Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant made a rare stop in Southaven on Wednesday, delivering a Christmas "wish list" for the state's economy in 2013.
With any first termer, Gov. Bryant has his own "wish list" when it comes to guiding the future of the Magnolia State. Like his Republican gubernatorial colleague, Tennessee's Bill Haslam, Gov. Bryant vows not to follow through on creating healthcare insurance exchange programs key to the implementation of the affordable healthcare act.
"I believe it's just a portal for the Obamacare plan to be expanded in the state without the authority of the governor or the legislature," Gov. Bryant said. "Once that portal is set up called an insurance exchange, I think the federal government is going to come in with an avenue to do that. We're going to expand your population whether you like it or not."
In recent weeks, Gov. Bryant has delivered some strong rhetoric aimed at curbing the state's increasing problem with teen pregnancies. Bryant says his administration is hoping to slow the rate down by 15 percent in the coming year.
"It is an epidemic in Mississippi," he said. "We lead the nation in teen pregnancy. There's so many problems that are involved with that; not only the quality of life of the child, but the mother also.
While on the subject of wish lists regarding the Mississippi economy, Gov. Bryant says educating Mississippians is a top priority if the state's ever to snag a Fortune 500 company headquarters.
"We've got to have work force to do that," he said. "When 46 percent of the children in the third grade cannot read at a proficiency level you've got problems. At the seventh and eighth grade on a national testing, 76 percent of math and English non--proficiency with our students. We cannot survive and continue along that path."
While Gov. Bryant was in DeSoto County, the House and Senate education committees met together Wednesday at the Capitol in Jackson to discuss elementary-school reading skills, teacher evaluations and charter schools.
House Education Chairman John Moore says no bills have been filed, but the meeting provides a glimpse of what might be discussed starting in January.
Charters are public schools that are free of some state regulations. Supporters say charters would give flexibility for different academic approaches. Opponents worry charters would get too much attention and money, distracting people from efforts to improve all public schools.
Mississippi is creating a more detailed teacher evaluation system that should be used by 2014-15.
Emily Wagster Pettus of the Associated Press contributed to this report.