July update: Hattiesburg area growth, ballot initiative
As you know, the past year has been difficult for families across the state and nation. The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns led to a major economic recession that left millions without an income stream or the ability to work. Yet, despite these financial hardships, the people of Mississippi – and especially Senate District 45 – never stopped working to bring businesses and jobs to the Pine Belt area.
In fact, as laid out in a study released by 24/7 Wall Street, the Hattiesburg metro area ranked second in the country for job growth during the pandemic.
That’s huge news. While most of the country was struggling to keep economies from collapsing, the Hattiesburg area actually experienced growth. Some highlights from the report include a 2.9 percent increase in employment from February through November 2020. The total labor force also increased, rising 4.0 percent over the same time period.
Like Hattiesburg, the state of Mississippi has seen enormous economic growth over the past year. Right now, Mississippi’s Fiscal Year 2021 tax collections are significantly above projections. Part of this is due to an influx in federal dollars flowing through the state from congressional stimulus bills. But it also largely due to the fact that during the pandemic, Mississippi lawmakers and policymakers never stopped recruiting businesses, attracting prospective companies, and working to grow the state’s economy. As your state senator, I will be working hard to make sure Mississippi gets the biggest bang for your taxpayer dollars to position our state for current and future growth.
Ballot Initiative Process Update
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I have a unique interest in the future of Mississippi’s ballot initiative process as the Chairman of the Senate Constitution Committee. The issue has been a hot topic in the past month, generating lots of media coverage and political discussion. I’d like to share some highlights.
As you’ll remember, a couple months ago the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the state’s ballot initiative process, claiming that the language outlining it in the Constitution was no longer applicable. While I may not be happy with the result, I do believe the Supreme Court was correct in its decision.
Last week, Nathan Shrader, a political scientist and professor at Millsaps, offered a thoughtful piece in Y’all Politics on the ramifications of the ballot initiative process as well as some advice on how to move forward with a new system.
In Mississippi Today, Bobby Harrison put out a story detailing the current legislative status of a new potential initiative process. In it, he outlines the struggles facing the Legislature as we work to reach a consensus on how to move forward with a new system. Asked my thoughts on the matter, I shared the following:
“I hope we spend some time researching that and find something that works for everyone. We need to make sure we get this right,” said Sen. Chris Johnson, R-Hattiesburg, who as chair of the Constitution Committee most likely will play a key role in any effort to revive the ballot initiative process.
Governor Reeves has stated the possibility of calling a special session if a consensus is reached in the Legislature. Until and unless that happens, I will continue to work with other legislative leaders to shape a responsible, effective process that gives the people a chance to voice their will on important policy topics.
Let Me Hear From You
I’d also love to continue to hear from you on your thoughts about the ballot initiative and what should or should not be in a new process. Feel free to email me about the ballot initiative at email@example.com. As always, I can be reached regarding any other matters at my Senate email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.