District 97 candidates debate economic development, tort reform at chamber lunch

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; At its Thursday quarterly luncheon, the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce hosted four candidates for District 97 of the Mississippi House of Representatives.

Chad Toney, a Democrat from Amite County, told those present how he would plan to stimulate the economy in the district. Toney, a 30-year veteran of the state Department of Transportation and now employed with Cothren Engineering and Surveying Services, said one way to give people more jobs is to help older workers retire.

He proposed providing insurance for retired teachers and state employees like the state does when those people are still working.

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He said many people are working past retirement age because they cannot afford to quit. His plan would free 30 percent of the employees and give other people those jobs, he said.

Another idea Toney was using the now small businesses of turtle farming and alligator farms to grow larger businesses. One operation he spoke of makes around $1 million per year.

&uot;One fella making $1 million a year affects everyone,&uot; Toney said.

Sam Mims, a Republican from McComb, focused on bringing conservative politics to the state Legislature and said he wanted to bring jobs to Mississippi so the state’s children would not need to leave the state.

Sims said many jobs now are locating north of Interstate 20, and he wants to bring jobs to this area.

&uot;Any job in the district will benefit the whole area,&uot; Sims said.

The last point Sims spoke of was tort reform. He said it is essential to economic development in Adams County.

Sims talked about a doctor who is moving to Atlanta because malpractice insurance is only $14,000 per year there, whereas in Mississippi the same doctor is paying $125,000 per year.

He said the district is in the worst shape it has been in years &045; and not because there are too little taxes. Sims said he wants to raise revenue another way than through taxes.

Republican candidate Randall Love owns Southern Fire Extinguisher and Southern Fence Companies. He talked about the same doctor Sims spoke of, saying that doctor called Love to say he would not need Love’s business any longer. Love warned this problem for the medical industry trickles down to other fields as well. He agrees with Sims that tort reform is an important.

His question was &uot;what are we going to do about it?&uot; And his answer was &uot;work together.&uot;

He said the state needs to support small businesses because there are about 54,000 small businesses in the state, and 40,000 have 20 employees or less.

Love also said he would make sure there is continued support for Alcorn and Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Love spoke about using the resources already in the county. The port, for example, needs to &uot;get what it needs to bring in and attract new business&uot; as well as the airport.

Democrat and business owner Derrick Dahl rounded out the speeches Thursday afternoon. Dahl stressed, first, that representatives with family values are needed and that, besides family, God and hard work are important things good leaders need.

As far as the economy, he said he understands the issues small businesses face and said that, with International Paper leaving the area, the district should &uot;rely on small businesses to bring more small business.&uot;

Dahl said the district needs to work together and to look to its local leadership and support them.

Dahl addressed the challenge of this newly drawn district, which is spread thinly across the state, saying while it may be an injustice and an effort to dilute the strength of Mississippi, the district just needs to work together.

&uot;If you give us lemons, we’re going to make lemonade,&uot; Dahl said.

The primary election is Aug. 5 and voters must have registered 30 days before the election, must be 18 years old or will be by the next election, an inhabitant of Mississippi, a resident

of the district for 30 days and not have been convicted of any of the crimes listed in Section 241 of the Mississippi Constitution.

The general election is Nov. 4.