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Local lawmakers reflect on session; Bain, Carpenter explain "©teacher pay votes

BY ZACK STEEN

zsteen@dailycorinthian.com

It's been almost a month since state legislators adjourned sine die.

Local lawmakers have been back in the Crossroads since the last week in March and are now reflecting on the session.

Although controversial, all three local lawmakers say the $1,500 teacher and assistant teacher pay increases were a win.

Both Rep. Lester "Bubba" Carpenter (R-Burnsville) and Rep. Nick Bain (R-Corinth) received some flack for late session "no" votes on even more money for educators.

Bain said he was worried that if more money was asked for, then the entire bill might get trashed.

"I was afraid with the atmosphere at the Capitol, teachers might not get a raise at all," said Bain. "I was worried that if we took a chance, we would lose either the teacher pay completely or just the teacher assistants."

Carpenter said he voted "no" because he knew it would fail.

"I didn't want to lie to the people, so I voted against the second increase. We all knew on the floor that it wouldn't pass for any more," he said. "The budget was maxed out with the $1,500 for teachers already in."

Carpenter said he hates that people think he and Bain voted against a teacher pay raise "when in reality, we voted for it."

"I could have done a show vote, but that would have been a lie. My goal is to work on another pay raise for next year," added Carpenter. "Our teachers don't get paid enough, but we have to live within our reality."

Sen. Rita Potts Parks (R-Corinth) said not only teachers and teacher assistants, but also school nurses, counselors and all other licensed positions in schools will see the same $1,500 raise.

Bain was proud of new criminal justice reform laws passed that give people who spend time behind bars a second chance when released. He's disappointed, however, that more could not be done to address the "unfair" Corinth School District grading by the state department of education.

"The overall bureaucracy that killed that bill is very upsetting," said Bain. "But I plan to work on it again next year and take a harder look at the department of education."

He added, "I have a hard time with people in Jackson who never come to Corinth telling us what to do "" that's not right."

Parks said a new law that allows rural electric cooperatives to provide broadband internet access to rural areas is a big accomplishment.

"There was so much interest in my district "" especially in Tippah County, where so many are underserved," she said.

The three legislators agreed on the best outcome of the session with their greatest achievement coming with the creation of one of the strictest abortion laws in the country.

"I've always been passionate about pro life measures "" the Heartbeat Bill is possibly the best thing that we got done this session," said Bain.

Carpenter added, "It was something worth fighting for. And in my opinion, if that law saves one life, then it is doing its job."

The law will ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually about six weeks into pregnancy unless there is a medical emergency.

"This is another step in the right direction to make Mississippi one of the safest places for unborn children," added Parks.

A new human trafficking law that came out of the session is another highlight.

"This has increasingly became a worry across the state," said Bain.

While some people believe the crime is isolated to the Gulf Coast area, Carpenter said a lot is happening in North Mississippi especially around the U.S. 72 and 45 corridor.

"It's happening up here, too ... where people are held against their will to work or for sex," said Carpenter.

The new law will ban minors from being charged with prostitution and it will increase the penalty for persons responsible for the illegal activity.

"A law like this was a must to help battle human trafficking," said Parks. "Such a law makes our state a leader among others."

(Capitol Connections by staff writer Zack Steen will appear in the Daily Corinthian throughout the 2019 Mississippi Legislature session.)