Tim Ford Remembered For Public Service
By Tommy Reynolds
Last week, I joined with my colleagues as we remembered the life and public service of former Speaker of the House Tim Ford during a memorial service in the House chamber on March 5. Speaker Ford passed away unexpectedly on February 27. I had the honor of serving alongside him as we were elected to the House the same year. I supported Tim’s election as Speaker and served as Chairman of two committees under his leadership. Tim held the position of Speaker for 16 years until he retired from public service in 2003. He left Mississippi and the House of Representatives better than he found it. May he rest in peace.
March 3 was the deadline for passage of general Senate bills out of House committees. We spent the remainder of the week considering Senate measures on the floor of the House.
We also considered a number of Senate bills that mirrored measures we had previously sent to the other chamber. With many of these, we acted to amend the incoming Senate bill with “strike-all” language, which means that we took out the Senate language and put the House language back into the bill. Then, we voted to send it back to the Senate where they can concur with our changes or invite conference later in the session.
Some of those bills where the “strike-all” was taken up include:
Senate Bill 2804, which exempts the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Central Office from under the State Personnel Board (SPB) for one year. Our version of this measure included a provision whereby the interim Commiss-ioner could not make personnel changes without a review by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.
You may be aware of recent corruption scandals that have rocked the MDOC. The interim Commissioner wishes to be more flexible in his restructuring of the Central Office. We should remember that the original purpose of the State Personnel Board was to protect state employees from political firings and hirings and other acts of patronage. The majority of my colleagues and I believe any such lifting of restrictions on the personnel process should be very carefully applied.
I was proud to support Senate Bill 2581, which requires insurance companies to offer autism coverage for children ages 2-8. We allowed employers with fewer than 100 employees to have the option of passing along the increased insurance premium cost (due to the inclusion of covering autism) to the employees. Should that option be pursued, those employees could expect an estimated insurance cost increase of $0.32 a month. The bill passed unanimously. Hopefully, many Mississippi families will now be relieved of the terrible out of pocket expenses of trying to help their children learn to cope with this disability.
Although the subject of education has not been in the forefront of legislative discussion for a week or so, I do not want us to lose sight of the precarious situation in which our public schools, colleges and universities are finding themselves due to severe restrictions on their funding. We simply cannot expect our children to realize their full potential if we underfund the very institutions they rely on to give them the tools to succeed.
There has been a lot of political grandstanding in the halls of the Capitol this year, but in the end, my hope is that common sense will prevail, and we will provide our schools with the funding they deserve. The money is there; however, the question remains, is there the will to make education the priority item it deserves to be? I strongly agree with fully funding MAEP and feel that this can help hold down local property taxes and improve public education at the same time.
Please feel free to contact me at 1720 N Main St., Water Valley, MS 38965, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (662) 473-2571.
I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.