Paperwork laid the foundation for change Monday as Mississippi lawmakers attempted to beat the midnight filing deadline for general bills and constitutional amendments.
Among hundreds of proposals filed at the Capitol were bills to create a state lottery, allow early voting and abolish the process used to establish or expand hospitals.
Clerks shuffled stacks of bills Monday afternoon, preparing documents to be assigned to committees. Legislation that requires tax or fee increases or issuing bonds must be filed by Feb. 23.
Rep. Harvey Moss, D-Corinth, introduced House Bill 1097 to establish a two-week early voting period before elections.
"We think it will cut down on absentee ballots," Moss said, and allow more senior citizens to vote.
Early voting has been successful in other states, including Tennessee, he said. Texas and Florida also use early voting.
Lawmakers offered potential legislation to trim the estimated $950 million budget shortfall.
Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson, revived her proposal for a state lottery to fund Hope scholarships for Mississippi college students in House Bill 550.
As long as her constituents support the lottery, Clarke said she will keep introducing it.
Rep. Ferr Smith, D-Carthage, introduced House Bill 432 that would establish a lottery to fund teacher and state employee pay raises.
Some Mississippians hope a lottery bill fails. "Gambling is committing a sin of covetousness," said Prentiss County vo-tech teacher Roy Holley, 56. "That's wanting something that somebody else has, plus it destroys so many lives."
"A lottery doesn't really bother me," said Jackson resident Rosalind Roy, 43, an artist. "I wouldn't play. I could do better things with my money."
The state needs money and lotteries have raised funds in other states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, Clarke said. "Why can't it work in Mississippi?"
While Mississippi is in a money crunch, House Education Committee Chairman Bubba Pierce said he doubts the lottery will survive this session. The bills go to the House Ways & Means Committee.
"There is not much support for (new) gaming" bills, Pierce, D-Leakesville, said.
In the Senate, there was a bill introduced by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, D-Brookhaven, stating that gift certificates will never expire. Consumers are interested in it.
Hyde-Smith said some people are losing money when gift certificates expire.
Another new bill introduced by Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, would do away with the certificate of needs process for hospitals seeking to expand or open. "Let's let the free market system go to work," he said.
Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, filed a "dummy bill" on Medicaid on Monday to beat a deadline. His was one of 27 bills dealing with Medicaid's budget or services.
It won't include a tax increase to cut the Medicaid deficit, he said, but other details will come later, perhaps at the end of the week.
Nunnelee also filed Senate Bill 2194 that would prohibit minors from using aluminum or non-wood baseball bats in competitive league games. It would apply to public school leagues and games using public facilities.
"It's a very dangerous situation," the Lee County lawmaker said of student injuries using aluminum bats.
Clerks are expected to finish processing general bills today.