1.26.23 – Mississipppi Today – by Bobby Harrison and Geoff Pender
About 3000 bills have been filed in the Mississippi Legislature to be considered during the 2023 session. Here are some key ones.
Editor’s note: This list will be updated throughout the legislative session.
About 3,000 bills have been filed in the Mississippi Legislature to be considered during the 2023 session. Last week was the deadline for legislators to file general bills.
The deadline, though, does not apply to revenue and appropriations bills that face a February deadline.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 517, authored by Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, and House Concurrent Resolution 26, authored by Rep. Tracy Rosebud, D-Tutwiler, are among multiple bills filed to revive the state’s initiative process where voters can bypass the Legislature and place issues on the ballot for the electorate to decide. The state Supreme Court rendered the state’s initiative process unconstitutional in 2020 on a technicality and the legislative leadership has vowed to renew it. But that did not occur in the 2021 session.
Senate Bill 2070, authored by Sen. Angela Turner Ford, D-West Point, and House Bill 108, authored by Rep. Bryant Clark, D-Pickens, are among multiple bills filed to expand Medicaid coverage as is allowed under federal law to provide health care coverage to primarily the working poor. Under the proposal, the federal government would pay the bulk of the costs.
Senate Bill 2212, authored by Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaen, and House Bill 426, authored by Missy McGee, R-Hattiesburg, are among multiple bills filed to extend Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months for mothers after giving birth.
Health care & hospital crisis
Senate Bill 2371, Senate Bill 2372, Senate Bill 2373 and Senate Bill 2323, authored by Senate leaders with support from Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, are aimed at helping Mississippi’s struggling hospitals and shoring up the health care workforce. The bills would spend a combined $111 million of the state’s federal pandemic relief money. This includes $80 million in grants to hospitals based on their number of beds and type of care, a nursing student loan repayment program, grants to help community colleges beef up their nursing programs. Senate Bill 2323 would eliminate legal barriers to consolidation of or collaboration among hospitals.
Senate Bill 2793 and House Bill 1081 would create licensure and regulation — by a new board — for midwives in Mississippi. Currently, midwifery is not regulated in Mississippi as it is in 36 other states, meaning anyone here can claim to be a midwife without formal training or certification. More than half of Mississippi counties are considered “maternity care deserts,” with no hospitals practicing obstetric care, no OB-GYNs and no certified nurse midwives. Advocates say midwives could help in these areas. But many physicians groups say child delivery should be overseen by trained physicians.
House Bill 469, authored by House Speaker Philip Gunn, would provide $12 million for Mississippi Baptist Medical Center to create a burn center or unit at the hospital in 2024. The state’s only accredited burn center closed last year, but recently the University of Mississippi Medical Center announced it will increase its burn treatment capabilities.
Welfare agency reform
House Bill 184 and House Bill 188, authored by Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, would establish a board to oversee Department of Human Services, taking the agency out of the sole oversight of the governor’s office. House Bill 1054, filed by Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, would require legislative watchdog PEER to evaluate TANF subgrants. Senate Bill 2331, filed by Sen. Rod Hickman, D-Macon, would remove the child support cooperation requirement for TANF and SNAP beneficiaries.
Senate Bill 2405, authored by Sen. Sollie Norwood, D-Jackson, and House Bill 1247, authored by Rep. William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville, are among multiple bills filed to change the state Constitution to allow people convicted of felonies to regain their voting rights at some point after finishing their sentence.
Elections & voting
Senate Bill 2299, authored by Jeremy England, R-Vancleave, would establish a mechanism for voters to recall state and local officials, including legislators.
House Bill 370, authored by Shanda Yates, I-Jackson, would establish a mechanism for voters to recall municipal officials.
Senate Bill 2667, authored by Sen. Jason Barrett, R-Brookhaven, with multiple co-sponsors, would reiterate that the open meetings law covers the Mississippi Legislature. The bill is a response to a controversial 2022 ruling by the state Ethics Commission saying the Legislature is not covered by the open meetings law. The bill also increases the fine for violations of the open records law from $100 to $500.
Gender procedures ban
House Bill 1125, the “Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures Act,” is similar to measures passed or debated in other states and was authored by Rep. Gene Newman, a Republican from Pearl. The bill, passed on a partisan 78-28 vote by the full House early in the session, would ban gender affirming surgery and drugs for Mississippians 18 and under.
House Bill 418, authored by Rep. Jansen Owen, R-Poplarville, and co-sponsored by others, would eliminate the sales tax on most grocery items.
The deadline to file tax bills is not until Feb. 22, so most likely others will be filed.
House Bill 294, authored by Carolyn Crawford, R-Pass Christian, would prohibit public schools and universities from imposing mask mandates.
Senate Bill 2079, authored by Angela Hill, R-Picayune, would create the Mississippi School Protection Act and authorize that schools could designate personnel with gun permits, to be armed.
House Bill 112, authored by Bryant Clark, D-Pickens, would create the Mississippi Universal Preschool Act.
House Bill 595, authored by Bo. Brown, D-Jackson, would authorize the Department of Education to create curriculum for African American studies and racial diversity.
House Bill 1070, authored by Lee Yancey, R-Brandon., would create grants for schools to teach patriotic education.
House Bill 1020, authored by Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, creates a separate judicial district within the Capitol Complex Improvement District, which is an area around downtown Jackson where many of the state-owned buildings are located. The judges, who would hear civil and criminal cases, would be paid equivalent to chancery and circuit judges, but would be appointed by the Supreme Court chief justice instead of elected like other judges in state.
House Bill 1222, authored by Sam Creekmore, R-New Albany with other co-sponsors, would make a number of changes to state mental health policies, including requiring law enforcement agencies to offer “first aid mental health training.” It would appoint court liaisons to work with families in counties where more than 20 people are involuntarily committed each year, require chancery clerks to keep more detailed records on civil commitments, and aim to reduce delays in conducting screenings of people being civilly committed. Under the bill, community mental health centers would be required to hire an accountant and conduct regular audits. It would also change the composition of the board of mental health to include more subject matter experts and at least one sheriff and reduce board members’ term lengths.