last two sessions (Convention of States, Annexation, Vaccine Choice, Pro-life Legislation, and a Teacher & State Worker Pay Raise). In a few weeks I will be sending out a full recap on the 2019 legislative session. I know that's a lot of information to digest, and this email will be longer than usual, but I wanted to make sure that all of you were in the know, and had some updates about the key issues that you hold dear and have contacted me over. So let's get started.
YOUR PERSONAL INVITATION:
First, this is an election year for me, and I have been very honored to be your voice in Jackson these last four years. Regardless of whether you actually reside in House District 25 or not, I have always done my best to represent any Mississippians that have reached out to me and asked for help. That being said, I have both primary and general challengers in this year's election, and want to personally ask you for your help. You, your family, and friends are invited to my Kick-off/Fundraiser Event this Friday the 26th from 6:30-8PM. There will be lots of free food and fun for the whole family, so I hope you will make it if you can make. Information and links are listed below.
If you can't make it, and would like to just make a donation to help me continue being your voice in Jackson and fighting the good fight for our freedoms and liberties, any amount would be greatly appreciated and can be made at the following link: Secure Online Donation Page
If you would give me the honor of putting one of my yard signs in your yard, please don't hesitate to call or shoot me an email at and let me know: (662) 374-0035 or firstname.lastname@example.org
YOUR TOP FIVE ISSUES:
Convention of States - a very large number of you have emailed or called me over the last four years asking that Mississippi join an Article 5 Convention of States for the purpose of proposing a balanced budget amendment, and addressing federal over reach and term limits. I have been the primary author on this resolution since I was elected four years ago. Through your help and thousands of other Mississippian's letter writing, I was able to secure more co-sponsors every year and actually got the resolution passed in the 2018 Legislative Session. Sadly it died in the senate. This year we were successful in both the House and Senate, and Mississippi became state number 15 to join the call. I could not have done this without the help of so many patriotic Mississippians like yourself. To find out more about just what an Article 5 Convention of States is, you can click on the following link: CONVENTION OF STATES
Annexation - many of you live in the 55 square mile region that the city of Olive Branch is proposing to annex. This would almost triple the size of the city geographically. For those of you who live in the area of DeSoto county adjacent to this proposed annexation area, you are also aware that Southaven is waiting to see what Olive Branch gets, in order to determine what it plans to annex. Most of you moved to the county because you wanted the benefits of country life and lower taxes. You are happy with the fire and police protection, and road maintenance that the country provides. With your annexation, you realize that all you will really get is higher taxes and added city ordinances. We heard your outcry. This past session, we fought a hard battle in the House to change the way that residents have their voices stripped from them when nearby cities want to annex. A handful of us DeSoto Representatives authored general legislation to give folks back their voice in the annexation process. It was met with quite a bit of resistance. From there, we authored a "Local and Private" piece of legislation (that would fix the problem - but only in DeSoto County). That gained quite a bit more support. We were able to get many other Representatives to come on board and were only a handful away from getting the 60+ needed members to get the bill before the house. This approach was much better because many other Representatives are having similar problems in their areas, and it would make DeSoto County a test case that would allow them to hopefully do the same thing in the future when it happens in their area. As you can imagine, this was heavily lobbied against by the mayor of Southaven, some senators, and those groups who have a vested interest in making sure that nothing changes in Mississippi. Should the Reps and I that authored this legislation make it back after this election cycle, we will continue to fight for you on behalf of this issue.
Vaccine Choice - Mississippi is one of 3 states without any type of true medical, religious, or philosophical exemption when it comes to childhood vaccines. We, along with California and West Virginia, have such restrictive laws, that many families have been forced to move out of the state or homeschool their children. Mississippi is no safer or healthier than our surrounding states who offer all these type exemptions to families. While the current news coverage might cause you to go into a panic at the mere mention of vaccines, I think a little perspective should probably be offered here. The current measles hysteria that the media continues to report on, fails to mention that only 12 people have died from measles in the United States since the year 2000. That's less than 1 per year over the last 19 years. This in light of the 1,300 people a DAY that die from cigarette smoking, or the 29 that die a day from alcohol related traffic injuries. These numbers come from the CDC and help truly define the fear mongering going on. One has to ask themselves, "Where is the public outrage and nonstop news coverage about the millions and millions of Americans that have died as a result of just these two issues alone over the same time period?" As to the legislation that would offer a Religious exemption to families that object to using certain vaccines which are grown on aborted fetal cells, the Senate refused to even bring up in committee. After getting the same bill almost out of committee last year in the House, we were promised a study committee over the summer, of which I was a key part of. The one silver lining to this past legislative cycle was that I was able to negotiate some movement from the Mississippi Department of Health as it relates to them granting a medical exemption. You have my assurance that if reelected, I will continue to boldly fight to give the tax paying parents/residents of Mississippi the right to not be denied a public education for their children. Whether they are parents of vaccine injured children and their vulnerable siblings, or those with deeply held religious and philosophical beliefs, they are entitled to the same Constitutional rights afforded in almost 47 other states. For more information about vaccine rights in Mississippi, consider joining the Mississippi Parents For Vaccine Rights Facebook Page.
