Session Outlook: New lawmaker directs attention to education, small businesses during the 2020 Legislative Session

Providing more money for education and giving more opportunities to small businesses are among top priorities for District 70 Rep. William “Bo” Brown, who takes office this month.

Brown represents the district that includes Belhaven and Belhaven Heights. He was elected to his first term in November.

The former Jackson city councilman said he plans to work on legislation that focuses on four main areas: economic development, education, criminal justice reform and low-income housing.

As for education, Brown said he supports fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). He also supports increasing vocational and curriculum offerings in public schools.

With MAEP, he said the state needs to fulfill its promise to fully fund the program, which was put in place more than two decades ago.

To that end, he will work with other lawmakers to ensure that state’s new lottery income goes to education, as promised.

According to the Clarion-Ledger, the lottery is supposed to generate $40 million in its first year and $80 million a year in its second. Anything up to $80 million is to go toward infrastructure needs, while anything above that is to go toward education.

“We need to make sure some of this lottery money goes to education, after they get through funding the infrastructure commitments,” Brown said.

Brown would also like to see the state offer more vocational educational opportunities and reintroduce home economics and civics.

“I’d like to see civics. It teaches you how to get along, how to appreciate the institutions that govern society, such as the constitution,” he said. “That’s going to be one of my real priorities.”

Brown has requested to be on 10 House committees. He hopes to serve on at least seven, including the House Universities and Colleges Committee, Education Committee, and Local and Private Legislation Committee.

According to House rules, representatives are to “submit a list of at least 10 committee preferences by 5 p.m., on the third calendar day of the legislative session following an election.”

Rules go on to state that legislators with less than four years of service are “guaranteed two of his or her top seven preferences unless appointed to the Appropriations or Ways and Means committees.”

An individual who has served four years or longer is guaranteed three of his or her first seven choices, according to the rules found at Ballotpedia.

Brown also plans to work on legislation that would give more opportunities to small businesses and minority-owned businesses, increase the availability of low-income housing, and reform criminal justice.

“We need to reform the criminal justice system starting from the overcrowding of our prison system and rehabilitating prisoners who are being released,” Brown said. “We need programs to rehabilitate them. We also need mental health assistance for the incarcerated population.”

He points to the fact that there is only one state mental health facility to serve prisoners with mental health issues in all of Central Mississippi.

In the realm of economic development, he would like the state to do a better job of making sure banks are complying with lending laws related to small and minority-owned firms.

He also would like to see if there is a way for the state to provide businesses with financing at lower interest rates.

“I’m highly concerned about economic development in general. We have lost so many small businesses over the years in Mississippi. Our small and minority businesses need some kind of boost.” 

Brown also plans to work on legislation that would encourage the state to seek more federal resources for low-income housing.

“We need to have better access to low-income housing. It’s one of the short-comings the government has nowadays,” he said. “We would have to tap into HUD to do that.” 

HUD is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The session began on Tuesday, January 7.

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1. He has been married for 21 years to his high school sweetheart. 2. He and his wife have four children.