JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on Mississippi budget hearings (all times local):

3 p.m.

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety is requesting money to fill vacant jobs at the state Crime Lab.

Lab director Sam Howell says the lab's three medical examiners did about 1,500 autopsies last year. That average of 500 per person is twice the recommended maximum of 250. Howell tells lawmakers that fatigue can be a problem when medical examiners are overworked.

The Department of Public Safety is one of several state agencies requesting more money for the state budget year that begins next July 1. Commissioner Marshall Fisher says Mississippi, like many other states, is seeing an epidemic of opioid drug abuse.

Bureau of Narcotics Director John Dowdy says at least 150 people have died of drug overdoses in Mississippi so far this year. There were 10 overdose deaths last week alone.


11:27 a.m.

An expert is telling state budget writers that Mississippi has had "lackluster" economic performance since the Great Recession.

State economist Darrin Webb also says he expects continued slow growth, partly because Mississippi has a large number of people of working age who don't have jobs.

Webb spoke Thursday to members of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, who started two days of hearings. They are considering agencies' spending requests for the year that begins next July 1.

The Department of Revenue is requesting a slight budget increase so it can hire auditors. Commissioner Herb Frierson says it's an effort to increase tax collections.

Jess Dickinson, the new director of Child Protective Services, says his agency wants to hire more workers and needs more office space.