Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn speaks to Elaine Vechorik, of Sturgis, at the Hunter Henry Center on the campus of Mississippi State Tuesday night prior to an open forum question and answer session. Behind him, Rep. Gary Chism chats with MSU President Mark Keenum. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff
October 9, 2013 10:16:22 AM
Twelve area residents pitched various ideas -- defund the Affordable Care Act, get out of Common Core educational standards and protect gun owners' rights -- during Miss. House Speaker Phillip Gunn's "Mississippi Solutions -- An Ideas Tour" stop Tuesday at Mississippi State University.
Gunn, R-Clinton, began the tour, which utilizes a town hall-style format, last year to gather resident concerns and take specific issues to lawmakers in Jackson. His tour started Monday in Clinton, then traveled to Clarksdale and Olive Branch. Tuesday's leg swung through Oxford, Corinth and Starkville.
Also listening to residents' concerns yesterday were Reps. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie, Gary Chism, R-Columbus, and Joey Hood, R-Ackerman. Chism and Hood both represent portions of Oktibbeha County.
From town to town, feedback has touched upon hot-button national and state issues, Gunn said, but also provided insight to minutia sometimes overlooked by state representatives. Town hall meetings are his way of "bringing the Legislature to the people," he said.
"There's uncertainty out there about Common Core, and I think we have to take a look at it to understand it better. The Affordable Care Act has also been a topic of great discussion at both ends of the spectrum. A lot of people want to take another look at it, while a lot want to embrace it," Gunn said. "Then there are unique issues to specific areas. For example, we met this morning with a dental hygienist who had issues unique to that field. We met with a disabled police officer yesterday who had issues unique to his situation.
"These are issues we wouldn't normally hear in the legislative session," he added. "It highlights the value of this kind of forum where people can come out and take 30 minutes out of their day rather than drive to Jackson to try to talk to us."
Following the tour, ideas are taken back to Jackson and analyzed. Those that merit potential legislation are vetted and discussed internally before such action begins, Gunn said.
"Obviously there are a lot of good ideas out there, but the bottom line is you have to get up, go vote and pass them," he said. "We take these ideas, look at them, consider whether there are enough votes to pass them, consider the merits of the bill and convert them to legislation. So far, we've had some really good ideas. I suspect we'll have enough good ideas to move forward with."
Gunn's tour continues today with stops in Vicksburg and Natchez, and concludes Thursday with meetings in Laurel and Pascagoula. Locations are strategically chosen to accommodate a one-hour drive for most Mississippians.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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