By Rep. Tommy Reynolds
The past week was primarily devoted to considering measures sent to the House by the Senate or voting on whether to accept changes the Senate had made to our original bills. One of those was House Bill 504, the “teacher pay raise” bill, which I wrote about last week. I voted to concur with the Senate language that would guarantee teachers an across-the-board pay raise over two years. The House majority voted to send the measure to conference where three members of each chamber will meet to iron out our differences, which, in this case, are substantial.
On another education matter, we voted to amend Senate Bill 2571, essentially abolishing a bill passed in 2012 to provide that public schools could only set their fall start date as provided in the Bill, which eliminated much local flexibility as to the school year schedule.
I opposed this idea when it was first introduced. I believe local school districts and local school boards should have the ability to set their own school calendars, based on the needs and expectations of their communities. These leaders are elected to make such decisions, and I am very pleased that we were able to do away with the mandate. Locally elected school boards will be allowed to make school start decisions as they believe best under the Bill we passed.
Senate Bill 2288 modifies the election procedure for elected school board members only. The changes provide for a uniform procedure for a nominating petition. The requirement for 156 signatures decreases to 50. However, if there are fewer than 100 qualified electors in the area, the petition must be signed by at least 20 percent. The bill passed by a vote of 116-2. I supported this measure because I believe we should make the qualifying procedure as simple as possible for people who want to serve their communities on their local school boards.
We also focused on a growing, thriving industry which directly impacts rural areas like ours. Agri-tourism helps preserve land for future generations and is the fastest growing sector in the tourism industry. The economic impact of activities like hunting, angling and wildlife watching alone are close to $3 billion. Agritourism also includes lodging, crop mazes, direct sales, demonstrations, participation in actual farm tasks and other activities. These attractions help landowners realize more income from their land, not to mention aid in increasing the general public’s positive perception of the rural lifestyle.
With this in mind, we approved Senate Bill 2283 to extend the law that regulates the agritourism industry. It is important that the industry be recognized in statute, and by this continuation, we will be able to build on its success in the future.
The House of Representatives unanimously adopted House Bill 1633 which I authored and co-sponsored. The bill allows and empowers the North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority, which consists of eight counties and includes Yalobusha and Grenada Counties, to enter into any necessary agreements and contract with railroads as necessary to keep our rail line in operation.
Please feel free to contact me at my office at 1720 N. Main St., Water Valley, MS 38965, by email at email@example.com or by phone at (662) 473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.