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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

6 Coast Democrats oppose Barbour road plan

JACKSON -- A roundup of Tuesday's action at the Capitol:

• Citing Hurricane Katrina concerns, six South Mississippi Democrats said in a statement they oppose Gov. Haley Barbour's plan to spend $25 million in Katrina savings for road improvements in north Mississippi.

Since a rules change allowed the state to avoid paying millions to match federal spending on Katrina rebuilding projects, Barbour wants to use about $108 million of $268 million that had been socked away to replenish the "rainy day" fund and to make $25 million in improvements that would benefit a Toyota plant in Lee County.

Sens. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, Debbie Dawkins, D-Pass Christian, Ezell Lee, D-Picayune and Reps. Dirk Dedeaux, D-Sellers, Randall Patterson, D-Biloxi, and Diane Peranich, D-Pass Christian, were listed on the statement.

"Many residents of the areas directly impacted by Katrina still reside in FEMA trailers, insurance remains unaffordable, small businesses are struggling and Hancock County doesn't have a jail," the statement said. "To us, this is simply a matter of priorities and our priority is rebuilding the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We hope that this 'found money' will be used to further our recovery from Katrina."

• Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds would be allowed to hire and fire Department of Education personnel without taking matters to the personnel board under a bill the Senate Education Committee agreed on. The provision, designed to give the department more flexibility to reorganize, would be for a year.

• The Senate Education Committee voted to authorize a mentoring program for young teachers. The program, which would utilize retired or long-serving teachers and pay them up to $1,000 a year, is designed to combat the loss of many of the state's recently hired teachers.

• The committee also approved longevity pay increases of up to $794 a year for teachers who have taught at least 25 years.

• The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would restrict eminent domain from being declared on a parcel for a commercial venture, but the law would still allow governments and utility companies to use eminent domain for roads, utility work and levees and other projects for the public.

• The House Military Affairs Committee approved a tuition waiver for spouses of those serving with the National Guard. Spouses could forgo paying up to 50 percent of their tuition at both four-year and two-year schools.

The bill would also give "tuition stabilization" for up to $4,500 for active duty members of the National Guard. The bill has been referred to the appropriations committee.

• Members of the Legislature will meet this morning at the Capitol to ride to memorial services in Bay St. Louis for Joseph P. "Jody" Compretta Jr., son of House Speaker Pro Tem J.P. Compretta, who represents Hancock County. Compretta, 39, died in an accident at the Endymion parade in New Orleans on Saturday.

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