During this time of year elected officials in Mississippi will be gearing up for the beginning of the legislative session in January and the upcoming 2015 senatorial re-elections.
District 47 State Senator Tony Smith will head to the Capitol next year with education on his mind and highlighting the areas where Mississippi ranks top in the nation.
Smith said one of the major topics planned for discussion is the Mississippi Academics Education Program. MAEP was created by the state legislature in the ‘80’s to be used as a formula to determine school funding.
There is currently a petition being circulated by a grassroots effort, Smith said, to give a judge in Hinds County the power to decide how much money should be allotted to education.
“If a judge assumes this responsibility, it removes the legislature from their actual role,” Smith said. “Currently, 60 percent of every dollar goes towards education in our state.”
Last year, Smith said he and District 40 State Senator Angela Hill led a charge against common core standards.
In the beginning, it was supposed to be a state led initiative and now, according to Smith, the standards are federally led.
In the past two years, Smith has introduced legislation that would require all superintendents to be appointed and all school board members to be elected.
“We want to recruit the best person for the job of superintendent and that may be someone living in the area or not,” Smith said. “School board members are a taxing authority and should be held accountable to the taxpayers.”
Smith said he is looking into the possibility of eliminating state income tax by phasing it out over a period of time.
There are many great things happening in Mississippi and the state ranks high in a number of categories nationwide, Smith said.
The Mississippi Development Authority reports that the state ranks fifth in women-owned business growth and is the fourth largest private sector employer and one of the largest export industries, Smith said. Mississippi ranks second in the world for oil and gas development and is number one as the most improved state in energy efficiency.
Smith said that tourism plays a big role in Mississippi’s economy. Last year, the financial impact of tourism totaled $6.25 billion and 21.6 million visitors traveled to Mississippi.
“We’ve got great things going on in our state,” Smith said. “I’m also considering running for public service commissioner next year. I haven’t made a final decision, but am looking into it very seriously.”
Learn more about the state’s legislature at www.legislature.ms.gov and the Mississippi Development Authority at www.mississippi.org.