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Back in town

MBJ Editorial

We have left a season of hope and celebration and entered a time of tribulation. Forgive us our cynicism, but the Legislature is back in town.

A number of serious issues await legislators in this year’s session, but — from the interested citizen, to lobbyists, to Mississippi’s business and industry community — many are wondering how, and even if, the assortment of senators, representatives and other elected officials involved in the legislative process will handle these challenges.

• Will the so-called “tobacco fund” be raided to bail out Medicaid, which is suffering a $125-million deficit? And once the politicos start spending this money, will they be able to stop? Not likely.

• Will a push from business leaders and the state’s medical community for civil justice reform move forward? More than likely, no. Trial lawyers hold too much influence over legislators for tort reform to happen. Unfortunately, Mississippi’s reputation for jackpot justice and an anti-business climate will continue, and we’ll all suffer because of it.

• Will a state labor department be created? Not likely, but it won’t go away either.

It should.

Once again, whether or not these issues are taken care of all boils down to leadership — or, more precisely, the lack of it.

In 2001, legislators failed to handle the state flag controversy and congressional redistricting. What emerged from both situations was finger-pointing, name-calling, excuse-making and duty-shirking. Leadership was abandoned for political expediency.

We join thousands of Mississippians hoping, praying even, that our legislators will see the light, and maybe — just maybe — surprise us and prove us wrong.

Maybe, indeed.

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