By Tommy Reynolds
The Mississippi House of Representatives passed HB 1533 last week which among other items would allow for early voting for Mississippi residents before an election. Currently two-thirds of the states have early voting laws. These include to the state of Arkansas which allows individuals to go to the county clerks office and vote 15 days before election as well as the state of Tennessee and the state of Louisiana. Georgia and Texas also provide for early voting. Our state has only provisions for absentee votes for certain defined reasons and does not have early voting. Under HB 1533, Mississippi would move in line with the majority of states in having early voting which would be held in the circuit clerk’s office and would begin 15 days before the date of election. Individuals could during the hours that the circuit clerk’s office was open vote early for any reason, and their vote would be counted at the time of the election. The House of Representatives had earlier passed bills allowing for a pilot early voting in our state, but this had died in the state Senate in earlier years. It is my hope that this reform which has bipartisan support can survive the legislative process and be enacted into law.
I visited clerk’s offices in Tennessee and in Arkansas before last year’s election to determine how well received early voting was in those states. I spoke with the County Clerk of Lawrence County, Arkansas and the election commissioners of Dyer County, Tennessee and all the local officials were very supportive of this program.
The Mississippi House of Representatives passed HB 1142 in an attempt to deal with school districts who are declared to be in “extreme emergency” due to being a failed district. A failing school district is defined as a district that does not meet student achievement standards and improvement standards over a two year period. The purpose of the law is not to have state control of local school districts but to assure that state money spent on education is spent to educate children and achieves the results intended.
Under the Bill each district in the state would file an annual financial audit. A new “Mississippi Recovery School District” would provide leadership to failing districts that go into conservatorship. The law would require each district to issue an annual report that would detail graduation rates for the district, dropout rates, test scores and to publish the report in a general circulation newspaper and on the district’s website.
It is my hope that the great majority of school districts trying to improve Mississippi’s education system will be properly recognized and the few that are lagging behind will be upgraded so that all our state can move ahead in a positive manner.
If I can be of any assistance to you please call on me. My phone number in Jackson during the session is (601) 359-3365. The phone number in my Charleston office is (662) 647-3203, and my residence phone number is (662) 473-2571. I can also be contacted by writing me at my home address of 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965, or at my office address of P.O. Box 280, Charleston, MS 38921.