The 2014 legislative session is officially underway at the Capitol in Jackson. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on what little known issue could become important and the state of the relationship between Republicans and Democrats.
As the 90 day legislative session gavels in, many of the headline issues.....prison reform, public safety, school funding and the budget....are well known in the capitol.
But every year an unexpected issue grabs the headlines.
This year Senator Michael Watson of Pascagoula thinks that issue will be the need for a state highway patrol trooper school.
"One of the core functions of government is public safety. And if we don't have the number of troopers to keep our roads safe than we a doing a disservice to our citizens. So I think that is going to be something that is not being talked about a lot now but is going to get a lot of attention," Watson said.
The biggest surprise could be any movement on Medicaid expansion, which Democrats like Representative David Baria of Bay St. Louis says they will push again.
"We are still for that issue. We hope that the governor will soften some on that issue. I don't care if we call it 'philcare' we need to do something to try to take care of these sick people. And we can't pass up, 10-12 billion dollars in the state of Mississippi," Baria said.
This is the third year that Republicans have been in control of both chambers of the legislature.
But even on the first day of the session some tension between the two parties might already be showing through according to Democratic Senator Kelvin Butler of McComb.
"I guess the longer you are in charge the more you dig in and you feel like your policies are the policies of this state. But, as a Democratic and understanding the other side of the coin, I understand how important it is to look out for everybody," Butler said.
GOP representative Mark Formby of Picayune disagrees.
"I am proud of who we are and what we have done because you never know. For 18 years I was in the minority fighting for this opportunity. And I was not even sure how well we would do. But I think we have done a good job," Formby said.
And there is at least some division in the Republican party growing, as more conservative members have formed a coalition that will target what they consider more 'conservative' priorities.