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Lawmaker: Single issue session wasteful'

By By Buddy Bynum/The Meridian Star
July 9, 2001
A special legislative session on the single issue of teacher pay is "wasteful" and "rather silly" when there is plenty of time to handle the problem before the next fiscal year begins in July 2002, according to state Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said late last week he would summon lawmakers to Jackson so they can remove a so-called 5 percent clause from teacher pay hikes approved in the 2001 legislative session. The provision required that automatic teacher pay raises would only come if state revenue collections grew by at least 5 percent.
In a turnabout of her previous position on the issue, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and House Speaker Tim Ford asked Musgrove to include the issue in a special session he must call later this year on congressional redistricting.
Musgrove, however, opted to call lawmakers back for what is likely to be a fairly brief special session only on teacher pay. State officials say special sessions generally cost taxpayers about $34,000 a day.
Snowden, who introduced a bill to modify the 5 percent clause that was killed in committee, said the change would likely be made fairly quickly.
Adding the issue to a special session on congressional redistricting would not have cost any additional money, Snowden said. "I would have no objection to taking it up then, even though there is no real necessity to do so until the regular session.
Elimination of the 5 percent clause would affect the state's fiscal year 2003 budget, which will not be finalized until March 2002, and won't take effect until July 1, 2002. The Legislature next regular session begins in January 2002.
Even so, Musgrove said he has called the session for July 18. Other officials said it was unlikely that a committee's report and proposal on redistricting would be ready for consideration at that time.
For her part, Tuck said she wanted the teacher pay plan to retain another feature she had included in the original legislation an "incentive" clause that provides for additional funds to achieve the Southeastern average faster, if the state's annual growth rate exceeds 5 percent.
Despite a much lower rate expected in Fiscal Year 2002, the Legislature approved $23 million for the raise's first year that began July 1.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at bbynum@themeridianstar.com.

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