Panel Discussion: Understanding the Legislative Process and How to Effectuate Change

The following is a “Live Tweet”-style summary of the panel. Video of the full panel will be made available by Representative Hughes after the conference is over.

If I’ve made any errors, please let me know. 
Panel: Dr. Andy Mullins, Rep. Tom Miles, Rep. Kabir Karriem, Sen. Bill Stone, Rep. Steve Massengill, Rep. Jay Hughes

HOW THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS WORKS 

Dr. Mullins and Rep. Massengill started off the panel by describing the process of passing a bill, from inception, to committee, to the house floor, to becoming law. 

Stone: When proposing a bill, you have to know the arguments against the bill and what questions and concerns people will have, in advance.

Karriem: Co-authoring legislation can be as important as authoring. There is a lot of collaboration in legislative bill writing. 

BECOME ACTIVE WITH YOUR LEGISLATORS

Miles: Develop relationships with legislators. Get to know your representatives personally. Also, speak up. Let them know what you think and what’s going on in the classroom. Let them know which pieces of legislation you’re for and against. 
Hughes: A few tools you can use: 

  • Go to www.legislature.ms.gov. Use this to look up bills by committee. When bills are introduced, you can read them, as well as see the schedules for public hearings. You can also do this for the Senate.
  • Download the Electric Power Association legislative app. It gives you detailed, usable information on every legislator.
  • An email you can also use: Representatives@house.ms.gov – This is the email address that goes to all 122 house representatives. 

Mullins: A little history on education politics in Mississippi: The education battle in 1980 & 1981 took a lot of work and a lot of time. MAEP took over a decade to come into law. It was a massive effort involving 17 acts and people across the state. If you’re upset about a public official blaming teachers for everything (which really is ridiculous, by the way), then don’t vote for that person! Work hard and be committed to things that you feel will improve the education system, and deal honestly with them. 

Hughes: Let your representatives know how you feel- not on paper, not on Facebook, but in person. 

FREE SPEECH AND LEGAL CONCERNS FOR TEACHERS

Jim Keith, 

We are in a new era of competition in education. We are the only entity charged by law to educate all children in the state, but now we must convince parents we’re the best option. It’s about educating the whole child. We offer some of the greatest opportunities through extra curricular activities and sports. 

We don’t do a good enough job informing the public about our successes. We don’t brag on ourselves. We have to now. We have to convince every parent their kid is important to us. 

You didn’t lose your First Amendment rights just because you became a teacher.

  • Become educated about proposed legislation.
  • Be professional on Facebook.
  • Don’t do it on public time. Your salary is paid by taxpayers.
  • When you get off school grounds, you have every right to make your voice heard. 

We educators are not political, because we haven’t had to be in the past. Now we have to be.

Hughes: You CAN and you SHOULD have a voice in the legislative process. 

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