Mental health consolidation bill dies in Senate

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Gabriel Austin, Mississippi Today

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves presides over the Mississippi Senate.

A Senate bill that would have given the governor control of the Department of Mental Health died on the floor Monday afternoon on a procedural vote.

Senate Bill 2567 died in a 24-27 vote on a procedural motion that would have allowed it to be sent to the House for consideration. The bill had passed Friday 25-24, but was held on a motion to reconsider that vote, a procedural move that any senator can enter after a bill is voted on.

Monday was the deadline for all bills to be passed, but senators declined to remove the procedural hold and the bill died on the Senate calendar.

Zachary Oren Smith, Mississippi Today

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, urged his colleagues to hold the bill in the Senate, saying the potential consequences of the bill were too important for it to be voted on “in the spur of the moment.”

“Once again, we are asked to make a decision with long ranging repercussions without the knowledge we need to make that decision,” Bryan said. “It’s just not right to make a decision of this consequence right here all in a hurry on deadline day.”

Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune and Sen. Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, spoke in favor of the bill, telling their peers it would increase accountability for health care providers.

“This bill is about management, increased accountability and consistent public policy direction,” Clarke said.

State leaders have repeatedly criticized the Department of Mental Health for what they’ve said is a bloated staff and budget.

The bill would have allowed the governor to appoint the executive director of the department and demote the Board of Mental Health from a governing body to an advisory council. Opponents have said doing so would politicize the delivery of needed services.

The Senate also debated a “sanctuary city” bill. Senate Bill 2710 passed by a vote of 34-16, although Sen. Deborah Dawkins, D-Pass Christian, said the bill should have been discussed more the first time it was presented.

The bill would prohibit Mississippi counties, cities, colleges, state agencies and others from having or enabling policies designed to limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement. During debate last week, supporters of the measure acknowledged that currently there are no sanctuary locations in Mississippi.

The bill also requires local cooperation with federal immigration control and automatically deems any sanctuary policy adopted in the state as invalid.

Gil Ford Photography

Sen. Deborah Dawkins, D-Pass Christian

Dawkins asked her peers to consider whether they’d eaten fruits and vegetables for breakfast, alluding to the role immigrants play in harvesting produce.

“I think perhaps we don’t spend enough time going outside of our communities that we are uncomfortable with people that are different from us. And that’s who this bill seems to be aimed at,” Dawkins said, asking her peers to vote against the bill.

Other bills the Senate passed:

Senate Bill 2634: Create a new fund for BP settlement funds for “projects benefiting the Gulf Coast.”

Senate Bill 2625: Cleans up problems encountered after 2016’s special fund sweeps law.

Senate Bill 2632: Prohibits state agencies and universities from using public dollars to pay for outside lobbyists.

Here is the Senate vote on Senate bill 2567, the mental health consolidation bill. A nay vote was a vote that killed the bill by not allowing it to go to the House:

YEAS (24)

Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven; Terry Burton, R-Newton; Chris Caughman, R-Mendenhall; Lydia Chassaniol, R-Winona; Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale; Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville; Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven; Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall; Josh Harkins, R-Flowood; Angela Burks Hill, R-Picayune; Billy Hudson, R-Hattiesburg; Gary Jackson, R-French Camp; Chris Massey, R-Nesbit; Walter Michael, R-Ridgeland; Philip Moran, R-Kiln; David Parker, R-Olive Branch; Rita Parks, R-Corinth; John Polk, R-Hattiesburg; Mike Seymour R-Vancleave; Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland; Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport; Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula; Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula; Charles Younger, R-Columbus.

NAYS (27)

Juan Barnett, D-Heidelberg; Barbara Blackmon, D-Canton; David Blount, D-Jackson; Jenifer Branning, R-Philadelphia; Nickey Browning, R-Pontotoc; Hob Bryan, D-Amory; Albert Butler, D-Port Gibson; Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian; Deborah Dawkins, D-Pass Christian; Bob Dearing, D-Natchez; Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson; Tommy Gollott, R-Biloxi; John Horhn, D-Jackson; Robert Jackson, D-Marks; Sampson Jackson, D-Preston; Russell Jolly, D-Houston; David Jordon, D-Greenwood; Dean Kirby, R-Pearl; Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville; Chad McMahan, R-Guntown; Sollie Norwood, D-Jackson; Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville; Bill Stone, D-Holly Springs; Gray Tollison, R-Oxford; Angela Turner-Ford, D-West Point; J.P. Wilemon, D-Belmont; Tammy Witherspoon, D-Magnolia.

Not Voting (1):

Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg