Senate Update: Dyslexia Education, More DeSoto Prosecutors & Allowing Innovation

Dyslexia Education

On Tuesday, I managed an amendment to HB488 which inserted the provisions of my legislation to create a grant program by the State Department of Education to assist schools in addressing the needs of students with dyslexia.

My amendment provides additional resources to school districts that institute a dyslexia program in the public schools through financial grants for the purchase of curriculum materials and supplies for dyslexia therapy services.

To qualify the school must:

1) Use licensed dyslexia therapists or individuals from an approved training program resulting in State Department of Education licensure to provide dyslexia therapy to students diagnosed with dyslexia;

2) Use daily Orton-Gillingham-based therapy;

3) Possess school leadership trained in dyslexia; and

4) Maintain a current School Program Verification and Assurances form on file with the State Department of Education

A school district meeting these qualifications could apply for up to $50K in funding for these curriculum supplies subject to appropriation.  Such funding would not be coming from MAEP but would be appropriated from the IHL Financial Aid program which also funds the dyslexia Education program.

The amendment passed by voice vote and the Senate passed the legislation 44-8. The measure now returns to the House of Representatives.

More DeSoto Prosecutors

On Thursday, SB2677, which I authored, was sent to the Governor after passing both the Senate and the House. This measure authorizes the Board of Supervisors of DeSoto County to employ and pay additional part-time assistant county prosecuting attorneys. This will allow our local government to make the determination of the number of prosecutors necessary to continue to move the criminal justice system forward in DeSoto County.

Allowing Innovation

Also on Thursday, HB222 – the House companion legislation to the measure I authored, SB2225 – was released from further consideration in the Senate and sent to enrolling, the final step before it heads to the Governor.  This is the legislation that will revise state motor codes to create a new classification of “autocycles” which will not fall under traditional motorcycle regulations and allow a new gas efficient vehicle to be used by consumers in Mississippi.  Removing obstacles to this innovative new vehicle will be a big help to citizens of Mississippi.  It is always necessary to adjust laws to keep pace with new developments. As technology progresses, old definitions no longer fit and this bill updates our motor code to give consumers more options without diminishing safety

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Senate Update

Last week we passed a number of practical conservative measures in the state Senate including a bill providing parental choice of schools for students with special needs (Senate Bill 2695).

Two measures we passed mirrored legislation I introduced this session.

Senate Bill 2394 would reduce the cost of a concealed carry permit by 20-percent. My bill (SB2226) would have reduced that cost by 50-percent but I supported this measure as a strong first step.

Senate Bill 2780 would remove the liability for medical professionals who treat persons who have overdosed on drugs and it also shields from arrest anyone who seeks treatment for a drug overdose or those who call for medical emergency help on their behalf. This is very similar to SB2242 which I sponsored.

I also supported and we passed Senate Bill 2619 which would allow active military personnel and veterans to skip the one day training class needed to acquire an enhanced concealed carry gun permit and would lower the age for concealed carry for them from 21-years-old to 18-years-old. My bill – SB2496 – sought to expand the right of retired law enforcement officers for concealed-carry ability; I strongly supported this measure for our veterans and military personnel.

Also, I cosponsored Senate Concurrent Resolution 567 which mourns the loss and honors the life and legacy of former state Senator and Congressman Alan Nunnelee. Congressman Nunnelee was an encouragement to me when I first ran for the state Senate and offered helpful advice and counsel.  Our sympathies are with his family. Mississippi lost a strong, conservative and dedicated leader when he passed away earlier this month.

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Senator David Parker’s Statement on First Congressional District Race

Today, state Senator David Parker released this statement:

“Since the passing of Congressman Alan Nunnelee, I have been diligently considering a run for Congress and the impact it would have on my family.  I have consulted with the governor, lieutenant governor, fellow senators, local elected officials, friends and patients.”

“During this careful consideration, I have heard excitement about the direction DeSoto County and Mississippi are heading.  Friends and patients told me my service in Jackson is making a difference. I feel God is leading me to continue to serve the state of Mississippi in the state Senate instead of making a run for service in Washington, DC. The peace I feel in this decision is strengthened in knowing I will not be pulled by time and distance from my family or the patients that I love dearly.”

