Miss. House speaker sets listening tour in October

August 25, 2013 11:31:21 AM



JACKSON -- Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said Friday that he'll travel the state this fall to gather ideas for the 2014 legislative session. 


The Republican from Clinton said he's looking for solutions to the state's problems. He has supported charter schools and has said frequently during the past year that he opposes Medicaid expansion. 


The 2014 legislative session runs from early January to early April. Gunn conducted a similar listening tour in 2012, leading into the 2013 session. 


"Last year, we received an overwhelmingly positive response," Gunn said in a news release. "A variety of people from all different backgrounds attended these meetings and shared some of their biggest concerns and opinions regarding core issues most Mississippians grapple with daily. This year, I want to focus on how we can fix those problems." 


Gunn plans to hold meetings Oct. 7 in Clinton, Clarksdale and Olive Branch; Oct. 8 in Oxford, Corinth and Starkville; Oct. 9 in Vicksburg and Natchez; and Oct. 10 in Laurel and Pascagoula. 


Each meeting is scheduled to last an hour, and Gunn said they'll be nonpartisan. 


Rep. Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto, the House Democratic leader, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday that Democrats are developing several ideas for 2014. Among other things, he said they'll seek funding to train new Highway Patrol officers -- an idea Republican Gov. Phil Bryant already has mentioned as a priority. 


Moak said Democrats also will continue to seek support in the House and Senate to authorize Medicaid expansion, which Bryant and other Republican leaders say the state can't afford. 


Under the federal health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010, states have the option of extending Medicaid coverage to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That's an income of about $15,000 a year for one person. In Mississippi now, the income cutoff for Medicaid is about $5,000 for one person, although the program still does not cover many able-bodied adults who earn less than that. 


Moak said Mississippi could lose about $1 billion in federal money each year the state doesn't expand Medicaid.