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Legislators prepare for special session

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
July 22, 2001
Legislators return to Jackson on Monday for a special session on teacher pay that some believe is unnecessary, will waste money and should have been handled at a later date.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove believes the issue is important enough to require immediate attention. He wants legislators to kill a provision that links teacher pay raises to the state's economic growth.
Lawmakers voted in 2000 for yearly pay raises to start this fall and end in 2005. But the raises, designed to increase pay to the Southeastern average of nearly $41,000, will kick in only if the state has at least 5 percent economic growth.
Several area representatives said they have not heard much from teachers on the issue.
But Sen. Sampson Jackson, D-DeKalb, said the timing of the session is right.
Dr. Lauren Wells, of Meridian, president of the Lauderdale County Chapter of the Mississippi American Federation of Teachers AFL-CIO, feels the same way.
Wells resigned from the Lauderdale County School District as a fifth-grade reading and language arts teacher at the end of the school year to teach elementary education at the University of West Alabama.
The special session will begin at 10 a.m. and is not expected to last more than two hours. Legislators receive $75 a day plus mileage for special sessions. According to Patsy Brumfield, communications director for the lieutenant governor's office, the estimated cost of a one day session, including travel both ways, is $47,460.
Amid criticism that the session is a waste of money, Musgrove has said legislators could forego their pay.
But Rep. Johnny W. Stringer, D-Montrose, said most special sessions cost lawmakers money in the first place.
Rep. Bobby "Joe" Taylor, D-Waynesboro, said he will go to Jackson this afternoon to avoid the morning traffic. He will have to spend the night and miss work on Monday.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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