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Speaker Philip Gunn answered one of the biggest questions of the new legislative session by tapping the next leader of the House Education Committee.
Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, will replace former Rep. John Moore to lead one of the highest profile legislative committees at a critical time for education policy making in the state. Moore resigned in December amid sexual harassment allegations, leaving the post open.
Bennett, who has served in the Legislature for 10 years, formerly was chairman of the House Gaming Committee. Bennett, among Gunn’s inner circle of top advisers, last year led a task force to look at the effects a lottery might have on the state if enacted.
“Rep. Bennett is a seasoned legislator and a former school board member,” Gunn told reporters after the House adjourned Friday. “He demonstrated great knowledge and interest in education. Furthermore, he had the endorsement of numerous House members.”
Rep. Casey Eure, R-Saucier, will take Bennett’s place on the Gaming Committee.
Bennett attended Gulf Coast Junior College and the University of Southern Mississippi, according to his official legislative bio page. He is retired from DuPont, which operates a plant in DeLisle.
Legislative leaders have said education will again be a big issue this session. Both Gunn and his counterpart, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, have suggested a possible rewrite of the Mississippi Adequate Education Formula, which is how public schools are funded, would emerge this year. A wide variety of education bills await deliberation in the House and Senate.
Other new House committee chairmanships include:
Interstate Cooperation: Rep. Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville
Marine Resources: Rep. Timmy Ladner, R-Poplarville
Ports, Harbors and Airports: Rep. Jeffrey Guice, R-Ocean Springs
State Library: Rep. Greg Haney, R-Gulfport
Gunn also named Rep. Randy Boyd, R- Mantachie, Rep. Steve Massengill, R- Hickory Flat, and Rep. Manly Barton, R-Moss Point, to the House Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Gregory Holloway, D-Hazelhurst, and Rep. Rob Roberson, R-Starkville, were named to the Ways and Means Committee.