“I know some who have asked me to run will find this disappointing, but I truly feel that at this time my family, my friends, my community and my patients need me to continue to serve as I do now.”

“Thank you for the hundreds of calls, e-mails and texts of support.  I look forward to continuing to serve as your state Senator.”

 Senator David Parker is an optometrist in Olive Branch. A conservative Republican, he was elected to the Senate in 2012 and serves on the Senate Economic Development Committee, Elections Committee, Judiciary-A Committee, Housing Committee, and Public Health & Welfare Committee. He and his wife Ashleigh have four children: Allie, Jack, Luke and Jude.

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Senator David Parker’s “Autocycle” Bill Passes Senate

Legislation allows new innovative vehicle to be exempted from motorcycle regulations

JACKSON (February 5, 2015) – Senator David Parker’s Senate Bill 2225 passed the state Senate today and would revise state motor codes to create a new classification of “autocycles” which will not fall under traditional motorcycle regulations.

Elio Motors of Phoenix, Arizona has developed this new ultra-high-mileage vehicle and there are 240 pre-orders in Mississippi.

“Removing obstacles to this innovative new vehicle will be a big help to citizens of Mississippi,” Senator Parker said. “It is always necessary to adjust laws to keep pace with new developments. As technology progresses, old definitions no longer fit and this bill updates our motor code to give consumers more options without diminishing safety.”

Paul Elio, CEO of Elio Motors, thanked Parker and Representative Steven Massengill, who sponsored similar legislation in the House of Representatives, in a statement from the company in December.

“The Elio Team continues to experience great success in removing legislative hurdles. We are very grateful to Representative Massengill and Senator Parker as primary sponsors of this legislative change in Mississippi State,” Elio said.

According to the company, Elio’s autocycle is three-wheeled enclosed vehicle that will sell for $6,800 and get up to 84 miles per gallon with traditional car features including power windows, power door lock, air conditioning and multiple air bags. The company announced its first manufacturing site will be in Shreveport, Louisiana with plans for the first production vehicle to roll off the assembly line this year.

 

 

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Parker Bill Reforming Child Support For Children With Disability Passes Senate

Legislation allows for continued support of child with disability beyond childhood

JACKSON (February 5, 2015) – Legislation which would allow a judge to continue a child support order for a minor with a disability beyond childhood passed the Mississippi Senate today.  Senate Bill 2148 was sponsored by Senator David Parker and co-sponsored by Senator Chris Massey.

“Children with disabilities can create unique financial hardships on the parent with custody, hardships that in many cases do not end with childhood.  These children may not be able to drive, get a job or care for themselves without assistance.  This legislation would not mandate continued support but would give a judge discretion to examine a case at hand to determine what makes sense for the family and families involved,” Parker said.

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Parker Bills Support Gun Rights; Protect Public Safety

Senator David Parker has introduced legislation to support gun rights in Mississippi and support law enforcement, public safety and veterans.

Gun Rights

Parker introduced SB2226 to reduce the cost of the concealed-carry permit from $100 to $50.

Reducing fees on concealed carry permits is also part of Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves’ legislative agenda. A similar bill to Parker’s (SB2394) passed through the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee last week and now moves on to the full Senate for consideration. That bill reduces the fee from $100 to $80. The program’s fund at the Department of Public Safety now has a $2.5 million surplus. “It is clear we can reduce the fiscal burden of taxpayers who want to legally carry firearms in this state so no government agency profits off of Mississippi gun owners,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said.

“While I would have preferred we lower the cost even more, I will fully support the compromise bill on the floor of the Senate, and believe a 20 percent reduction is a strong statement of support for gun owners who want to exercise their Constitutional rights,” Parker said.

Parker also introduced SB2496 which would allow the Department of Public Safety to authorize special permitting for retired law enforcement officers to utilize conceal-carry nationwide.

