Legislative report as of February 26, 2021

MS Rep. Sam Creekmore, IV NEMiss.news
MS State Representative Sam Creekmore, IV
March 2nd, 2021     Government & Politics

 

The House of Representatives in Mississippi has almost finished with House bills for the 2021 Legislative Session.  The bills remaining in the House are mostly Local and Private bills.   The bills that have passed have been sent to the Senate for their analysis in committee and then floor approval.  Here is a summary of the house bills that have been sent to the Senate so far.

House Bill 997 would remove the Department of Revenue from being a wholesale distributor of alcoholic beverages within the state and allow for wholesale permits to be issued to private companies.  The Department of Revenue currently operates the Alcoholic Beverage Control warehouse in Gluckstadt. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 104-3 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Another bill that would change alcohol laws was House Bill 1135. The bill would create a delivery service permit to allow the holder to contract for the delivery of alcoholic beverages from a licensed retailer to a consumer.  HB 1135 passed the House by a vote of 71-38.

One greatly debated bill was House Bill 1315.  The bill would repeal occupational licenses for art therapists, auctioneers, interior designers, funeral home directors and wigologists.  Proponents of the bill noted that these professions pose no real threat to public safety and have no need for state regulation, while those opposed argued that this repeal would lead to a lack of oversight in these industries.  HB 1315 passed by a vote of 74-36, and the bill is now being held on a motion to reconsider.

House Bill 1302 was another source of much debate among House members.  The bill would authorize optometrists who have passed educational requirements and have professional experience to perform certain procedures to treat eye diseases.  Proponents of the bill stated that the proposed procedures are already being taught in optometry schools and are allowed in neighboring states.  Opponents of the bill debated that these procedures should be performed by licensed physicians who specialize in ophthalmology.  The bill passed 90-25 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1303 would allow advance practice registered nurses, or nurse practitioners, who have met certain experience requirements to practice primary care without a collaborative agreement with a licensed physician.  The bill passed the House by a vote of 78-38.

House Bill 122 would authorize expungement for up to three felony convictions if 15 years have passed since a person’s last felony conviction.  Various felonies such as violent crimes, arson and trafficking would not be eligible for expungement.  The bill passed by a vote of 78-42 and is now being held on a motion to reconsider.

A number of noncontroversial bills also passed through the House this week, including a bill naming the firing range at the MS Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy after Lieutenant Colonel Pat Cronin (HB 9); a bill authorizing the sale of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine without a prescription (HB 479); a bill authorizing the Department of Corrections to provide hospice care to terminally-ill patients (HB 1174); and a bill exempting law enforcement officers from concealed firearms permit fees and renewal fees (HB 886).

The Mississippi Intercollegiate Athletics Compensation Rights Act (House Bill 1030) was a bill introduced late on Thursday.  The bill would allow university and college student athletes in Mississippi to receive compensation if their name or likeness is used in advertising.  A few amendments were passed without debate.  A third amendment was introduced that contained language similar to a bill that passed through the Senate this week (Senate Bill 2536). Proponents of the amendment said that it would protect female sports from male participation, while opponents argued that the language could affect women who already play male sports and athletes born with both male and female reproductive organs. After a point of order was raised and the original amendment was withdrawn, a fourth amendment was introduced clarifying that biologically male student athletes cannot receive compensation for likeness in sports designated for females.  The bill passed the House by a vote of 89-23.

The House Judiciary A Committee introduced House Bill 196, or the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act.  The act would elevate the level of care for female inmates by limiting use of restraints on incarcerated inmates giving birth, by providing feminine hygiene products for inmates who are in need and by placing incarcerated mothers within a certain distance to their minor children.  The bill passed unanimously by a vote of 116-0 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 852 would raise the salaries of teachers and teacher’s assistants around the state.  The bill includes a $1,100 raise to assistants and teachers with less than two years of experience and a $1,000 raise for other teachers. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 119-2 and will now move through the Senate.

House Bill 1013 would create the Mississippi Medicaid Commission to administer the state’s Medicaid program.  The bill would also abolish the Division of Medicaid that currently runs the program.  The commission would consist of seven members: three appointed by the governor and four appointed by the lieutenant governor.  The commission would then appoint an executive director to oversee the program.  The bill passed by a vote of 102-25. It was then held on a motion to reconsider, but that motion was later tabled.

One bill that failed to receive a majority this week was House Bill 163.  The bill would have created a new circuit court district consisting of Itawamba, Lee, Monroe and Pontotoc Counties.  These counties are currently in the First Circuit Court District along with Alcorn, Tishomingo and Prentiss Counties.  The bill failed by a vote of 57-58 and was held on a motion to reconsider.  After being left on the calendar, the bill died at the end of the week.

House Bill 1136, or the Mississippi Educational Talent Recruitment Act, would create an incentive program for recent college graduates who go into teaching.  The program would allow these recent graduates of in-state and out-of-state higher institutions who establish residency in Mississippi to earn a rebate equal to the amount of the individual’s state income tax for five years.  The bill passed by a vote of 109-10 and will go to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 413 would establish a “Mississippi Gospel Music Trail” similar to other trails around the state: the Blues Trail, the Country Music Trail, the Writers Trail and the Freedom Trail.  Part of the bill would create a Mississippi Gospel Music Commission under the Mississippi Development Authority to plan and promote the program.  The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 119-2 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 633, or the Mississippi Computer Science and Cyber Education Equality Act, would require the Department of Education to implement a computer science curriculum in K-12 public schools.  According to the bill, more than half of Mississippi high schools do not currently teach a computer science course.  Although some debate occurred regarding the cost of implementing the program, the bill passed by a vote of 114-4.

Many bills passed the House with overwhelming majority including a bill that would prohibit a new landfill in counties where two or more were located (House Bill 949); two bills expanding broadband access in the state (House Bills 942 and 505) the Sexual Assault Response for College Students Act (House Bill 581); a bill prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies to implement traffic ticket quotas (House Bill 883); and a bill authorizing libraries to accept debit and credit cards as a form of payment (House Bill 488).

House Bill 1439, or the Mississippi Tax Freedom Act of 2021, would make several changes to current Mississippi tax laws including immediately eliminating the state income tax on $50,000 of individual income and $100,000 for married couples’ income; phasing out the state income tax entirely over a ten-year period; cutting the grocery tax from 7% to 4.5% immediately, then to 3.5% by FY 2027; and increasing the sales tax from 7% to 9.5%.  After much debate, HB 1439 passed the House by a vote of 85-34.

Sam Creekmore sam@carpediemholdingsllc.com

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