The Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today

Mississippi lawmakers filed about 2,000 general bills this legislative session, slightly lower than the nearly 2,500 that had been filed last year. After recent deadlines, that number has been significantly whittled down.

March 2 was another deadline for general bills — for committees to pass out bills coming from the opposite chamber. Hundreds of measures have died with committee and floor deadlines as the legislative session enters the final stretch. However, measures can often be brought back to life as amendments to other bills and there’s an old saying that legislation is not dead, “until it’s dead, dead, dead.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic — and multiple cases reported among lawmakers and staff — the legislative leadership urged members to limit the number of bills they filed this year so the session can be wrapped up quickly and the 174-member Legislature can leave the Capitol. Committee chairmen said leaders also urged them to drastically limit the number of bills they take up and move forward out of committees this session.

Taxing, spending and other bills face later deadlines than general bills. Last year, more than 2,800 total bills were filed. In a typical session, about 600 or so general bills will be passed into law.

Here are some key bills this session, with those that didn’t survive deadlines marked as DEAD. This list will be continually updated.

EDUCATION

SB 2001: Teacher pay raise. This would give all teachers and assistants a $1,000 annual pay raise. For starting teachers through three years with a bachelor’s degree, it would be $1,110, raising the starting salary to $37,000. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann is pushing for a raise, a major campaign promise. DEAD

HB 852: Teacher pay raise. Originally the House’s plan for a $1,000 teacher pay raise, the Senate has amended it to revive its teacher pay raise, after the House killed SB 2001. The teacher raise has become embroiled in the debate over eliminating the state’s income tax and raising sales taxes.

SB 2142: Corporal punishment. Would establish the right of public school parents or guardians to choose to include or not include a student in the district’s corporal punishment police. DEAD

SB 2267: Teacher license reciprocity. Aimed at helping combat teacher shortages, this would allow teachers licensed in other states to more easily obtain a standard five-year license to teach in Mississippi.

SB 2314/HB 316: Compulsory kindergarten attendance. One of several such measures proposed again this year, it would apply the state’s compulsory school attendance law to 5-year-olds. DEAD

SB 2305: Would repeal the multiple teacher loan programs that have not been funded for six years and replace with the William F. Winter and Jack Reed Sr. Teacher Loan Repayment Program. The bill aims to pay a portion of a teacher’s college loan each year for three years after first graduating from college and accepting a teaching position in the state. There is a mirror measure in the House.

SB 2536: Mississippi Fairness Act. Would require K-12 and higher education schools to designate sports teams based on biological sex and prevent students from playing on teams that align with their gender identity. Students who don’t make a team could sue schools that violate this section; they could also sue if they encounter a student of the opposite sex in bathrooms or locker rooms.

HB 802: Voting precincts on college campuses. Would require voting precincts on public and private four-year colleges. DEAD

SB 2313/ HB 1030: Would allow student athletes to be paid for their name, image, likeness, and endorsements.

HEALTH CARE

SB 2765 : Medical marijuana. A legislative alternative to the medical marijuana program voters overwhelmingly approved in November with Ballot Initiative 65, which is now being challenged in the state Supreme Court. Just before a deadline that would kill the bill, a House panel stripped out the Senate proposal, replaced it with the language from Initiative 65 and moved it to the full House.

HB 1303: Full practice authority for nurse practitioners. This bill would have allowed nurse practitioners with at least 3,600 hours of experience to practice without an oversight “collaborative” contract with a physician. Mississippi would have joined 22 other states in allowing such expanded scope of practice for nurse practitioners. Senate Public Health Chairman Hob Bryan declined to take the bill up before a deadline this week, saying the committee needs more time to study it. The debate over scope of practice for nurse practitioners has been ongoing for years in the state. DEAD

HB 1302: Expand practice of optometrists. In another long-running battle – this one between optometrists and ophthalmologists – this measure would allow the lesser-trained optometrists to treat eye and eyelid diseases, prescribe medication, use local anesthesia and do other procedures many other states allow them to do. The Senate has amended the House version, and leaders announced that optometrist and ophthalmologist groups have reached agreement on the latest version of the bill.