DeSoto County Prosecutors

Parker authored SB2677 to authorize the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors to hire and pay part-time assistant county prosecuting attorneys.  “We don’t want the DeSoto County criminal justice system to get bogged down some like areas of the state. Guilty suspects need to be prosecuted and punished; innocent people need to be released to get on with their lives.  Our sheriffs and police work hard at arrests and we need to give our prosecutors the resources to keep moving defendants through the process,” Parker said.

Parker also introduced SB2197 to increase the per-diem pay of riding bailiffs from $55 to $75. Riding bailiffs serve as law enforcement in circuit, chancery or county courtrooms under direction of the judge.

Public Safety

Parker’s SB2131 would allow a county to authorize a public official to declare a local emergency.  Currently under state law, while a mayor may authorize a local emergency for a municipality only the Board of Supervisors may authorize a local emergency for a county.  “There is a lot of chaos during an emergency and public servants are often pulled in a thousand directions by the people in a county. This measure would allow a county in advance to designate someone to handle the responsibility of declaring an emergency, so supervisors don’t have to quit recovery efforts to call a meeting to do so,” Parker said. He continued, “It is a practical and efficient reform.”

Parker also introduced legislation to help victims of drug overdose to seek medical assistance without fear of criminal prosecution.  “People make disastrous choices in their lives like illegal drug use.  When someone overdoses, they may hesitate to call for emergency medical service because of fear of prosecution, or someone in the room with them may fear legal repercussions of calling for help. Senate Bill 2242 would create immunity for someone seeking treatment for overdose. There is time to turn their lives around, and as a Christian I believe time for God to touch their hearts.  While they may have broken the law, at that moment they are a fellow human being in need of medical treatment and this legislation allows them to seek help without fear,” Parker said.

Veterans

“When our veterans demonstrate extraordinary service, meritorious achievement and sacrifice for our country, they’re recognized in various ways.  I believe those who earn the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal or Bronze Star should be recognized and honored. One way we can salute them is to exempt these heroes from vehicle registration fees and taxes,” said Parker who introduced SB2079 to provide this relief to those veterans.

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Senator Parker Introduces Dyslexia Education Bill

Senator David Parker has introduced legislation to create a grant program by the State Department of Education to address the needs of students with dyslexia.

Parker’s Senate Bill 2296 would authorize and direct the State Department of Education to provide financial assistance for the recruitment, placement and employment of qualified licensed dyslexia therapy professionals to school districts.  These dyslexia therapy professionals would provide dyslexia screening, evaluation and therapy services to the students attending school in the school district.

“Students with dyslexia have specific needs that go beyond standard training, but they deserve to have a quality education like all other students.  This legislation would provide a mechanism for the state to assist local school districts in providing trained personnel to help students with dyslexia succeed,” Parker said.

“As a mom of two boys with dyslexia, we were unable to get the specialized instruction they need within the public school system. With as many as one-in-five students facing this learning difference, our schools need to learn to identify and then address the issue,” said Debra Dye of DeSoto County. “The funding provided by Senator Parker’s bill will help our schools with the resources needed to give these students the education that is appropriate for them.”

In his State of the State Address last week, Governor Phil Bryant spoke about dyslexia and said, “This reading disorder is the number one reason children drop out of school. If we confront it aggressively, we can see a dramatic decrease in our state’s dropout rate and help turn around our reading scores for thousands of Mississippi children.”

Funding for the measure would be appropriated by the legislature and could also be used to purchase curriculum materials and supplies for dyslexia therapy services.

To qualify for the funds, the school district would be required to use licensed dyslexia therapists or individuals participating in an approved training program; use daily Orton-Gillingham based therapy; have school leadership trained in dyslexia; and have a current School Program Verification and Assurances form on file with the State Department of Education.

“All students deserve the opportunity to learn, and measures like this one to address children with dyslexia, as well as others like the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act, can bring needed reforms to Mississippi’s public schools,” said Parker.

The measure has been referred to the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

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Parker Praises Board of Education Withdrawal from PARCC

JACKSON (January 20, 2015) – Senator David Parker praised the Mississippi Board of Education for its January 16 vote to withdraw from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium. PARCC is one of two federally funded multi-state groups creating Common Core tests.