Pro-life - scores of you have contacted me asking that we protect the unborn in our state. This has been something I have done since day one. In my first year of office, I co-authored and helped pass bills that banned the use of tax dollars for elective abortions, and banned dismemberment abortions. Last year I was a co-author of the the 15 week abortion ban bill. This year, I was a co-author of the "Heartbeat Bill" that passed the House. Ultimately, we took the Senate version, stripped the language out, and put the Houses in it. It passed, and was signed into law by the Governor back in March. Many other states have passed similar Heartbeat Bill this year as well. The Governor has vowed to defend this bill all the way to the Supreme Court. There is some hope that with the change in make-up of the court, there is a chance that Roe v. Wade will be challenged.
Teacher & State Worker Pay Raises - There has been a lot of misinformation disseminated, as well as political grand standing wherein the teacher pay raise is concerned. The original bill came out of the senate and called for a teacher bonus of $500 for the next two years. The House wanted to make it a permanent raise. When the bill was taken up in the House, the appropriation process had not yet been completed and so there was no idea as of then, how much money would be available. Every effort was being made to get pay raises for not just teachers, but teachers' assistants, and state workers, as well as to shore up the seriously troubled PERS Retirement system. All of these folks (past, present, and future) depend on PERS remaining solvent. It is important to point out that many of our (non-teacher) state employees have not had a raise in over a decade. In addition, almost every other state agency took cuts in the previous three years, while education (which makes up over half of the state's budget) was left alone. Leadership was fairly certain that they could make it a permanent raise, not a bonus like the Senate version. We were to pass it through, and the bill was to be just a vehicle that would go to conference until the amount would be determined. The hope was that it would be a $1,000 raise going forward. The Democrats forced a show vote, by forcing everyone to vote on an amendment to insert a $4,000 pay raise into the bill. The state did not have the $200 million dollars going forward that would have been needed to make that happen. It would also have meant that we would not be able to give other state workers or the teachers' assistants a raise. The Democrats knew this wasn't going to ever materialize, and it was never truly their reason for offering it. It was done to force the vote to the board for the purpose of creating a "show vote". A "show vote" is one that is used by the opposing party to create a narrative when campaigning against them. I voted for the motion to table the amendment, because I wanted to insure that all state workers got a raise, especially our teachers' assistants and those in mental health. I also knew that like the good book says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." Translation: having the expectations of getting a $4,000 raise, only to have something lower actually materialize, would be hurtful and not benefit anyone. The motion to table failed by only a few votes, which means the amendment was added to the bill. When the final vote for the bill (which now then included a $4,000 raise came up), I voted FOR the bill and the $4,000 pay raise. All the while, I (and the Democrats that forced it), knew there would never be enough money to make it happen. When the conference report came back, it included a $1,500 pay raise (much better than the original senate version) for both the teachers and the teacher assistants, as well as smaller raises for all state workers. The conference report came back before the house only a few days before the end of the session. You cannot amend a conference report, you either vote in agreement or to recommit. Leadership informed the whole body, that if we recommitted the report, that the teachers would get NO raise at all. I voted FOR the conference report, which was a vote to give the teachers a raise. A bit of commentary on the whole issue. Most of the narrative has been political gaming, trying to paint Republicans in a bad light, all done at the teacher's expense. In reality, since the Republicans took over 8 years ago, we have done more to increase teacher pay than the Democrats had done in over a hundred years. There has been raises in 2014, 2015, as well as bonuses and incentive raises for seeking certification. There was a county pay raise in DeSoto County just last year, and there will be another one next year for all teachers as a result of this past session. The Republicans have also helped to shore up the very retirement system that the teachers and state workers rely on. This retirement system is more generous than what any of the surrounding states offer to their retirees. I and my colleagues remain committed to working on getting our teachers up to the regional average when it comes to pay, but doing it in a fiscally responsible manner while balancing the state's budget. I have continually co-authored bills offering pay raises for our teachers, and will continue to fight for those wonderful folks who are responsible for shaping our next generation of Mississippians. l will also continue the fight to help those state workers who are making an income that is just barely over the poverty level. I am so grateful for your service to our most vulnerable residents whether it be in Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, or the Foster Care System and Child Services. Serving those in need in our state, shouldn't put you in a position where you wind up in need yourself.
That's it for now. If you have any additional questions about these or any other issues, or would just like to let me know an issue that is important to you, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. Blessings to you and your family.