Session outlook: Lawmakers focus on water and sewage, law and education issues in 2022 legislative session

According to Senator David Blount, the number one issue facing Jackson’s legislative delegation in the 2022 session will be ensuring that federal funds are funneled into the city’s aging water and sewer systems. can be repaired.

“There is a lot of federal money available and this is our opportunity to address Jackson’s long-standing water and sewer issues,” said Blount, a Democrat who represents District 29. “The money”. federal government comes to the state of Mississippi to be appropriated by the legislature. ”

Senators have already held meetings to discuss what can be done, he said.

“It will be our top priority to get help with the City of Jackson’s water and sewer systems,” he said. “It’s a huge problem. What is new this year is literally billions of federal dollars that can be allocated for this purpose.

Other cities in the state need sewer upgrades, Blount said, and he plans to support their efforts.

Jackson’s legislative delegation also plans to explore ways to help the city fight crime, he said.

Like many cities across the country, Jackson has seen an increase in crime and personal violence since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic. Some reasons for the increase include the need for additional police officers, the lack of adult supervision in many homes, and the uncertainty created by the pandemic.

In the 2021 session, Blount was the lead author of a bill that was passed and enacted that allows the Mississippi Highway Patrol to use radar to detect speeding on an interstate highway. in any city in the state with a population of 15,000 or more. .

The law provides that highway patrol must be immediately notified by municipal law offices of any roadblock or emergency that occurs on any federally designated restricted freeway within company boundaries. The bill was introduced in part in response to a New Years Eve street racing incident that blocked part of I-55 for at least an hour.

The Capitol Police operate under the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety instead of the State Department of Finance and Administration, and Blount believes this will mean more assistance to the Jackson Police Department. .

“There are bipartite agreements that more resources are needed,” he said.

Blount also sees the Medicaid expansion as a major issue facing the legislature in the 2022 session. The expansion would cover between 150,000 and 300,000 Mississippians, mostly the working poor.

“State leaders have turned down a billion dollars a year to pay health care providers for the treatment of people who do not have health insurance,” he said. “It’s clearly the right thing to do and it’s time to do it.

“It is clearly in the financial interest of the state. The state economist produced another report showing that it is in the financial interest of the state.

Thirty-eight states have extended Medicaid and 12 have not, Blount said. “Most of those (who haven’t) are in the old Confederation, which is the South,” he said.

Blount believes the expansion of Medicaid will continue to be a problem until the state joins most of the others and expands the program. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn argue the state cannot afford the expansion, although economic experts say the expansion would pay off and help both the economy and the country’s treasury. Mississippi.

Creating a medical marijuana program will be a task facing the 2022 session, Blount said.

Last May, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued a ruling overturning the medical marijuana program enshrined in the state’s constitution by voters in November. There was a public cry for a special session, but the governor did not call one.

“It has been frustrating and disappointing that the legislature has not come together again to address this issue,” said Blount. “It’s a complicated question, but the people have spoken clearly and have every right to be angry with politicians who reject their position.”

The legislature will also be faced with the issue of expanding the liquor control warehouse in Gluckstadt so that it can better serve Mississippi liquor stores. The State Revenue Department controls the sale of alcoholic beverages in Mississippi.

“The warehouse is an ongoing problem that has had to be addressed for years,” said Blount, who believes the warehouse needs to be expanded so that it can hold more product.

“If the state is to be in the wine and spirits business, we have to run it like a business and manage it effectively. At the moment, we are not. It is not the fault of the people there, but the fault of the Legislature.

The creation of the William F. Winter and Jack Reed, Sr. teacher loan repayment program tops Blount’s list of accomplishments during the 2021 legislative session.

Blount, Deputy Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and Representative Kent McCarty, Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Education Committee, drafted the bill creating the curriculum that inspires teachers to work in a region with a shortage of teachers.

“It offers direct loan repayment to new teachers to pay off their university loans,” he said. “The state writes a check for each of the first three years of a teacher’s career, which reduces the principal of their unpaid college loans. If you teach in Jackson or Hinds County public schools, the state will pay off $ 4,000 in loans in your first year. The second year $ 5,000 and the third year $ 6,000.

The program is expected to attract young people to the teaching profession and help them stay in the classroom. “Most young people graduate with college loans and we think $ 15,000 to go to a district like Jackson or Hinds County that is short of teachers is a good incentive,” he said.

Educated at Davidson College and the University of Virginia, Blount is a commercial real estate broker. He chairs the Senate Gaming Committee and sits on the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee, the Elections Committee, the Finance Committee, Highways and Transportation, the Medicaid Committee, the Public Health Committee and welfare, the public property committee, and the universities and colleges committee.

A senator’s job is a part-time job, he said, but it takes more hours than a typical part-time job to be successful, he said.

Blount believes there is room for improvement in the city of Jackson and the state of Mississippi.

“I’m from Jackson,” said Blount, who was first elected in 2008. “I grew up in Jackson and live in Jackson. I want our city and our state to be better. I am grateful for the opportunity to do the job.