2.10.23 – Super talk
Following Thursday’s deadline for general bills and constitutional amendments to receive original floor action, Mississippi lawmakers have cut down on the issues they believe are worth focusing on as the 2023 legislative session nears the halfway mark.
Below is a list of key bills that are either still alive or did not make it through their corresponding chamber.
With 28 hospitals across the state in danger of closing, lawmakers in the Senate have passed multiple bills they believe would serve as both short-term and long-term solutions to the state’s hospital crisis.
Senate Bill 2372 would provide $80 million in lifeline money for struggling hospitals. Senate Bill 2323 would allow community hospitals to collaborate and consolidate with non-profit entities. Senate Bill 2373 would create a loan repayment program, awarding nurses $6,000 each year for three years. Senate Bill 2371 would create grants for both community college nursing programs and residency and fellowship programs at the state’s hospitals.
Postpartum Medicaid Extension
A bill that would expand postpartum benefits has passed the Senate on 41-11 vote. Senate Bill 2212 would “authorize and direct the division of Medicaid to provide up to 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum.” At this time, Mississippi and Wyoming are the only remaining states in the United States that do not have an extension of postpartum benefits to 12 months or a full expansion of Medicaid.
A bill that would allow teachers to be armed has passed the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Senate Bill 2079 would establish a School Safety Guardian Program which would be administered by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety
Governing bodies of school systems throughout the state would have the autonomy to determine whether or not they will participate in the program. To participate in the program, one must possess an enhanced or concealed carry permit prior to applying. The qualified individual would then go through weeks of training at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy.
Restoring Ballot Initiative Process
For the second year in a row, lawmakers are looking to restore the ballot initiative process in Mississippi. The process, which previously gave residents the ability to propose laws and constitutional amendments with enough signatures, was stripped by the Mississippi Supreme Court in May 2021 when it ruled that medical marijuana was improperly placed on the ballot during the prior election cycle. Senate Bill 2638 would restore the process, but as the text currently reads, any initiative put forth by voters would first have to be approved by the legislature before becoming law. The bill and its accompanying Senate Concurrent Resolution 533 passed in the Senate.
Transgender Healthcare Access
As one of more than two dozen states seeking to restrict transgender healthcare access, the House has passed legislation that would ban gender-confirming care for minors. House Bill 1125 would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from receiving hormone treatments or therapy.
Post-Roe Assistance to Families
Senator Nicole Akins Boyd, R-Oxford, who chairs the Senate study group on women, has drafted legislation to assist families in a “post-Roe Mississippi. Senate Bill 2696 would provide parents a $7,500 tax credit for each adopted child from the state. The bill passed the Senate and has been referred to the House Ways and Means committee.
Senate Bill 2167 which is known as the “Early Intervention Pilot Project” would create a panel of state officials, university faculty members, parents, pediatricians, psychologists, and representatives from local nonprofits to work towards providing greater access to early intervention services for children suspected to have disabilities. The bill passed unanimously.
Transferring Jackson’s Water System
After countless boil water notices and failures at Jackson’s water treatment plants, legislators are attempting to transfer ownership of the capital city’s water system to a new public entity. According to Senate Bill 2889, which is titled the “Mississippi Capitol Region Utility Act”, a nine-member board composed of city and state-appointed leaders would be created to ensure clean water is provided to Jackson residents. The board would be composed of four individuals appointed by the mayor of Jackson, three from the governor, and two from the lieutenant governor.
House Bill 1168, a piece of legislation that would require Jackson’s one percent infrastructure sales tax to be used only on water and sewer needs in the city, also passed the House.
Unelected Court System in Jackson
A bill that would create an unelected court system within the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) that would operate separately from the Hinds County Court passed the House and has been discussed in the Senate. Judges would be appointed by Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael K. Randolph. Prosecutors would be appointed by the state’s attorney general.
House Bill 1020 would also expand the CCID to cover a greater landmass in Jackson that would be under the jurisdiction of Capitol Police.
Fentanyl Testing Strips
As cases of fentanyl overdoses become a rising epidemic across the state, lawmakers are looking to decriminalize the use of fentanyl test strips in Mississippi. House Bill 722, which was passed unanimously in the House, would remove the test strips from being considered paraphernalia in an effort to decrease the number of accidental overdoses due to fentanyl-laced drugs.
Prohibition of EV Direct Sales
Legislation that would prohibit electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers from the direct sale of vehicles passed the House, made it through the Senate Finance Committee, and now awaits a final vote. House Bill 401, in an effort to protect franchise dealership locations from the route-to-market strategy exploited by EV companies, would require all auto manufacturers in Mississippi to exclusively sell through independent retailers.
