Mississippi legislature convenes with plans to address Medicaid, budgets, pay raises, nurse practitioners and more

Lawmakers on Tuesday will convene the 134th regular session of the Mississippi Legislature — a statewide election-year session.

It is scheduled to run through April 7. For Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, it will be their last session in their current posts, with both term limited after serving two four-year terms.

Here are some of the legislative priorities for state leaders and issues the Legislature is expected to consider in 2019:

Salary hikes, few hot-button issues

Legislative leaders and Bryant are projecting the rosiest state financial picture in years — growth of 2.6 percent or better expected — after years of anemic revenue and large budget cuts. This is prompting a push for a teacher pay raise and, for the first time in more than a decade, a potential across-the-board state employee raise.

Bryant has recommended a $50 million teacher pay raise spread over two years. House Speaker Philip Gunn and Reeves have said they are open to such a raise. Gunn said he wants to consider one for all state employees. Government raises would appear to be a top issue for the state's leadership and for the 2019 legislative session.

Otherwise, conventional wisdom is that during election years lawmakers avoid fireworks and many controversial measures. Lawmakers are not expected to tackle, for instance, an overhaul of the state's public education funding formula or any abortion restriction laws — issues that have brought much debate in recent sessions.

Senate President Pro Tem Terry Burton, R-Newton, said, "Election year sessions are relatively easygoing and light compared to other sessions." 

But Gunn said election-year politics will not prevent the Legislature from doing major policy work.

"As I've said repeatedly, it's not a year to do nothing," Gunn said. "... We're sent up here to work and just because it's an election year doesn't mean we can take a pass. We've got things to do."

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