“Common Core fails our students, frustrates their parents and burdens our teachers and we’re continuing the fight against it. PARCC tests were a major component of Common Core and the Board of Education made the correct decision to pull Mississippi out of the network,” Parker said.

Parker’s first bill of the session (SB2030) would have required the Board of Education to withdraw from PARCC.  “We in the Senate were prepared to act on the PARCC issue,” Parker said, “and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn had introduced legislation to sever the PARCC relationship as well, but I’m glad the Board of Education heard the message and acted accordingly.”

Next month, the Board of Education will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for state assessments aligned to the standards starting in the 2015-2016 school year.

Currently Parker serves on six committees in the Senate: Economic Development, Elections, Finance, Housing, Judiciary-A and Public Health & Welfare.  Since his election, Parker has sponsored legislation to assist law enforcement, create election reform, promote DeSoto County tourism, streamline community college revenue and exempt decorated veterans from car fees and taxes.

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On Initiative 42

After some questions and concerns over the introduction of a Legislative Alternative to Ballot Initiative 42, I wanted to share the two primary concerns that necessitated a ballot alternative to Initiative 42.

1)      The original ballot initiative encourages lawsuits over school funding and places decisions regarding school district funding in the hands of a Hind’s county judge instead of in the legislature.  The exact wording of the original ballot initiative 42 is below. The new language is underlined and the removed language is in strikethrough.

SECTION 201.  To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, The Legislature the State shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may provide.  The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.

According to the eight attorneys I consulted, this language removes the legislature completely and replaces it with State and hands “power” to the chancery courts.  Jurisdiction will be Hind’s county and although that could be changed, it is highly unlikely that jurisdiction would ever be given to DeSoto County.

2)      Funding an efficient system could mean that districts that are performing very well are deemed efficient while those that are failing could be deemed inefficient.  The result could be a decrease in funding for DeSoto County and more money to other counties to try to make them equally efficient throughout the state.  A decrease in funding to our county could mean higher taxes for us to make up the difference.

The alternative we passed yesterday has the following language:

SECTION 201.  The legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools. upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may provide.

This language will result in more funding to education in a manner that does not have unintended consequences.  Voting for this alternative from DeSoto County were Representatives Alday, Hamilton, Jennings, Kinkade, Lamar, and Nelson along with Senators Massey and myself (Parker).  In addition, this language is supported by the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, and all but two Republicans voted for the alternative.

Both options will now be on the November ballot.  For those who would still prefer option number one, it will remain on the ballot along with this second option.

If you’d like additional information about Initiative 42, here is a link to an analysis done by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy pointing out some problematic language in the initiative, the response by the organization Better Schools Better Jobs to those concerns, and the MCPP’s response to that response: Initiative 42: Proposed Constitutional Amendment Regarding Public Schools.

If you have further questions or would like to share additional thoughts about this or any other issue, feel free to contact me at dparker@senate.ms.gov or at the Capitol 601-359-2886.

Senator David Parker

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Senator Parker Continues Fight Against Common Core

Tuesday, more than 30 people from DeSoto County concerned about public education traveled to Jackson for a series of events to show their opposition to Common Core, culminating in a rally on the South Steps of the Capitol which was joined by Governor Phil Bryant.

“More than two-dozen counties were represented, but when they did the county roll call, DeSoto was the loudest. I’m proud that our citizens are engaged on important policy issues and they would take a day to travel to Jackson to make their voices heard,” Parker said.

Parker, who opposed Common Core last session, joined several of his Senate colleagues at the rally to demonstrate continued opposition.  Both Governor Bryant and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves have expressed their opposition to Common Core as well.

Senator David Parker with his son Jude, and Governor Phil Bryant at the rally.

Some of those attending the rally from DeSoto County included (L-R): Rob Goudy, Donnie Abernathy, Debra Dye and her sons Marshall & Cooper, John Anthony, Senator David Parker, Jude Parker and Ashleigh Parker.

 

Governor Phil Bryant speaks to the rally Tuesday as Senator David Parker and his colleagues look on.

 

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