Online Sports Betting
A bill that inches Mississippi closer to legalizing mobile sports betting passed the House. House Bill 606, initially paved the pathway to have mobile sports betting legalized outright, the bill was later amended to add further regulations. The updated version of HB 606 would create an 11-member Mobile-Online Sports Betting Task Force.
Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund
A bill that would provide funding to the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund has passed the House and has been received in the Senate. House Bill 999 would deposit a percentage of state sales tax revenue from certain businesses into the trust fund.
All but one lawmaker in the House voted in favor of House Bill 1027 on Monday, which would designate the blueberry as the state fruit of Mississippi. The blueberry, which is native to the southeastern portion of the U.S., is a massive fruit crop across Mississippi as over 2,000 acres are used for growing blueberries alone.
Two bills proposing that the Mississippi Opal be named the state’s gemstone have been passed unanimously in one chamber. Both House Bill 772 and Senate Bill 2138 would “designate the Mississippi Opal as the official state gemstone” as the opal is the only gem naturally produced within the state’s geographical boundaries.
Volunteer Firefighter Benefits
Legislation that would provide volunteer firefighters in Mississippi with annual payments as an incentive to serve communities across the state has been passed in the House. House Bill 521, also known as the “Mississippi Length of Service Award Program,” would allow volunteers to receive up to $500 each year if a minimum number of service points is met. On top of the yearly payments, the program would also award a lump sum of $10,000 after 20 years of service.
Pecan farmers in Mississippi are looking to crack down on pecan thefts, with Senate Bill 2523 aiming to place tougher penalties on those who steal pecans during harvesting season. Those found guilty of stealing pecans would be subject to the penalties of petty larceny or grand larceny. The bill received an unanimous vote by the Senate before being sent to the House.
Pet lovers may be able to purchase insurance for their animals in Mississippi with the help of House Bill 1191. The bill would “establish the legal framework by which pet insurance may be sold in this state.”
Banning TikTok on Government Phones
Legislation that would ban the use of TikTok on any state-issued device or network passed unanimously in the Senate. Senate Bill 2140, or the “National Security on State Devices and Networks Act”, received 51 votes from legislators in the Senate Thursday after adopting one amendment. The bill prohibits state employees from downloading or using the TikTok application on a state-issued device or state-operated network. State agencies and public officers are also not allowed to operate an account or publish content on the app.
Full Medicaid Expansion
Lawmakers allowed all 17 bills that looked to expand Medicaid to die without being taken up for a vote. While Democrats believe that expanding Medicaid would be a viable solution to the state’s hospital crisis, resulting in more than $1 billion annually in federal healthcare dollars, Republicans argue that providing expanded coverage to poor Mississippians would be an unwise use of taxpayer dollars. Mississippi is one of 11 states that has refused Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
House Bill 370, which would have allowed recall elections with enough signatures for municipal officials, failed to pass the Senate in a 60-53 vote Thursday. While Democratic lawmakers said the bill was targeted at Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Republicans and other supporters argued that it would have provided further checks and balances in municipalities all across the state.
Making All Legislative Meetings Public
A bill that would require legislative meetings to be open to the public died in committee. Senate Bill 2667 came after it was alleged that the House Republican Caucus was in violation of open meeting laws when a reporter was forced to leave the chamber during a meeting.
Wildlife Animal Sales
Following public outcry that Mississippi’s wildlife could be taken away from the public if a handful of wealthy owners with high-fenced land decided to charge people to hunt on their property, House Bill 1026 and Senate Bill 2536 were drafted to make it illegal to buy or sell wildlife unless specifically designated by the state legislature. Both bills died without being taken to the floor.
As Mississippi pharmacies are being forced to cut both hours and staff due to monopolies induced by pharmacy benefit managers, Senate Bill 2484 would have changed the way pharmacies are reimbursed. The legislation would have transitioned PBMs’ usage of the average wholesale price to the national average drug acquisition price while raising the dispensing fee, which the Mississippi Independent Pharmacies Association said would ultimately lower the cost of drugs by five percent. Opponents of the legislation argued that doing so would increase health insurance premiums.
Public Employee Retirement Benefits
House Bill 605 was proposed to allow public school teachers who were enrolled in the Public Employee Retirement System for over 25 years at the time of their retirement to obtain a teaching job post-retirement and receive a retirement allowance. The bill died on calendar.
Parent’s Bill of Rights
Part of Gov. Tate Reeves’ legislative agenda, the establishment of a Parents’ Bill of Rights never made it to the House or Senate floor for a vote. According to Reeves, a Parents’ Bill of Rights would have recognized parental authority over their children’s lives and education while serving as protection in the case of school districts pushing social science experiments without prior approval.