From Your Capitol - Week of February 27

Dana.Criswell.jpgThis week the Mississippi House of Representatives met in committees to consider bills passed by the Senate. The bills approved by committees this week now await action by the full House.  The deadline for the House to consider Senate bills is March 8th.

You can view them on the House Calendar here

On Monday I enjoyed touring a Clinton, MS elementary school.  The Clinton school district participates in the 1 to 1 Apple Laptop Initiative, every student has either an iPad or an Apple Laptop computer.  The dedication by the superintendent, principles and teachers was impressive and it was obvious why Clinton is one of the top school districts in our state.  As I walked through elementary classrooms observing students they were all engaged and seemed eager to learn.

But the question that must be answered is how much of that success can be attributed to the use of technology and how much is attributed to the dedication of the teachers and administration who create a learning environment that allows the students to excel.  As a one time home-school parent what I observed looked much more like a home-school learning environments than most traditional public school classrooms.

The use of technology and how we implement it into our schools is an important question that we must address, equipping every student with a computer is an extremely expensive undertaking.  Before we move forward we must ensure we are spending our resources wisely.

Cursive Writing

During my discussion with teachers the subject of cursive writing was addressed.  I expected these teachers to say cursive writing was no longer needed in the classroom, that students did not need to spend time learning something that they might never use in life.  But these teachers expressed a completely opposite opinion.  Each one talked about the need to bring back cursive writing into the curriculum. 

Here is just a few of the benefits of teaching cursive writing;
  • increases find motor skills and creativity 
  • creates better word recognition 
  • stimulates multiple parts of brain
  • affective benefit for dyslexic students

Senate Bill 2273, would require public schools implement cursive writing across their elementary school curriculum.  If passed public school children would be required to read and write in cursive by the 5th grade.  The House will consider this bill next week.

More on Roads and Bridges

As expected Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves announce that the Mississippi Senate would not consider HB480, internet tax, because among many of its issues and problems it was simply illegal.  But, there are those around our state and within government that imply not supporting the illegal internet tax is paramount to wanting children to die when a bridge collapses.  

I spent this past summer touring the northern part of our state with Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) engineers and Northern District Commissioner Mike Tagert.  I've read and listened to experts, business leader, and road builders as they describe the state of our highway infrastructure.

My Conclusions;

  • Our roads and bridges need attention; over the past 30 years we have built a highway system that is superior to that of surrounding states, but we have not spent the money to maintain those roads and bridges.
  • We are NOT in a crisis - our roads and bridges need attention but there is not a single child in danger of having their school bus fall into a river or creek.
  • The Mississippi Department of Transportation does a good job managing the condition of our roads and bridges and I believe they do a good job with our money.  There are always improvements and efficiencies that can be made but in general I'm please with MDOT.
  • The largest infrastructure deficiencies within our state lie in our county roads and bridges, not our state maintained system.
  • We do NOT need to take more or new money from the people of Mississippi to address this problem.

Many claim to be serious about solving this issue but their only answer is to take more money from the people of Mississippi.  If you listen carefully they always say they need "new" money to address this issue.

I will not agree to take more from the citizen of this state until the governments, both state and local, stop wasting the money they already have.  None of the "more-money more-tax" advocates are willing to make other cuts in government to address our road and bridges.  

We continue to borrow millions every year for projects that may be fun but are certainly not necessary.  County governments around our state continue to transfer public money to private organizations, some counties in the hundreds of thousands every year.  No one opposes the boy scouts, girl scouts or countless other organizations, but it is not the governments duty to support charities with tax dollars.  Our roads and bridges are crumbling while our local and state officials are spending our money to "do good".

If our state and local leaders are truly serious about repairing and maintaining our roads and bridges then they should begin the appropriations process by first appropriating a major sum of our state general fund to that task.  Then we can divide the rest among the other state entities and agencies.  

The fact is, most politicians believe maintaining our infrastructure is important but only important enough for YOU to pay more.  They do not believe it's important enough for politicians to give up some of their pet projects that gains themselves a bank account full of lobbyist money or the prestige of "bringing home the bacon" to their home county or city.

Many otherwise conservative thinking politicians feel it is their responsibility to get-what-they-can for the folks back home.  This mentality of "grab all I can get for my district" must change if we are going to move forward as a state.

Visiting Your Capitol

raylaughter.jpgOn Thursday Ray Laughter, Desoto County's Environmental Services Manager, visited the capitol.  Ray was promoting Recycling with the Mississippi Recycling Coalition and serving ice cream with Keep Mississippi Beautiful.  I was happy to sign the "Leaders against Litter" Board at the Capitol.

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 Also visiting was NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., an Olive Branch native. The Mississippi House presented Ricky with a resolution commending and congratulating him on his numerous racing achievements and successful career as a professional NASCAR driver.

 

 

Learn More

Have you ever wondered how to read a bill?  Representatives Dan Eubanks and Steve Hopkins have produced a YouTube video explaining all the ins-and-outs of how to read a bill.  Check out their video at Mississippi 411 and become more involved in your government.

 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve Olive Branch and the State of Mississippi.  If you have any questions, or if I can be of any service to you please contact me at Dana@DanaCriswell.net

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Dana

 

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