HB 156: Medicaid managed care. Would require managed care companies to provide detailed, signed explanation for denial of coverage for a procedure, signed by the person who denied the coverage. DEAD

HB 207: Would expand Medicaid as is allowed under federal law to provide coverage to primarily the working poor. Numerous bills have been filed this year to expand Medicaid.
Various efforts have been under way for multiple years to expand Medicaid with the federal government paying most of the costs. DEAD

HB 1013: Would establish a commission to govern the Division of Medicaid, which is currently operated by an executive director appointed by the governor. The commission would consist of seven members. Four would be appointed by the lieutenant governor and three by the governor. DEAD

HB 338: Would make all abortion illegal in Mississippi. Prior to this bill, the most restrictive ban passed by the Legislature banned abortions after six weeks, though it was later struck down in court. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly delayed a decision on whether to take up Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which was also struck down in a lower court. The state’s sole clinic which provides abortions will not perform them after 16 weeks. DEAD

SB 2171: The Transgender 21 Act, would prohibit medical professionals from performing certain gender confirming procedures on minors under 21-years-old. DEAD

SB 2160: Repeal the state’s Health Care Certificate of Need Law, which requires that health care facilities show that new services are needed before they are permitted to expand or purchase certain equipment. DEAD

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

HB 525: The “omnibus” criminal justice reform bill. As with a mirror bill in the Senate, this measure includes numerous state codes and is a vehicle for major criminal justice reform many lawmakers are hoping to enact to address the state’s prison crisis. The measure will include increased parole and probation eligibility for some inmates.

HB 581: The Sexual Assault Response for College Students Act. Would require all Mississippi universities and colleges to adopt policies consistent with federal and state laws regarding response to allegations of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, sexual exploitation and stalking. It would require schools to publish their policies, train employees about the policies and provide counseling and mental and physical health support. It also would define consent and circumstances in which consent cannot be implied or considered. A similar measure died last year.

SB 2091: Protection of pets in domestic abuse protection order. This would allow a judge to include protection of pets in orders in cases of domestic abuse. Anti-domestic violence advocates have said pet abuse as a way to threaten or control an abuse victim is common. Similar measures have failed in the past. DEAD

HB 24: Allow a municipality to give tax-forfeited land or buildings to any police officer employed in the municipality as part of the officer’s compensation. DEAD

HB 84: Allow local sheriffs to use radar. Several bills have been filed and are routinely filed each session without any success. DEAD

HB 1041: Would prohibit federal law from stopping a manufacturer within the state from making certain types of firearms and ammunition, such as limiting the size of a magazine in a gun. DEAD

COVID-19

HB 719: Would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to take a COVID-19 vaccination as condition of employment. DEAD

ANTI-POVERTY PROGRAMS

SB 2759: Increase the monthly amount of cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant, known as “welfare.”
The benefit is currently capped at $170-a-month for a family of three and Mississippi Department of Human Services Director Bob Anderson previously told Mississippi Today he would like to see the amount increased. TANF is the program officials allegedly targeted in a massive embezzlement scheme that the state auditor uncovered last year.

HB 49: Would terminate the state’s contract with a private company to run child support enforcement, bringing the program back in-house. Hines has filed similar unsuccessful bills in previous years. Read Mississippi Today’s coverage of the program and its privatization here. DEAD

SB 2079: Would increase minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024. The Legislature traditionally refuses to address bills raising the state minimum wage. DEAD

HB 17: Develop a Working Families Study Committee to develop recommendations to ensure that all working families have access to affordable child care so they can participate in the workforce. DEAD

HB 987: Use unspent TANF funds, or welfare, to pay the expenses of people enrolled in nursing school. DEAD

HB 65: Remove the requirement that separated parents comply with child support enforcement in order to qualify for the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) child care voucher. DEAD

HB 890: Require teenage recipients of either TANF, often referred to as welfare, or Medicaid to participate in birth control, abstinence and parenting programs. DEAD

ELECTIONS

SB 2588: Would require county election commissions to remove from the list of qualified voters people who do not vote at least once during a four year period and do not  respond to a notice from the county. The Legislation, supported by Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, was opposed by many voter rights advocates. DEAD

SC 508: Would amend the state Constitution to allow felons to vote after serving their sentence and meeting certain conditions. Several similar proposals have been filed. DEAD

