JACKSON – With the 2020 Legislative Session underway, Representative Karl Oliver (R-Winona) and Senator Lydia Chassaniol (R-Winona) are busy with new challenges and getting to know new faces.
Oliver, who represents House District 46, was named vice-chairman of the Appropriations Committee by Speaker Philip Gun.
“I’m humbled by the speaker’s confidence in me,” Oliver said.
Oliver said the House Appropriation Committee was appointed prior to the legislative session to allow them time to meet with the heads of the various state agencies.
“I’ve been in tutorials with the Legislative Budget Office since early on,” Oliver said. “Both the Ways and Means and Appropriations committees were appointed early.”
He explained that the first item of business was to correct the miscalculation in last year’s budget regarding the amount needed to fulfil pay raises for teachers.
Since early in January, Oliver has been meeting with the heads of special state agencies, agencies tasked with protecting consumers by policing and licensing everything from medical personnel to cosmetologists, do discuss budget requests.
“I’ve been assigned the special fund agencies, with the exception of two or three,” Oliver said.
He said although the Legislative Budget Office creates the state budget based on the recommendations made by the House and Senate, the final say is up to the legislators.
“We ultimately make the decisions, but [the Legislative Budget Office] makes suggestions,” Oliver said. “Then it is ultimately up to the members of the Legislature to approve the legislation. We look at what we have, and we do not spend non-recurring revenue on recurring expenses.”
Projected revenues for the state budget come from historical data.
Oliver said right now, “everything is on the table,” and with the House Appropriations Chairman John Reed and Senate Appropriations Vice-Chairman Brice Wiggins, “we will put together what we can afford to do.”
“Hopefully, it involves state employees and teacher pay raises,” Oliver said, adding that a bill has already been introduced for the measure.
As for what he hopes to accomplish this session, Oliver said his agenda remains what it has always been: “To provide an environment there that is conducive with economic growth. I’m working to try to get jobs in this area, but one of the biggest struggles is the workforce.”
Oliver said workforce development is something that needs to be nurtured statewide.
“I’m working with leadership in that realm,” he said.
In his district, Oliver was successful with helping secure funds for infrastructure improvements last session, and he hopes to be able to do the same this session. However, it depends on funds available.
“I have a greater insight as to what is there and what is available,” Oliver said of his role on the Appropriations Committee. “I have to be conscious of other people’s needs across the state. We’re not alone in our struggle.”
Chassaniol was reappointed to chair the Senate Tourism Committee by new Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann. She has chaired the committee since 2008.
Chassaniol said much of her focus this session is to learn how to work best with the new administration and her new colleagues.
“There are a lot of new faces this year,” Chassaniol said. “We’ve got to get to know one another and build relationships. There are 14 new members in the Senate, and some on the Tourism Committee.”
Chassaniol said she is working to continue to promote Winona as much as she possibly can, as well as help large industries in her district continue to thrive and expand.
“Viking [in Greenwood] is doing well,” Chassaniol said. “And Ajimanoto [a food manufacturer in Oakland] has had five expansions since they opened.”
Chassaniol is also working to promote and improve historical properties like Cotesworth in Carroll County that are a draw to visitors to the state.