Ketchings: Lack of funds will plague lawmakers in next session

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2000

A state &uot;money crunch&uot; will continue to limit lawmakers in the upcoming Legislative session, Rep. Andrew Ketchings told Natchez Lions Club members Tuesday.

Ketchings, a Republican in his second term representing Natchez and portions of Franklin and Amite counties, highlighted events of this year’s session and told club members what he expects of the new session, which begins Jan. 2.

Ketchings said the state is beginning to feel the effects of years of overspending now that budget projections are coming in lower than expected.

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The budget shortfalls will be seen in laws ranging from teacher pay raises to criminal sentencing, he said.

In the spring, lawmakers passed a bill that will match the salaries of Mississippi educators with those of other Southeastern states in the next five years.

Ketchings said he supports education but opposed the bill because he did not feel comfortable obligating taxpayers’ money when it may not be available in the future.

&uot;I don’t believe in voting for something that will not come about until five years, because we don’t know where we’re going to be in five years,&uot; he said.

A tight budget, Ketchings predicted, will also renew a push to change state sentencing laws.

State law requires that convicted criminals serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, but that could be reduced to 50 percent to save expenditures on correctional facilities.

In response to the recent presidential election, Ketchings said state lawmakers will probably revisit state election laws, including updating the list of disenfranchising crimes and requiring identification at the polls.

&uot;To me it’s ridiculous you can’t go to Blockbuster and rent a video without an I.D., but you can go vote without showing I.D.,&uot; he said.

Ketchings said he believes one of the most important accomplishments of the Legislature in 2000 was passing a compulsory auto liability insurance law.

While the law was needed, Ketchings encouraged club members to keep their comprehensive coverage, because &uot;there are some people who will never get insurance.&uot;