When legislators are gaveled into session at 12 noon on Tuesday, Jan. 4 to start the 2022 Mississippi Legislature, several issues will greet them that will need to be addressed.
There’s been a lot of talk about such items as medical marijuana, the initiative process, and the elimination of the state income tax, which Mississippians will certainly hear much more about during the legislative session.
However, one of the items that will be top of mind for lawmakers in Jackson will be the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds and where it should go. The Magnolia State is receiving from the federal government nearly $2 billion under ARPA and the legislature will be tasked with determining how best to allocate that money.
Earlier this fall, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Bryce Hopson named an Appropriations sub-committee to review and make recommendations about the ARPA funds’ distribution for the state. It is expected those recommendations will be considered this session.
State Sen. Dr. David Parker (R-Olive Branch) prefers the funding be placed where it could do the most good over a long period of time.
“This will indeed be a challenge to be sure this money is spent appropriately,” Parker told DeSoto County News. “I do hope we can spread this allocation out over an extended time frame to get the best return on infrastructure in particular.”
Redistricting Congressional, Senate and House districts must be completed this session and Parker serves on the committee that will help draw those districts.
The Senator also pointed out one issue that hits a little closer to home for him. Parker’s wife Ashleigh has battled cancer and has been very public about her cancer survivor journey. Parker said they learned during that time that fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has meant delaying the diagnosis of several types of cancer. He hopes to initiate some legislation to confront that delay.
“Early detection can often be a life and death difference,” Parker said. “I hope to author legislation to make earlier detection of colon cancers possible and will lean on Ash as a reference.”
Among the other issues Mississippi legislators must deal with in the coming weeks is the passage of the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget, continued improvement of salaries for teachers and others in the public education system, and dealing with federal COVID-19 mandates from the Biden administration that are hurting businesses and health care workers in Mississippi.