by Hannah Allen

As the upcoming political season starts to gain traction, The Gazebo Gazette will begin delving into local issues with Mississippi political candidates, varying across West Harrison County by party, experience, and background.

This week, the incumbent members of the Mississippi State Senate were interviewed:  Senators Philip Moran and Deborah Dawkins from Districts 46 & 48—both of whom will be challenged in the upcoming primaries on August 6th, 2019.

During their respective interviews, questions were asked on their opinions of BP money/state lottery funds, the Bonnet Carré spillway, and their upcoming political campaign.

Senator Philip Moran has been an active legislator for the past 12 years and is a state of the District 46, which encompasses Delisle, West Pass Christian and all of Hancock County.

BP Settlement and Mississippi State Lottery

Senator Moran began by giving his opinion about the incoming funds from BP settlement and the new Mississippi State Lottery. Funds from both of these ventures will be entering the state incrementally over the coming years and Moran is confident that utilizing these funds will provide for a better Mississippi.

Additionally, Moran advocates for a cautious approach when it comes to allocating the funds, stating “In mine and your lifetime, we will never see anything like this ever again. So we have to be very mindful..and spend this money wisely”.

The senator urged cities to individually propose projects that the money can be implemented on and was quick to note, “when the cities and counties have input on these decisions, we ultimately end up with a better product.” He promoted the implementation of the state lottery and hopes that the betterment of infrastructure that will result will encourage further business in the state.

Bonnet Carré

In recent years, the effects of Bonnet Carré spillway have been a cause for concern for many citizens along the Gulf Coast. When it comes to addressing this matter, Moran believes that we should work to improve the spillway situation at a federal level.

“No local board of supervisor or state senator…is going to solve this problem. [The Bonne Carré Spillway] is going to be taken care of in Washington,” expressed Moran. He still encourages fishermen and other locals to work with Marine organizations who have been conducting research with “hard numbers”  in order to most effectively address the spillway, stating “We should…back our national delegation and supporting our DMR (Department of Marine Resources) and help them with…the most up-to-date data possible.”

Upcoming Campaign

Moran, who comes from a long lineage of teachers, has stated that one of the major platforms of his campaign reelection is advocating on behalf of teachers and public education.

He has been actively working towards getting teacher pay raises and has said that “I would like to see teacher’s get a yearly raise” in order to get Mississippi educators to the southeastern average pay.”

In addition to seeking teacher’s wages, Moran has emphasized the need for better infrastructure in south Mississippi. Moran feels the improvement in roads and bridges will allow for “our state to prosper and move forward in a positive manner” and will, in turn, encourage businesses and industry to move to Mississippi.

Money from BP and State Lottery

When it comes to both the BP Settlement and the State Lottery, Senator Deborah Dawkins takes a tone of “Cautiously optimistic.” Though she advocates for the use of funds for coastal restoration projects, she is not oblivious of the faults that often occurs with state funding, noting, “The settlement was supposed to be to remediate and enhance the coasts wetland and cultivation effort…but the governor assigned the [former] head of the department of environmental quality to be over the money dispercement…and since then there have been substantial irregularities with the department of environmental equalities.”

She hopes with the change of lawmakers will encourage a culture of transparency and accountability within the use of the BP settlement.

In contrast to Senator Moran, Senator Dawkins, did not vote to approve the newly instituted state lottery and, instead, voted no “in protest” of the bill. She argues that legislators did not receive enough time to effectively read and discuss the proposal, stating “I must admit that there were a lot of things that could  have been done differently, and it would have satisfied me and others to know that we could have done our due diligence on a piece of legislation.”

Furthermore, she is open about her critiques of the lottery—as it is one of the few lotteries in the country that is utilizing its funds towards infrastructure rather than education.

Bonnet Carré

A staunch supporter of working coastal citizens, Senator Dawkins “absolutely” believes that those effected by the Bonnet Carré spillway should be compensated for their loss of productivity and resources. “Especially” She argued, “the people who are going to be the most heavily impacted [like] the fishermen and oystermen.”

She continued on to say that this will likely affect the entire coastal industry—including those involved with tourism and small business owners— who will likely lose profitability as result of the opening of the Bonnet Carré.  She concluded by commenting, “They definitely need to be helped somehow, and money is the best way!”

Upcoming Campaign

As she looks forward to her next campaign, Senator Dawkins expressed that “Challenges are also opportunities” and looks to the future for good healthcare and a better Mississippi. As being involved in the medical field for 30 years, she continues to advocate on behalf of state healthcare and notes that, “Medicaid expansion can save our rural hospitals, not to mention, it would save a lot our citizens. Thirty-nine other states have [received Medicaid expansion] and it is…ridiculous that hundreds of thousands of people are going without healthcare,” said Dawkins, a Senate member for 20 years and chair of the State Library Committee.  Dawkins was recently endorsed by the Mississippi Professional Educators for her continued involvement with funding for public education.

“We have the opportunity to do a lot of good in our state or we can continue in the same path.”