Senator Michael David Watson, Jr. was born on December 22, 1977 in Pascagoula. He grew up as the son of a shipyard worker and bank teller. His father later entered the ministry and still serves as a pastor. He graduated from Pascagoula High School and went on to earn a BBA and a JD (law degree) from the University of Mississippi. While at Ole Miss, Michael served as a youth minister on the weekends at a church in his mother’s hometown of Noxapater, MS.
During the summer of 1999, he served as an intern for then U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott. That experience strengthened his desire to one day serve the people of Mississippi as an elected official.
First elected to the Mississippi State Senate in 2007, Senator Watson got right to work as he drafted and helped guide SB 2988 into law during his freshman year in the legislature. This was Mississippi’s first law dealing with the growing illegal immigration issue. The law not only dealt with illegal immigrants, but also the businesses who were hiring illegal immigrants to take advantage of lower wages. His second session brought many challenges, with his biggest goal being to pass a bill improving MS’s Charter School legislation. Unfortunately, the bill was narrowly defeated in the House of Representatives.
Senator Watson had a rather eventful year following his second session, as he married his beautiful wife, Lauren, in September. Lauren was born in Pascagoula as well, but moved away at a young age, only to return to the Coast several years later. The two met each other at church camp and stayed in touch through the years.
During his third session, Senator Watson hoped to capitalize on the momentum behind the public charter school movement in Mississippi. After drafting SB 2664 the previous year, which revamped our public charter school legislation, he made the bill even better. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass as drafted. However, a bill that may have cracked the public charter school door was passed and signed into law by the Governor. He also worked on legislation to consolidate Mississippi’s 152 school districts in an effort to save money in our tough economy. He hoped to use some of that money on teacher pay raises, classroom supplies and a much needed tax cut of some type, but the bill was not even passed out of the Education committee. Senator Watson also filed a bill to decrease the size of the legislature from 174 members to 100, cutting the House from 122 members to 70 and the Senate from 52 members to 30. While this bill did not make it out of the Elections Committee, a complimentary version did. As one might expect, it was soundly defeated on the Senate floor.
One of Senator Watson’s biggest accomplishments during his third session was the passage of SB 2389 allowing for alternate-track high school diplomas. Though we all wish everyone could go to college, that is not a realistic approach. SB 2389 allows for high school students to choose an alternate-track diploma that will allow them to substitute vocational training classes for some of their other required classes. This will help those who have no interest in going to college be better prepared to enter the work force following graduation. By preparing to enter the working world in high school, more students will have a chance to make a successful transition into a rewarding career of his/her choice.
Following his third session, on August 12, Michael and Lauren welcomed their first child, Gracie Pierce. Senator Watson took on a new perspective of life, to say the least.
During his fourth session, Senator Watson braced for a tough budget year, which also included redistricting and just happened to be an election year. Senator Watson continued his fight to reform our public education system by fine tuning the public charter school legislation (which again passed the Senate, but failed to come out of the House), and by co-authoring a bill to expand the alternate-track diploma program.
Additionally, finding a solution to the insurance crisis on the Coast continued to be one of his top priorities. As a result, he shepherded HB 1199 (drafted by Representative DeLano), a bill creating an council that will establish an industry-wide windstorm mitigation standard, through the Senate Insurance Committee and on the Senate floor. HB 1199 will lead to lower insurance premiums once the standards are created.
His most significant legislation during his fourth session was SB 2615, The Fetal Protection Act. This was a bill Senator Watson drafted, and helped get passed into law, which strengthens the penalties for those injuring an unborn child.
Senator Watson is proud of his accomplishments during his first term and believes his hard work, dedication and efforts to stay involved in the community lead to his re-election without opposition.
During the first year of his second term, Senator Watson led the charge for a Constitutional Amendment dealing with the Governor’s pardoning powers. Additionally, he helped get the resolution passed that will allow for all Mississippians to vote in 2015 on a Constitutional Amendment protecting our right to hunt and fish. Though no longer on the Senate Education Committee, he continued pushing to allow for more parental choice in education, including the fight to pass a workable public charter school bill. In what Governor Bryant deemed as the “most business friendly legislative session in our state’s history”, Senator Watson worked on a handful of bills that will have a positive impact for years to come, including the Small Bussiness Regulatory Flexibility Act, the phase out of Mississippi’s inventory tax, and several others.
Senator Watson continued advancing the parental choice in public education argument by again introducing several measures aimed at allowing parents to decide what school was best for their children. Included in these bills are tax-credit scholarships, individual tax credits for educational expenses, an Education Savings Account, public charter schools and Mississippi’s version of the Tebow Law, which would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school extracurricular activities.
After more the five years of working toward having public charter schools in our state, the legislature finally passed HB 369, authored by Senator Watson’s close friend, Rep. Charles Busby. Thought the bill was not as strong as he’d like, it is a step in the right direction and will lead to many more children having a better chance to receive a high quality education.
Following his 6th Session, one day later to be exact, Michael, Lauren and Gracie Pierce welcomed Ann Michael (Annie) Watson to their growing family. Keep Senator Watson in your prayers, as he is now outnumbered 3-1!
Over his last two years, Senator Watson saw many legislative issues for which he’d planted a seed come to fruition, including the Catastrophe Savings Accounts allowing for pretax savings accounts to be used on deductibles or other catastrophe related expenses and the Equal Opportunity for Students With Special Needs Act allowing a scholarship for parents with a special needs child the ability to choose which education best fit their children. He also pushed for lower taxes and to end the practice of spending one time money on recurring expenses.
Following his eighth session, Senator Watson hit the campaign trail in an effort to continue serving the great people of District 51 in Jackson County.
Outside of the legislature, Senator Watson recently returned to the legal field and opened Watson Legal, PLLC. Senator Watson is a member of the Pascagoula Rotary Club, the NRA, American Council of Young Political Leaders, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Mississippi Bar, the American Bar, the Ole Miss Alumni Association and the Ole Miss Hall of Fame. He also works hard to support the local affiliates of the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society. Michael, Lauren, Gracie Pierce, Annie and Cora Elizabeth are members of First Presbyterian in Pascagoula.
Please feel free to email Senator Watson with any comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Several of the bills he has filed over the past eight years have come from suggestions he received while visiting with the great folks of District 51.