Problems with feral hogs, among other issues, will be the focus of local legislators during the upcoming legislative session which began on Tuesday.

Republican District 44 Rep. C. Scott Bounds of Philadelphia said there were many issues to be looked at during the 2014 session including those associated with hogs.

"We'll focus on public safety, the Highway Patrol and conservation," he said. "The budget will be a major issue along with education."

Bounds and Republican District 18 Sen. Giles Ward of Louisville said feral hogs were a major problem statewide.

Bounds and Ward are the chairs of the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committees for the House and Senate, respectively.

"Statewide, feral hogs are a big problem," Bounds said. "We're looking at ways of handling the problem but we don't want to take away the right to harvest these hogs."

This past summer both men used their respective platforms to host a summit on the issue of feral hogs.

"The results were alarming," Ward said. "We have to pay attention to this issue."

Ward added that many have had a hard time seeing this as a big issue but, according to him, it has "drastically impacted" the agriculture and forests of Mississippi.

The hogs move through fresh crops and cause a significant amount to become uprooted, he said.

Another problem, Ward said, is the hogs are "fun to hunt" for sport.

"They're not a sport, they're an animal nuisance," he said. "There are few restrictions on harvesting these animals."

Ward noted that some hunters trap the hogs then transport them to another area to hunt.

To solve this issue, Ward suggested a possible ban on transporting feral hogs anywhere in the state of Mississippi.

Ward said no restrictions on hunting feral hogs would be considered.

"We've got to kill them," he said. "We don't need to do anything to minimize hunting them. They need to be brought out of the woods dead."

Rep. Bounds agreed.

"We want to continue the opportunity to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors," he said.

Ward said there might be a market for the hog meat or it could be used to feed the hungry.

"We don't want it to go to waste," he said.

Besides feral hogs, Sen. Ward also plans to reintroduce a bill providing funds for the construction, furnishing and equipping of the Marty Stuart museum in Philadelphia.

In 2013 Ward attempted to secure funds for the project but the measure died in committee.

However, $1 million in state bond monies was awarded by the legislature in conjunction with the proposed center in 2013.

The attempt to construction a museum in Philadelphia has been ongoing for the past few years.

In October the county transferred ownership of the historic Coca-Cola building, at the corner of Myrtle Street and Center Avenue, to be used as a warehouse for the museum collection.

Two of the biggest predicted topics during the 2014 legislative session are Medicaid expansion and Common Core education standards.

Leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate say they still oppose expansion of the Medicaid program, even with the federal government paying most of the cost in the first few years. They're backed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who fears Mississippi could be stuck with a huge health care bill if the federal government backtracks on funding.

Many Democrats, as well as advocates for the working poor, say expanding Medicaid could bring billions of federal dollars to one of the poorest states in the nation, making health care more readily available and supporting jobs in hospitals and clinics.

Medicaid expansion is an option under the federal health overhaul President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010. Mississippi is among about two dozen states, led by Republican governors, that have rejected the expansion so far. Lawmakers here argued about it throughout the 2013 session, but nothing happened.