The legislature this year tried to do things that made financial sense.We put savings first. We put $250 million straight into the state’s savings account.
When we spent taxpayer money, we spent on your priorities. We funded state agencies and
functions at the minimum level we thought we had to, while still funding critical needs. We spent
$2.3 billon – that’s 40% of the entire state budget – on elementary and secondary public education,
and is $48.6 million more than we spent on public education last year. We added $53.6 million to
our state universities & colleges’ budget. We made a slight increase to the budget for the Dept. of
Public Safety, including providing long overdue raises for the Highway Patrolmen who keep our
We borrowed less, and we have started a trend: we paid off more than we borrowed. We will pay
off $240 million, and we borrowed $196 million with a bond package that funds long-term
investments that will pay dividends for the state’s economy. Of that amount, Madison County
businesses and residents will benefit directly by getting $1 million toward the completion of the Lake
Harbour expansion. This will alleviate congestion and help grow the local economy.
We focused on job creation. Through an innovative financing method, the legislature gave Madison County the
unprecedented authority to issue up to $100 million in “industrial revenue-only bonds.” This will help bring 800 – 1,000
new jobs to Madison County. And taxpayers will not be on the hook for repayment. Nissan will guarantee the bond debt,
and the bonds will finance the construction of new facilities to house automotive suppliers for the car company’s new
Automotive industry expansion employs new people, puts food on tables and Mississippi is leading the way. In a recent
one-day special session, we authorized a package of bond incentives of $130 million that, upon completion, will help bring
$1.2 billion in private investment and 2,000 direct new jobs to the state at a new tire plant. This bond package helped us
beat out two other states for these jobs. Unlike the Nissan bonds, these are general obligation bonds that taxpayers will
repay, but the long-term payoff in jobs and revenue make this a worthwhile investment that helped us land this new plant.
We passed laws to encourage investment in manufacturing jobs in the state, including lowering taxes on the energy used
to manufacture goods. Not only did this help land Yokohama Tires, but existing companies from steel manufacturers to
shipbuilders have told me that this break will help them create new jobs almost immediately.
We incentivized oil exploration in the state by lowering the severance tax and encouraging horizontal drilling. We also took
other steps and to diversify our power-production base to create jobs and reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil.
We set out to improve public schools in the state. Good schools are about educating children, but they’re also about
property value and healthy communities and economic development. The Madison County Public Schools are among the
very best in the state, and they will get the resources they need to stay great. It was my first priority to do everything I
could possibly do to defend our excellent public school system and to preserve our gains. Sometimes it was hard. Some
days, some of my Republican colleagues seemed to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Rather than putting
our successes in jeopardy, I insisted we target our education reforms on those places that need them the worst. We need
to get our money’s worth and fix the schools that are holding our state back. Businesses want to come where there are
educated workers. These common-sense education reforms put us on the right track.
It is an honor and a privilege to represent Madison County in the State Legislature. I love what I do, and I try to make the
decisions you would make. When I am not practicing family law, I get to take your views to the Mississippi Senate. Based
on our accomplishments this year, I hope you will agree we are doing great things for our area and for our state.
All in all, this 2013 legislative session has been one of the more productive ones in my
memory. Some of the bills passed and signed by the governor applied to potential
economic development, notably one having to do with Nissan expansion in Madison
County, which will add nearly 1,000 additional jobs, and another bill passed in the Special
Session which landed the Japan-based Yokohama tire plant, with a potential of 2,000 jobs,
to be constructed near West Point. Governor Bryant’s MDA team did a fine job of
shepherding both these projects through the process, maintaining secrecy on the details
until they were presented to the House Ways and Means and the Senate Financial
committees just before the votes were taken. It was quite exciting to see and help these projects unfold.
During my past years of political participation, my observations have been that we needed to bring integrity to
the electoral processes in Madison County. I feel that we have made a beginning now that we passed HB 275,
a bill I authored that ensures in this bipartisan piece of legislation that no persons who have been convicted of
certain criminal or civil laws, or who have been removed from office or resigned as part of a plea agreement can
be a member or hold a leadership position of any political party municipal, county, or state executive committee
charged by the state election code to conduct our elections.
One of the aims I have had since I was first elected was to make certain our children in public schools can read at
each class level. After years of failure to accomplish this goal, working through many proposals, finally this year,
with the help of the Governor, the Lt. Governor and the Speaker and their teams, the private business world,
Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s people who spent many weeks with us, the House and Senate Education Chairmen,
Senator Angela Hill and I worked out an agreement with the Department of Education and others to make sure
all children who passed out of third grade would be proficient readers on that level. When SB 2347 was signed
into law, I felt great pride in knowing we had made a lasting impact on Mississippi literacy. I truly believe it is the
most important piece of legislation we passed this year.
As Tourism Chairman, I have helped shepherd bills that enlarge incentives offered to the motion picture industry
for them and for video games design companies to do business here in this state. This will encourage these
directors/producers to use our state sound stage in Canton and other places in the state for the production of
So looking at some of the legislation we passed for Madison County, I am proud that our team of legislators has
been successful in helping Ridgeland add $1million in bonds to the Lake Harbour project; got $250,000 in bonds
for the Mississippi Craft Center; passed the Madison County Scenic Byway bill; named the Adam Weisenberger
Memorial Interchange, and by and large helped our county move forward.