Mississippi Legislature opens 2009 session

The Mississippi Legislature held its 2009 opening ceremonies today at the Old Mississippi Capitol where an extensive restoration was just completed to fix damage wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Legislators gaveled in at noon and were joined by Gov. Haley Barbour and former Gov. William Winter, who held his inauguration at the Old Capitol in 1980, as well as a host of statewide elected officials.

House Speaker William J. McCoy, D-Rienzi, said he was pleased with the work that was put into the building, which received $14.2 million from the Legislature for the restoration in 2006. The Old Capitol served as the statehouse from 1839 until 1903.

“I could not be more pleased,” McCoy said. “I have not put a comb and brush to it, but it looks pretty good to me.”

Legislators listened to remarks from Barbour and Winter, as well as from the officials in both chambers of the Legislature, and both had finished for the day within about an hour and a half. The only official business was a resolution honoring the work that the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and others did on the restoration project.

On Wednesday, legislators will return to the current Capitol, which opened in 1903, for the scheduled 90-day session. Proposed tobacco taxes and finding a solution to recurring Medicaid shortfalls are expected to be the major issues. Lawmakers will also be trying to legislate with a tight budget.

The Sun Herald follows the action from Jackson in both print and online editions.