2019 Regular Session

To: Rules

By: Senator(s) Wiggins, Kirby

Senate Resolution 18


WHEREAS, Senate President Pro Tempore Grady Franklin "Gray" Tollison has announced that he will not be seeking reelection, which he characterizes as a "self-imposed term limit." He has represented Senate District 9, which includes Lafayette County and portions of Panola County, since 1996 (24 years). In Gray Tollison, the citizens of District 9 have had effective representation from a dedicated public servant with professional legal experience; and

WHEREAS, on January 11, 2019, Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison was elected unanimously as Senate President Pro Tempore. Tollison was selected by the other 51 members of the Mississippi Senate. "Senator Tollison's election by his peers to this leadership position shows the deep respect Senators have for him," Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves said in a statement. "His 24 years of experience in the Legislature and his passion for good public policy make him the right fit to serve as the 'Senators' Senator." The Pro Tem presides in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor and oversees the day-to-day management of the Senate Chamber as Chairman of the Rules Committee. Tollison was already Vice Chairman of Rules. The Senate Pro Tem also is third in line of gubernatorial succession; and

WHEREAS, Gray Tollison has served in the Mississippi Senate since 1996. Prior to his election as Senate Pro Tem, he was 10th in seniority out of 52 State Senators. Gray was appointed Chairman of the Senate Education Committee by Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves in January 2012. He also serves as a member of the Public Health and Welfare Committee, Finance Committee, and Universities and Colleges Committee. Gray previously served as Chairman of the Judiciary Division "B" Committee from 2004-2012 under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant and Amy Tuck, where he led efforts aimed to improve public safety, reduce crime and reform the juvenile justice system; and

WHEREAS, Gray has led efforts to achieve significant education reform in Mississippi. In the 2013 legislative session, Tollison was instrumental in the passage of a third-grade literacy promotion act and an improved accountability A-F grading system as well as co-sponsoring legislation to bring high quality early education to Mississippi in the form of Early Learning Collaboratives. In 2014, Tollison worked to meet the challenge of the third-grade reading program by including more reading coaches, adopting a statewide Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and ensuring future elementary teachers are prepared to teach reading. As a result of these reforms, at the time of his retirement Mississippi had its highest graduation rates ever, highest rise in MAEP scores, and was Top 5 nationally in early education. Tollison successfully advocated for more transparent school district ratings, which led to a new grading system for schools based on A, B, C, D and F. The first steps toward choice were taken with the creation of public charter schools and scholarships for students with special needs. After decades of legislators talking about school district consolidation, Gray Tollison took action by pushing for administrative consolidation, significantly reducing the number of districts in Mississippi. The Education Commission of the States awarded Mississippi the 2016 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation for these transformational reforms to improve student learning. Mississippi has made record investments in education spending and enacted reforms to save money, strengthen achievement, and clearly communicate school performance; and

WHEREAS, during his legislative tenure, Gray has been recognized for his efforts, including the 2010 Award for Leadership in Juvenile Justice Reform, Mississippi Homebuilders Association's 2008 Legislator of the Year, Mississippi State Troopers Association's 2007 Legislative Leadership Award, and the State Farm Alliance 2006 Seat Belt Champion Award. Gray is a graduate of Rhodes College and the University of Mississippi School of Law. He was a Law Clerk for Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Armis E. Hawkins and worked for United States Senator John C. Stennis in his Washington, D.C., office; and

WHEREAS, when Gray worked for United States Senator John C. Stennis, the Senator taught Gray to put the people's best interests first, not politics or special interests. Senator Stennis also taught Gray that building coalitions is the key to achieving last results. As State Senator Tollison learned from Senator Stennis, politics is really about people and working to make our community a better place to live. Gray has put the lessons he learned from Senator Stennis to work for the Mississippi Senate; and

WHEREAS, Gray is:

A Sixth Generation from Lafayette County;

A graduate of Oxford High School, 1982;

A graduate of Rhodes College, 1986; and Ole Miss Law School, 1990;

A member of Christ Presbyterian Church; and

Married to Amanda Tollison and has two children, Grady (18) and Laurel (15); and

WHEREAS, President Pro Tempore Gray Tollison's service has been marked by his commitment to success and recognized leadership, sound judgment, civility, courtesy and fairness. He has set the highest standard in all of his many roles: husband, father, businessman, statesman, community leader and leader in the Mississippi Senate, and as a true friend. Gray's service honored both the Mississippi Senate and this great State that he loved and served:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, That we do hereby commend and recognize President Pro Tempore Gray Tollison, whose outstanding service enriched everyone with whom he was associated, and we wish Gray and his family much success in his future endeavors.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution be presented to President Pro Tempore Tollison and made available to the Capitol Press Corps.