Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is a Republican candidate in the race to become Mississippi's next lieutenant governor. The Jackson Free Press emailed the following questionnaire to each candidate in the race. The answers below are the candidates' verbatim responses, with no edits whatsoever. Read more 2019 state political coverage here.
Why did you decide to run for lieutenant governor, and why would you be the best person for the job?
With three children and seven grandchildren, the future of Mississippi is always on my mind. I want to be in public service because I want to make our State the best place it can possibly be to live, work, and raise a family. The person best positioned to meet these goals is the Lieutenant Governor because of the office's proximity to the budget and policy-making.
My record is what best qualifies me to serve as Lieutenant Governor. I have experience drafting and implementing meaningful legislation, like the bill securing insurance coverage for treatment for autism and other developmental disorders and Voter ID, and a history of bringing Mississippians with many different perspectives together to solve a problem. I keep my promises. We need the same commitment and "collective intellect" approach here, and we need someone who has a record of getting things done.
Mississippi is near the bottom when it comes to healthcare coverage and outcomes. What's your plan to change that?
Moving Mississippi forward requires us to take action now to ensure every citizen has access to high-quality healthcare. We must incentivize healthcare providers to live and work in our rural communities. This includes strengthening team-based and collaborative care agreements between physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners, and funding rural scholarship and residency programs for healthcare professionals at all levels.
We must also shore up our rural hospitals by considering and evaluating healthcare reform solutions implemented in other states with no net impact on the state budget. Additionally, I support emphasizing wellness and preventive care. Access to good healthcare should not start with an emergency room visit, but in the event of an emergency, no Mississippians should be 30 minutes from a facility equipped to provide necessary treatment.
How will you address Mississippi's teacher shortage and education funding crisis?
We have heard from educators all over the State about the significant impact the teacher shortage is having on all Mississippi school districts, and we support immediate action to remedy it. This includes reexamining licensing requirements, including the current 21 ACT requirement to receive credentials; incentivizing retired teachers to return to the classroom full-time; and funding the Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment Program, which incentivizes students to choose to teach in critical shortage areas after graduation.
In terms of MAEP, fully funding our public schools is a goal we will and must move toward. Public schools educate more than 90 percent of our children. Our State's future depends on the success of our public schools. Some necessary funds can be acquired by cutting unnecessary earmarks in appropriations bills, increasing efficiency in state government, eliminating duplication in state-funded efforts, and moving education to our top priority.
What is your stance on using public school funds to pay for private school vouchers?
I do not support diverting more funding from public schools to private education. I do support fully funding special education services for our public schools. Our special education teachers are saints and we need to support them.
Every child in special education is legally entitled to educational services which meet his or her needs. If a school cannot provide the level of services a child is entitled to, the child should be able to attend another public school with programs equipped to serve the child. If another public school cannot provide necessary services, the child should be able to attend a school qualified to provide such services, provided there are accountability measures attached to state money received. Qualified schools should not include private schools without special education services, or without the specific services the child needs, home schools, day-care programs, or any other similar school or situation.
Every teacher I have talked to has said the emphasis in policy should be on the well-being and education of the child. I agree.
Where do you stand when it comes to our state's reliance on private prisons? Do you have any plans for criminal justice reform?
We need a wholesale evaluation of our corrections system, from the cost of housing incarcerated persons in private prisons versus state facilities to staffing concerns, including severe shortages, under compensation, and lack of training. I recently visited Parchman Penitentiary and have had multiple conversations with sheriffs who operate prisons across the State about these issues, which put our corrections officers and incarcerated persons in harm's way.
Additionally, our workforce development plans must include providing our prison populations with employable skills and transition services. Helping those exiting the prison system find meaningful employment is proven to reduce recidivism rates, which saves taxpayer money, makes our communities safer, and strengthens families.
What will you do to improve life for women and children in this state? In particular, what are your plans to address Mississippi's high mortality rate for new mothers and infants?
This issue ties in to ensuring healthcare is accessible in our State in general. Our rural hospitals play an integral part in providing routine and emergency labor and delivery services, and more than half of these facilities are in a dire financial situation. We must shore up these facilities by considering and evaluating healthcare reform solutions implemented in other states, particularly those with no net impact on our budget.
Expanding the availability of wellness, preventative, and support services - preconception, prenatal, and postnatal - is also important. Research shows the risks of labor and delivery increase when a patient has already been diagnosed with a chronic illness or disease, like high blood pressure or diabetes.
What, if anything, will you do to make the lieutenant governor's office, Legislature and state government more transparent?
As Secretary of State, I have always been as open and available as possible to the press and public. This will continue as Lieutenant Governor. I plan on holding regular press briefings at the end of the week to sum up actions taken and plans for the following week. I also plan on ensuring stakeholders, not just legislators, are in the room when policy is made.
How will you specifically address the issues that disproportionately impact African Americans and other minorities?
We must continue to support our public schools and ensure every child receives a quality education. This requires more than the traditional points, like protecting time engaged in classroom instruction and raising teacher pay. It requires investing in school psychologists, nutritionists, and other support services for our children.
From a broader perspective, we need to break the cycle of pervasive poverty by growing our economy and helping those who are out of work become skilled and find meaningful work. Career and technical skills can be compressed into K-12 public schools in partnership with community colleges to offer strong economic job opportunities at a younger age and lower cost to students and families. We are interested in innovative school initiatives which may help our students in their future employment such as the "Leader in Me" program in Vicksburg, alternative school calendar in Corinth, and career technical focus in the Jones County area. When people are working and earning a meaningful wage, families are stronger and healthier.
What will you do to help overcome partisan divides?
My record speaks to this issue. I have never operated as though there were a political aisle. As Secretary of State, whether we were revising our archaic business laws, drafting autism insurance coverage, or implementing voter ID, our approach has always been to bring interested parties of all perspectives into the same room to talk about how to move forward. This allows us to build broad support and come to a better final policy product. I will continue this approach as Lieutenant Governor.
What will be your top priorities if elected?
Our top priorities for the future include: Quality public education. All our children deserve the opportunity to receive a quality education preparing them life after high school, even if they do not immediately go to college. We want to fully fund 4-year-old pre-K, emphasize career and technical classes, and meet the needs of our teachers, our No. 1 educational resource. Small business growth. When a small business with 50 employees opens up shop, it can transform a community. The same transformation occurs when an existing business expands, offering a few more good paying jobs to skilled workers. We will focus on cultivating our small businesses, the backbone of our economy. Solid Infrastructure. Despite some strides in the last session, potholes, road closures, and barricaded bridges are still plaguing communities across Mississippi. We will prioritize solidifying our infrastructure to safely transport our children to school, our people to work, and our products to market. Healthcare access. Fifty percent of Mississippians live in rural areas, and 50 percent of our rural hospitals are in danger of closing. We will focus on attracting more healthcare professionals to the state and finding innovative solutions to shore up struggling healthcare providers. Government efficiency. Sometimes we need government to solve a problem, but most of the time, we just need it to get out of the way. We want to restructure state government to be taxpayer focused and to eliminate waste.
Read more 2019 state political coverage here.