SB 2368: Allow no excuse early voting up to 10 days before the election. DEAD

SB 2102: Would create an agreement among states to elect the president via popular vote rather than the Electoral College. In theory the bill would render the Electoral College useless by enough states agreeing to designate their electors to the candidate who won the popular vote. DEAD

TAXES

HB 1439: Mississippi Tax Fairness, authored by Speaker Philip Gunn, is sweeping legislation that would phase out the personal income tax, reduce the grocery tax by half to 3.5% and increase the sales tax on other retail items by 2.5 cents on each dollar of sales. The bill also includes the House teacher pay plan.

HB 1095: “Brain drain” tax incentives. Similar to measures passed by the House but killed in the Senate the last couple of years, this would provide tax rebates for recent college graduates who decide to live and work in Mississippi. They would receive a rebate on their income taxes for five years. It would provide smaller incentives for moving costs and for tele-workers who live in Mississippi but work remotely elsewhere. The measure is backed by House Speaker Philip Gunn, who has held hearings on how to combat brain drain.

SB 2182: Tax vaping devices. Would apply the 15% excise tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes to electronic smoking or vaping devices. While this bill died, a larger tax reform bill pushed by House leaders would also increase taxes on vaping. DEAD

SB 2822: M-Flex economic development incentives. This measure, pushed by Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, seeks to reform and streamline Mississippi’s hodgepodge of economic development incentives including tax breaks offered to businesses looking to relocate or expand in Mississippi. The measure would eliminate or consolidate some measures, and require more “transparency” on whether a company is living up to its promises of jobs and salaries when it receives state incentives.

HB 1364: Would conduct a voter referendum on whether to increase taxes on motor fuel to pay for designated work on state highways and to provide additional funds for transportation projects to local governments. DEAD

Multiple bills are alive to allow for the sale of state bonds to finance long-term construction projects on university and community college campuses, on state-owned buildings and for local tourism projects.

MISCELLANEOUS

SB 2825: Mississippi Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act would make several changes to state’s transportation system, including diverting lottery revenue from state highways to primarily county roads and bridges. The House Transportation Committee opposes the language transferring the lottery funds and removed it from the bill, though, the issue remains alive because the bill is alive. The bill also would move Department of Transportation law enforcement officials to the Department of Public Safety and increase the weight limit for transporting crops and other products.

HB 997: Privatize Mississippi’s liquor distribution and warehousing. Would allow private companies to take over the state’s liquor distribution and warehousing system. Would reduce the markup the state puts on liquor from 27.5% to 18%.

Lawmakers want to privatize Mississippi liquor sales, allow home delivery

SB 2486: Originally, this bill would have privatized many of the state’s parks, turned others over to local governments and converted others to conservation areas. But after much debate, the bill was amended to create a committee to study these potential moves and report back to lawmakers next year. DEAD

HB 152: Divert lottery money to state parks. This measure would have diverted $3.5 million a year from state lottery proceeds to state parks. DEAD

HB 1231: Would divert some of the sales taxes collected at sporting goods stores to a new “Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.” This money could be used for upkeep at state parks and other projects, and would help the state “draw down” federal dollars. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann opposes the diversion of taxes and other parts of the bill, and the Senate has amended it to strip out such a diversion, and make the funding subject to legislative appropriations.

SB 2727: Would have the governor and lieutenant governor appoint members to the board of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The board’s members since the agency was created have nominated their own successors, which are confirmed by the Senate. Opponents of this measure say it would politicize the process. The House has inserted a “reverse repealer” in the Senate bill, meaning it will receive more debate before it could pass.

SB 2196: Require governor or lieutenant governor to make appointments to fill vacant offices within 90 days. If a governor fails to make an appointment within 90 days, the appointment authority would shift to the lieutenant governor, and vice versa. The bill would not apply to constitutionally chartered positions, such as the state Board of Education or IHL. DEAD

HB 1019: Would require the expenditures and contributions to gubernatorial inaugurations be reported to the Secretary of State and made public. DEAD

HB 89: Allow for the issuance of bonds to incur long-term debt for improvements to be made at state parks.

SB 2012: Would make it illegal to burn the United State flag. DEAD


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