SCDF holds quarterly Council of Governments meeting

By PAT BROWN,

M onday morning the Simpson County Development Foundation held one of the meetings it hosts during the year, the Council of

Governments meeting.  The goal is to give all levels of local government the opportunity to visit and discuss issues and share ideas. 

  Monday’s meeting topic was the current activity in the state legislature.  On hand for discussion were Senator Chris Caughman, Representative Price Wallace and Representative Noah Sanford.  

  Price Wallace, newly elected Representative District 77, lead the field. 

  Wallace discussed the severity of the human trafficking in Mississippi.  He said it is a much larger problem than most people realize and he expects to see legislation addressing the problem.  He anticipates other legislation to increase pay levels for state employees.  When asked if it included elected officials, he responded that this would be for the lower paid employees and that it would not address teacher pay because they are seeing increases which other agencies are not getting. 

  Wallace said efforts will also be made to get some additional funds into corrections.

  Senator Chris Caughman, District 35, discussed the teacher shortage issue and specifically the recruiting of teachers in more impoverished areas of the state.  He said legislators are discussing  offering tuition incentives to encourage more teachers to work in underserved areas. 

  Caughman was upbeat  about the state being up in collections to the tune of $80 million ahead of projections.  He stated that a large portion of the funding was coming from corporate taxes and that some may also be attributed to an increase in sales tax.  That figure is expected to rise to $120 million over the next six months. 

    Caughman said he also plans to focus on special needs children and providing adequate facilities for those children. 

    Noah Sanford, Representative District 90, was next in the line up.  Sanford said that PERS, the state retirement program, was going to cost tax payers an additional 2 percent to fund going forward. 

  Another issue Sanford mentioned is the importance of rural broadband connectivity.  He said some companies like Southern Pine are aggressively seeking the opportunity while others like AT&T are not favoring the new competition.  Supervisor Mickey Berry put the estimated cost for Southern Pine to provide broadband at between $175 and $200 million over an eight year period.   

   Sanford also discussed adopting ACT testing as the standard for graduation.  He said that Tom Knowell is sponsoring legislation to that effect. 

    He added that the amount of testing being done on the local school level is being discussed.  He said the state only mandates two tests--the third grade reading gate and history.  The other tests are mandated by the federal government. 

    It seems that if you want the funding from the federal government, you must test to the federal standard.