‘Give our bills an opportunity,’ House Democrats plead

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Democratic representatives want to create more jobs, make the state safer and ensure a fair workplace this legislative session, according to Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis.

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Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis

Baria and his colleagues presented the House Democratic Caucus’ legislative priorities during a press conference Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the 8 p.m. deadline for bills to pass out of committee.

Baria said Democratic legislators are frequently told by committee chairmen, most of whom are Republicans, that their bills will not be taken up.

“We’re becoming accustomed to that, but that doesn’t make it right,” Baria told Mississippi Today. “So we want to underscore the fact that we have good ideas and our ideas need to be heard and need to be considered along with the Republican agenda.”

Mississippi House of Representatives

Rep. Bryant Clark, D-Pickens

Rep. Bryant Clark, D-Pickens, elaborated on the issues the caucus would like to see passed or at least discussed during the session, which center around public education, infrastructure, health care and economic development.

Clark broadly referenced bills that would provide universal pre-kindergarten instruction, increase the number of teachers in a classroom and provide two years of free community college to Mississippi high school graduates.  The caucus also advocates for affordable health care, expanding mental health services and improving the state’s roads and bridges, he said.

Clark also highlighted legislation that would improve the state’s bridges and roads, expand broadband access into rural areas and provide incentives for small businesses.

Multiple Democratic legislators have filed bills that would increase the state minimum wage and put laws in place for equal pay for women.

On the House floor Monday, Clark tried to signal that he wanted to pull a double-referred equal pay bill out of committee and put it in the calendar for a floor vote. Speaker Philip Gunn, R- Clinton, denied the motion because Gunn did not see or hear Clark attempt to make his motion at the appropriate time.

Clark tried again to pull out the bill when the House convened on Tuesday, but the motion was voted down.