1/17/22 -1/28/22 Weekly Sessions Recap
Week of January 17, 2022
This is the third week of the 2022 Legislative Session. The deadline for introducing general bills and constitutional amendments was on Monday night, and committees will now begin discussing these bills in meetings. Although most work is still happening in committees, several pieces of legislation reached the House floor this week.
Senate Bill 2095, or the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, was introduced to the House on Wednesday. The bill is a follow-up to Initiative 65, which was passed by Mississippi voters in November 2020 but was struck down by the Mississippi Supreme Court over a technicality in the ballot initiative process. SB 2095 outlines a medical marijuana program that will treat conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, Crohn’s Disease, glaucoma and seizures, to name a few. After a committee amendment was adopted by the House, the program will be overseen by the Department of Health, and eligible patients with a registry ID card will be able to purchase no more than six MCEUs (Medical Cannabis Equivalency Units) a week and no more than 28 MCEUs a month. Several House members introduced amendments to SB 2095, but all except the committee amendment failed. The final bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 105-14, and the bill has been returned to the Senate.
On Thursday, House Bill 770, or the Mississippi Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, was introduced to the House. The bill would require employers to pay employees the same amount for the same work done regardless of sex or gender. Equal pay is currently protected under federal law, but HB 770 would allow someone to file a suit in state court instead of going through the federal court. Mississippi is currently the only state without an equal pay law on the books. The bill passed overwhelmingly by 114-6 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 813 would create the Mississippi Study on the Affordability of Insulin. Under the bill, the State Health Officer of the Department of Health would be required to conduct a study about the affordability of insulin for diabetes patients in the state and report the findings of the study to the Legislature by December 31, 2022. After adopting a committee amendment, the bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 113-5 and has been sent to the Senate.
The House passed House Concurrent Resolution 21 which authorizes a joint session of the Legislature next Tuesday evening to hear Governor Tate Reeves’s annual State of the State address. The address will take place on the south steps of the Capitol.
House Concurrent Resolution 8 also passed this week. HC 8 honors the Mississippi State Baseball team and congratulates them on winning the 2021 NCAA National Championship in June. The team is expected to visit the Capitol in a few weeks and will be presented with the concurrent resolution at that time.
A group that has been fighting for medical freedom for many years had their rally at the Capitol as well this week. I had the honor of addressing the group at the rally. I have been a part of the fight for medical freedom since I was first elected. To join them in the fight, visit the Mississippi Patriots for Vaccine Rights website and sign up.
This week was also a big week for the Mississippi Freedom Caucus (for which I am a co-founding member and currently serve as Treasurer and Secretary). The National Congressional Freedom Caucus has gotten behind the forming of a statewide network of Legislative Freedom Caucuses, and our group which already has existed since November of 2020 has now officially become the second state chapter to join the network. The network has hired a fulltime state director to help with our efforts here in Mississippi. Steven Utroska (former Director for Mississippi's Chapter of Americans for Prosperity) has filled that spot. For more information about the Mississippi Freedom Caucus, visit us at www.freedomcaucus.ms or like us on Facebook.
This week a bus full of Desoto, Tate, and Marshall county residents came down to attend the Americans For Prosperity's luncheon and grassroots workshop. It was so good having the opportunity to see so many familiar faces and to take the group on a tour of their State Capitol.
Next week, committees will meet even more frequently as the Legislature approaches the next deadline. After Tuesday, Feb. 1, no additional bills will be added to the House calendar for consideration, and members will meet in session for longer periods to discuss the bills that have made it out of committees.
Week of January 24, 2022
Committees met frequently during the fourth week of the legislative session, as next Tuesday’s deadline to have House Bills out of their corresponding committees quickly approaches.
After Tuesday, Feb. 1, no additional general bills will be added to the House calendar for consideration. Members will also meet in session for longer periods to discuss the bills that make it out of their respective committees. Close to 200 House bills have made it out of committee thus far, and this number should increase before the deadline.
One of the bills that reached the House floor this week was House Bill 1509. The bill would prohibit state and local officials from imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. After much debate, HB 1509 passed the House by a vote of 75-41. The bill was then held on a motion to reconsider. This is movement I have been fighting hard for since the Biden mandates came down last summer, and I have not let up on pressuring our state leaders to address the issue. While the bill doesn't go as far as I personally would like, it is certainly a step in the right direction in protecting some (albeit not all) Constitutional liberties and freedoms for Mississippians.
House Bill 607, or Parker’s Law, would create the crime of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance that results in death. In the original bill, a person who sells a controlled substance that directly leads to the user’s death could be charged with first-degree murder. After the introduction of Parker’s Law, a debate ensued regarding controlled substances and the prevalence of fentanyl in these drug-related incidents. An amendment was brought forth changing all of the mentions of “controlled substances” to “fentanyl,” and Amendment 2 passed overwhelmingly by voice vote. HB 607 passed the House by a vote of 102-7 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 169 would add athletic umpires and referees to the list of people for which the act of simple assault is elevated to aggravated assault. Under Mississippi law, simple assault carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine, while a person charged with aggravated assault could face a penalty of one to twenty years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. After many questions and debate, HB 169 was laid on the table subject to call and remains on the House calendar.
Many other bills were passed with topics including subpoenas, allowing organ donor indication on hunting and fishing licenses, the correctional system, county affairs and municipalities.
The conference report on Senate Bill 2095 (Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act) was adopted by both the House and Senate this week. The final version of the bill has been sent to Governor Tate Reeves where he can either sign or veto the bill.
The House honored Joe F. Sanderson, Jr., CEO and board chairman of Sanderson Farms, with House Resolution 9. The resolution commends Mr. Sanderson on his 75th birthday and highlights his successful leadership of his family’s company, as well as his philanthropic endeavors. Mr. Sanderson was joined by his wife, Kathy, during the HR presentation.
On Tuesday, Governor Tate Reeves delivered his third State of the State address before a Joint Session of the House and Senate. He discussed several topics important to Mississippians, including education, the economy, crime and the prison system.
Visitors at the Capitol this week included the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, the Mississippi Chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Junior League of Jackson and medical students from both University of Mississippi Medical Center and William Carey University.