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Representative Dana Criswell - Another Week at Your Capitol
Today marks one month since I was first took the oath of office to represent the people of Olive Branch in their state government. As usual this has been a busy, sometimes exciting and interesting week. Every day I learn something new about our state and our government and this week I think I got a double dose.
The week began on Monday afternoon as most weeks do for the legislature, the Speaker calls the House to order, we open with prayer and the pledge of allegiance and then the meetings begin. Now I don't want to cry too much, because lots of these meetings are over dinner or lunch and the food is always excellent. So I'm not asking for sympathy, though to be perfectly honest, sometimes I'd rather just be home eating with my family and watching a re-run of The Office. But, these meetings are sometimes important and allow me as a legislator to learn more about the various issues on which I'm asked to make decisions.
Committees are finally getting organized and will get to work this coming week. Rep. John Moore, chairman of the Education Committee asked me to serve as a sub-committtee chairman, and I was elected Secretary of the Transportation Committee. I am excited to serve on both of these committees and especially happy to be asked to serve in these roles to help the committees accomplish their work.
I've filed another bill this week, this bill is a Parent's Bill of Rights constitutional amendment. Passing a constitutional amendment is a big job that requires a 2/3rd vote in both the House and the Senate. It then goes to the people of the state for a vote in November. This is a huge hurdle to overcome but I believe it's time the people of Mississippi take a stand for parents and children. The federal government makes a continual effort to step between a parent and the children given to them by God, I believe we need to address this by telling everyone that a parent has the God given right to make the decisions for their children. I will publish a copy of this bill next week and ask you to call and write your representative and let your voice be heard about this issue.
The House adjourned on Wednesday afternoon and Governor Bryant called a special session on Thursday. A special session is a meeting of legislative bodies outside of the normal, regular session. It typically expedites the legislative process to focus on one particular issue.
The issue addressed in this special session was a bill that gave incentives and tax breaks to two companies to convince them to open operations in Mississippi. One company plans to open in Hinds County and would eventually employ 3500 people, while the other will operate on the coast with 1000 employees. There has been a lot of controversy over this vote, so I want to explain why I voted Yes on this bill.
A decision on this bill came down to me wrestling between my core belief of limited government involvement in our lives and the positive economic impact this deal would provide Mississippi. It is my belief that if we must provide a tax break to lure companies then our taxes are too high, we should not be confiscating money from everyone then choosing who gets to pay less. Everyone, small or large should be paying less. If reducing the tax burden on one company gives them the money to hire more people and invest more in growing their business then it would also work for smaller companies. I don't like the state being in the business of choosing winners and losers, we should reduce the tax burden on all companies and give everyone the chance to be winners.
The next issue is the $263 million for construction and infrastructure, and a rebate of 3.5 percentage points on income tax. I do not have a problem with the state spending money on the basic infrastructure needed for these companies to exist, such as roads, bridges, and water and sewer systems; government provides the infrastructure that allows us all the work and live. But, I do have an issue with the state spending money building these companies facilities and buying them equipment, these items should not be a part of what we offer to lure them to Mississippi.
Even though this package included the expenses that I did not like, I voted Yes. I choose to overlook those issues because of the positive economic impact I believe these projects will have on our state. Continental Tire plans to begin in January 2018 building a $1.45 billion, 5 million-square-foot plant to make industrial tires and will have an annual payroll of almost $100 million.
I know many of you disagree with my decision and I am open and willing to listen to your opinion. I ask you to never hesitate to tell me as often and as loudly as you want, what you think of my vote. It is your duty to speak out and my responsibility to listen. While I stand by my Yes vote, I am doing some serious soul searching, reading, and listening as I evaluate my decision. The only way I'm going to learn and improve my future decisions is by looking back and evaluating why I made those decisions.
Visiting the capitol this week
This week was Community and Junior College Day at the capitol. I had the opportunity to meet several students, faculty, and administrators from community colleges around the state. Did you know that Mississippi has been recognized as having the best community and junior college system in the nation? Also, a community college student will spend only about $4500.00/ year on tuition and fees. Our community and junior colleges offer students in Mississippi an excellent opportunity to advance their education and find better careers at an amazingly affordable price. There is no reason for anyone to saddle themselves with large school loans when an excellent education is available in your local community or junior college.