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The state’s newest task force is the governor’s signature away from becoming reality.
A bill that would create a governor’s council for faith-based groups passed in the Senate Tuesday and only needs Gov. Phil Bryant’s signature to become law.
The law creates the “Mississippi Faith-Based and Community Advisory Council” and gives the group authority to advise the governor on “policies, priorities, and objectives to enlist, equip, enable, empower, and expand the work of faith-based, volunteer, and other community organizations.” The council would serve as a liaison between groups wishing to address social issues and state governmental entities.
“It would allow the governor’s office to communicate with various faith-based constituency groups to identify and address social issues,” Sen. Jenifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, said in February while defending the bill on the floor. “This bill would simply create the framework only to address the needs of these various groups.”
The governor would appoint 17 members of the council, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, would appoint four members each. The council would not require any state appropriations, several leaders have said.
Bryant’s office did not respond to a request for comment. He previously has expressed support for the new council.
The Senate bill initially included language that stated the council itself and members of the council could receive “gifts, grants and donations from any public or private sources.” But the House removed that section of the bill completely. Compensation for members is not addressed in the final version sent to the governor.
If created, Mississippi’s faith-based council would not be the first in the country.
The idea was put into motion by the governor’s office after a meeting with Rabbi Jeffrey Kurtz-Lendner of Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson. Kurtz-Lendner served on a similar council in Florida.
“The concept (in Florida) was that you bring people of all faiths and all political approaches – this was a nonpartisan group – to help the state extend services to people in need though partnerships with faith-based organizations,” Kurtz-Lendner told Mississippi Today in February. “The truth is, most states have allocations of resources to help people in need, but people in need don’t often know how to access that assistance … This would be a way to help Mississippians get the help they need.”
Several other states have adopted similar councils, including New Jersey, Delaware and Michigan.
Bryant first announced the proposal in his State of the State address in January.
“I believe it will strengthen families all across Mississippi, with no cost to the taxpayers,” Bryant said in the address. “I believe it will be a valuable tool to help serve our families and individuals in need.”