Rep. Steve Hale

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Freshman Hale gets assignments he had requested

By Billy Davis

Democratic state senator Steve Hale said last week his first-ever committee assignments signal that Republicans in the Senate are following through on a promise of bipartisanship.

Hale, a freshman senator, said he was selected for three committees he had requested: Education, Universities and Colleges, and Finance.

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Hale will also sits on the Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee, a new committee formed by first-term Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

Mississippi’s lieutenant governor acts as presiding officer in the state senate.

Hale also reported he will sit on the Economic Development Committee, where he will serve as vice chairman. He owed that assignment to his past work as executive director at the Miss. Development Authority.

Reeves, a Republican, was naming committee assignments last week when a reporter reached Hale by phone at the state Capitol.

“I’m pleased with what I see. I sure am,” said Hale, whose District 10 seat includes Panola and Tate counties.

Hale lives in Tate County, where he formerly served as Senatobia mayor. He won election in November over Vann Branch, a first-time Republican candidate from Panola County.

The Clarion-Ledger reported January 6 that Republicans in the Senate will chair the powerful Finance and Appropriations committees while Democrats will oversee other influential committees, such as Highways and Transportation, and Corrections.

A Republican will chair one Judiciary committee and a Democrat will chair the other, the newspaper reported.  

Bills authored by legislators get their start in committees, where they are debated and where committee chairmen wield the power to kill the legislation if they wish.

At a press conference last week, Reeves said state senators “need to move beyond our divisions of the past.”

“The best legislation (that) is going to come out of this building… will be legislation that is passed in which every member has an opportunity for input, every single member,” he said.

Hale said there are 52 Mississippi state senators in the chamber, where he is among 15 freshmen legislators.

Panola County is represented in Jackson by one state senator and three state representatives, who are Rep. Joe Gardner of Batesville, Rep. Nolan Mettetal of Sardis, and Clara Burnett of Tunica County.  

Gardner and Burnett, both Democrats, were re-elected without opposition last year. Mettetal, a Republican, was elected last November over Democrat Gregg Hodges.

Mettetal was serving in the state senate, in the same District 10 seat won by Hale, when he quit to seek the District 10 seat in the House.

Legislators can be reached at the State Capitol at 601-359-3770.