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Bryant begins transition, sets his priorities
by Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
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JACKSON – Gov.-elect Phil Bryant hit the ground running Wednesday, announcing a chair of his transition team and issues he wants the Legislature to deal with early in his term.

“Today the transition begins, but Haley Barbour is still our governor, and I will continue to work closely with him,” Bryant said in a prepared statement. “Because I’ve made a commitment to be ready to lead on day one, today starts the process for the transition and setting the course for this new administration.”

Barbour, the current Republican governor, is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term.

Bryant enters the transition and ultimately begins his new term in January with significant momentum. Bryant won Tuesday’s election with 61 percent of the vote against Democratic Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree. With 515,000 votes in still unofficial and incomplete returns, Bryant will have garnered more general election votes than any gubernatorial candidate in recent elections.

At the state Capitol on Tuesday afternoon, Bryant again thanked DuPree for running a campaign on the issues and pledged to work with him as he continues as mayor of Hattiesburg.

He named Jim Herring, former chair of the state Republican Party and a former Court of Appeals judge, to head his transition team. He said more members will be appointed in the coming days.

Bryant, the incumbent lieutenant governor, also discussed three issues he wants to tackle early on.

They are:

• The Smart Budget Act, which would emphasize performance-based budgeting.

• Learn to Earn legislation that would allow students in danger of dropping out of high school to take a skills-training curriculum with community college vocational classes while still in high school.

• A Regulatory Review Commission to look at possible regulations that could be eased to encourage business development.

Bryant was active in an unsuccessful effort to pass the citizen-sponsored Initiative 26 to define life as beginning at fertilization. At Wednesday’s press conference, he was asked about strong comments he made regarding those opposing the proposal.

At a news conference in Tupelo on Monday, he made reference to Satan when talking about opposition to the proposal and said, “This is a battle of good and evil of biblical proportions.”

On Wednesday, he said he was frustrated because of incorrect information about what the initiative would do.

Various medical groups and others expressed concern about possible unintended consequences of the proposal that could jeopardize the life of the mother.

“I have very strong opinions about abortion and sometimes I express them in that manner,” Bryant said, but added it would be up to legislators if they wanted to craft a similar measure that dealt with concerns about possible unintended consequences.

“The people have spoken,” he said. “One thing I have learned to do is listen to the people.”

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