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Jason White Elected New Mississippi House Speaker

House Speaker Jason White speaking at the senate podium
Lawmakers elected House Rep. Jason White, R-West, as Mississippi’s 62nd house speaker on Jan. 2, 2024, the first day of the 2024 Mississippi legislative session. Photo courtesy Mississippi House of Representatives

Mississippi House Rep. Jason White became the state’s 62nd House speaker following a unanimous vote of his colleagues in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the first day of the 2024 legislative session.

“The folks who sent us here are expecting us to adhere to our campaign promises, to hold fast to the ideas of limited government and individual freedom. However, as to this notion of purity in politics, let’s not be so heavenly minded that we do no earthly good,” the new Republican speaker said on the House floor Tuesday.

White serves District 48, which includes Attala, Carroll, Holmes and Leake counties and previously served as House speaker pro tempore under former House Speaker Philip Gunn. Voters first elected White as a Democrat in 2011, but he switched to the Republican Party in December 2012.

Mississippi’s House speaker runs the chamber and appoints representatives to various committees, giving the position significant power over which legislation is prioritized and which bills make it to the floor for a vote.

House Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, nominated White for speaker and said the Kosciusko, Miss., native’s family values, intelligence and work ethic make White the right choice for the job.

“Jason understands that he needs to and will provide the leadership to make Mississippi the rising star—not just of the South, but we’re going to think big—the rising star of the United States,” Zuber said to his colleagues.

In his celebratory speech, White said he wanted to focus on fostering “a better, brighter Mississippi” by helping the state and its people without stoking partisan division. He added that Mississippi taxpayers’ dollars have recently funded significant improvements for infrastructure, including roads, bridges, highways and airports.

“We can truly say over these past 12 years that our state has begun moving down the track toward a future that is open to the world for business while still maintaining our hometown pride and great sense of community that makes our state one of the best places in this great nation to work, worship, raise a family and enjoy a quality of life that doesn’t exist in most places in today’s modern society,” he said.

White said one of his main priorities in the next four years as House speaker is to create jobs, foster economic development and increase private investments. The speaker wants to develop the workforce by training Mississippians to work in “highly-skilled, good-paying jobs that are actually available here in our state.”

Although the state has made strides in its educational system, White said legislators can still do more to improve kindergarten through 12th-grade education. Legislators should also focus on the state’s health-care system and finding ways to help “ailing hospitals,” he said.

To meet these goals, White said legislators may have to do things that are “out of the ordinary” and “might make people uncomfortable.” Last year, he said he was open to examining Medicaid expansion as a possible option for improving health care in the state—a policy his predecessor has long opposed.

“We owe it to our people, especially our next generation, to confront these issues that still plague us and plague our state and to chart a course that will put us on an even greater path to greatness,” he said.

White suggested creating four additional legislative appropriation committees consisting of “members drawn from the main appropriations committee and each will be assigned a set of state budgets for very close consideration.”

“Our goal is to bring more order and timeliness to the budget chaos by allowing all House members, all of you, to have time to read and review the spending bills before you’re being asked to vote on them,” he told his colleagues.

Legislators also appointed House Rep. Manly Barton, R-Moss Point, as House speaker pro tempore. In that position, he will advise White and fill in for the speaker when he is away. He serves District 109, which includes George and Jackson counties.

“So, as I take on this new challenge, the measure of my success will be how much help I can give each of you to be successful in representing your districts and the people that supported you,” Barton told his colleagues.

In the Mississippi Senate on Tuesday, the newly elected Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann resumed his position as Senate president. Members reelected Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, to serve another four-year term as Senate president pro tempore.

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