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Lobbying state legislators

By By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
Oct. 27, 2002
When a small group of state lawmakers head home today after a weekend in Meridian, they'll end a three-day visit in which they met with local leaders, visited attractions and learned about the area's needs.
That's no small order for a group that included several longtime state legislators as well as the chairman of the powerful budget-writing Senate Appropriations Committee.
Some had hoped for a larger crowd. But attendance no doubt was hurt by the ongoing special legislative session on tort reform many lawmakers simply wanted to go home rather than visit Meridian.
The only glitch to the whole weekend and when you think about it, it's a fairly substantial one was the handful of events Meridian city leaders sponsored that were closed to the public and media.
And that's too bad because legislators as a whole tend to respond better and more quickly to specific issues and needs raised by everyday people as well as civic and business leaders.
Lobbying legislators
Legislative weekends, in which communities invite state House and Senate members to tour their areas, are effective tools for county and city governments across Mississippi.
They offer legislators from all parts of the state, including remote, distant corners of Mississippi, a chance to learn about specific regions with which they aren't familiar.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast has become particularly adept and successful in entertaining legislators, luring many of them to the Coast for a weekend on the beach and at area casinos.
Coast leaders even sponsor the biggest annual legislative reception in Jackson every January, featuring a vast array of food prepared fresh by Hancock, Harrison and Jackson county restaurants.
Many Coast leaders credit those lobbying efforts with successfully snagging state money for road construction projects and an expanded branch campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.
Meridian's version
Meridian isn't the Coast and can't offer a weekend on the beach. But the city and East Mississippi has its own needs and its own charm more than enough to captivate legislators for an entire weekend.
The weekend, dubbed "Meridian in the Limelight," featured a tour of various city sites and art galleries. And legislators were expected to hear the latest on the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center.
But was it necessary to add the elitist touch of a closed Friday dinner at Montana's, a closed Saturday reception at the Rosenbaum condominiums, a closed Saturday dinner at Weidmann's and a closed Sunday brunch at the Quality Inn?
What did the city's elected officials discuss with state legislators? What issues of local importance could go before the Legislature in January? We'll never know because those events were closed.
Cities and counties that have found success in the Legislature usually work as hard as possible to ensure that all people have a chance to participate at all times. It's worked on the Coast; it can work here.
Governor's race
Ronnie Musgrove should know by the end of the year whether he will be unopposed for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year or if Attorney General Mike Moore will enter the governor's race.
Moore, whose relationship with Musgrove is tenuous at best, has said he believes he could easily win the nomination and the general election.
But some political insiders say Moore, now in his fourth term as the state attorney general, is facing strong opposition from his wife, who doesn't look favorably at a statewide run for governor.
Moore had announced in late 1998 he would run for governor in the 1999 state elections. He later withdrew from the race saying he had a change-of-heart and wanted to stay put as attorney general.