Slog in the House continues

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The electronic bill reader in the Mississippi House of Representative continued to churn Monday, but House lawmakers managed to get through several bills.

The House amended the state’s charter-school law to allow students in C-, D- and F-rated district to cross district lines to attend charters in other school districts. Democrats unsuccessfully offered several amendments, including to remove C-rated districts and to require charter schools to provide transportation, before it passed.

The House also passed legislation to require youth-detention centers to be licensed by the state. Proponents of the measure said the measure came as a response to problems at the Henley-Youth Youth Justice Center in Jackson, which is under a federal consent decree to improve conditions for children housed there.

Lawmakers also voted to allow municipalities of fewer than 500 people the option to have a three-member city council instead of having five members. Sponsors said some small cities have had difficulty finding people willing to run for city council.

Another municipal-focused bill would permit cities to lease naming rights of municipally owned property to private commercial entities.

After a series of local media stories about lawmakers’ use of campaign finance accounts, House members watered down a bill that would have provided for stricter accounting for campaign credit cards. That weaker version, which calls for a study committee, passed the House and now goes back to the Senate.

The Senate met for a little more than two hours Monday, reconvening at 2 p.m. and adjourning at 4:15 p.m., passing about two dozen non-controversial bills. Notably, the Senate passed a bill that would keep tax assessors from having to audit small businesses’ personal property. Instead, the list of a taxpayer’s personal property that the taxpayer provides to the tax assessor shall be presumed to be accurate.

If the law is enacted, tax assessors would still have the power to audit personal property if they have reason to believe the property list submitted to them is inaccurate.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, who was one of four senators voting against the bill, said the bill could open the door for people who would lie about property they are taxed on. But Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, who is chair of the senate finance committee, disagreed with Bryan’s argument.

“Most people are honest and try to give a good indication of what they have,” Fillingane said. “I think in most times, this would be a lessening of bureaucracy for small businesses, and they would appreciate this bill’s passing.”

Contributing: Adam Ganucheau