Last week, Chris McDaniel returned to Jackson.
You know him, of course, from last year’s unsuccessful attempt to defeat Thad Cochran in the Republican primary for Senator. His hardcore conservative vision for Mississippi, and questions about his association with racist groups, scared some Democrats into voting for Cochran. Having McDaniel represent Mississippi at the highest level would have been embarrassing. Even though he didn’t win that election, he still has the title “Senator,” because he is one of our state’s 52 Senators. McDaniel and the rest of the state legislators started their 2015 session last week, and they are going to affect key aspects of YOUR life.
Do you not make much money, and need health care? Do you know anyone else who fits that description? The state legislature (and the governor) get to decide whether the state will expand the Medicaid program to cover anybody who makes below $11,670 as a single person, or $23,850 as a household of four (just two examples). This program was made possible by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but the Mississippi state government has refused to take part. As a result, over 100,000 Mississippians are unable to take care of their medical needs, and some will die as a result. That could all change in these next three months, but only if our Mississippi legislature acts.
Did you go to public schools in Mississippi? Do you have kids, or are you planning to have kids who will go through the public school system? Our legislature has shorted the public schools by over a billion dollars since they promised to fund it at a certain level starting in 2002. In November, we’ll be able to vote on a measure designed to force the legislature to fully fund education–but the legislature gets to choose whether it looks simple, like this or intentionally confusing, like this. (NOTE: After this was written the Senate and the House passed the confusing alternative language.)
Common Core is going to be another big issue in the next few months. Conservative lawmakers and tea party members have been up in arms about these new education standards, but a lot of their concerns seem to boil down to “But Obama,” or “But Socialism,” or “But it’s haaaaaaarrrrrrddddd.” There are legitimate reasons to question the adoption of Common Core, but we shouldn’t get rid of it because it’s teaching our children different ways to do math, or because it’s teaching them to live in a wider, more diverse world. Those are good things. Our legislators might very well strip away the Common Core standards for exactly those reasons.
This legislative session is especially important because we get to kick them out later this year if we think they’re doing a bad job. So if they kill Common Core, and sabotage our education funding amendment, and refuse to save the lives of Mississippians by expanding Medicaid, we can do something about that. But we have to be paying attention. Chris McDaniel and his conservative Republican buddies are back in action, and they count on making sure that we don’t know what’s actually going on. We need to change that, and that starts now.