TUPELO • Instead of simply advocating for policy reforms from state government, Nicole Akins Boyd will be voting for legislative proposals in January when she becomes a new member of the Mississippi State Legislature.
Akins Boyd, a former lobbyist, won the state’s ninth Senate district seat in November. She sat down with the Daily Journal to discuss her ideas and goals for her office over the next year. One of the main policy areas she plans to focus on also doubles as a personal interest for her: ensuring children with developmental disabilities have access to quality employment opportunities.
Akins Boyd, a Republican, is the parent of a child with autism. She has spent years advocating to different state entities for increased employment training for children.
“I’m very interested in children with disabilities,” she said. “And I want to make sure that we are really working to make sure that we’re maximizing their potential employment opportunities and employment training.”
Akins Boyd graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law and previously worked in the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, where she primarily dealt with 16th section land. She also lobbied the Legislature to advocate for anti-tobacco legislation.
She continued to advocate for different policy proposals, mainly topics regarding children with autism, but realized that she could do it more effectively if she was actually a part of the Legislature.
Boyd believes the main way to ensure that all children have access to quality employment training and employment opportunities is to build coalitions that include educational institutions, government organizations and private groups and seek solutions.
“We’re going to, as a Legislature, have to make sure that the funding mechanisms are in place and that the accountability is in place to make sure that these (career programs) are all happening,” she said.
Another issue Akins Boyd plans to study in-depth is ensuring her legislative district has access to quality infrastructure. She said Lafayette County must manage infrastructure in a rapidly growing area.
“We are a very growing county, but we have got to have the infrastructure to move people around appropriately,” she said. “If we want to continue to grow, we’ve got to have better infrastructure and we’ve got to have funding for that infrastructure.”
She explained that all funding options are on the table, and the Legislature needs to look at the revenue streams and expenditure projections before committing to a specific funding method.
Regarding access to healthcare, Akins Boyd wants to consider different options, including expanding or reforming Medicaid. She thinks state leaders should look at the different healthcare reform measures in Arkansas and other states to learn how to best implement a similar program in Mississippi.
“We have too many working Mississippians that don’t have appropriate access to healthcare,” she said. “I think we’re going to have to look at all the options and we’re going to have to see the feasibility of expanding healthcare. We need to get this right.”
Akins Boyd’s district includes nearly all of Lafayette County and a portion of Panola County. She won the seat by defeating Democrat Kevin Frye, a Lafayette County supervisor, in the general election in November. The seat became open when longtime state Sen. Gray Tollison announced he would not run for re-election.