1/30/23 -2/10/23 Weekly Sessions Recap
Week of January 30, 2023
The fifth week of the 2022 Legislative Session proved to be the busiest thus far. Committee meetings to discuss House bills wrapped up early in the week because of Tuesday’s general bills deadline. Members convened in the House Chamber for longer periods to discuss the legislation that made it to the calendar. More than 100 bills were discussed, and they included a wide variety of topics.
The most debated bill this week was House Bill 1168. The bill would alter the allocations of the one percent sales tax in Jackson so that funds go directly to repairing the water system. Currently, this revenue goes to water, sewer, roads and bridges. The tax generates approximately $15 million annually. Proponents of the bill said that the water system is in dire need of repair and this influx of cash would help. The opposition argued that $600 million is already coming from the federal government’s infrastructure plan, and the roads and bridges in Jackson will suffer from the lack of funding. After more than an hour of debate and two failed amendments, HB 1168 passed 76-41 before being held on a motion to reconsider.
Several education bills were passed this week. House Bill 1365 would ensure that assistant teachers receive their pay raises from last year, as well as a new salary minimum of $20,000. House Bill 1369 would adjust the funding formula of MAEP from being based on average student attendance to student enrollment. House Bill 1373, or the “Released-Time Moral Instruction Act of 2023,” would allow school boards to permit students who wish to participate in religious activities during the school day be excused with parental consent. These activities would not take place on school premises, but it would allow parents to take a child to a religious activity one hour a week without repercussions.
House Bill 989 would remove Child Protection Services from the Department of Human Services and make it a separate agency. CPS was established by the legislature in 2016 and was made a subagency of MDHS. The bill passed by a vote of 102-9 and has been sent to the Senate.
House Bill 1167 would revise the residential builder and remodeler license examination requirements for certain applicants. Currently, builders must pass an exam to obtain a license. This would provide an alternative pathway by removing the exam requirement if the applicant has been working for over five years and has three letters of recommendation. The bill passed by a unanimous vote of 110-0.
One bill that failed this week was House Bill 1375. The bill would require that an annexed area of a municipality receive services within three years of the annexation decree. If the services are not met after three years, the annexation would be deemed null and void. The bill required a three-fifths majority to pass and only received a vote of 62-45. It is now being held on a motion to reconsider.
House Bill 1392 would require the Department of Human Services to establish and maintain the Mississippi Vulnerable Persons Abuse Registry. The bill passed as amended by a vote of 113-0.
House Bill 384 would allow local authorities to permit package retail sales on Sundays from 1-6 p.m. This would only apply to wet counties and municipalities under the Local Option Beverage Control Law. HB 384 passed with a vote of 72-39 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
The Retailer Tax Fairness Act, or House Bill 735, would give store owners a tax break by not collecting state and local taxes on the 2.5% interchange fee owed to banks and credit card companies when a customer uses a credit card. The bill passed by a vote of 109-2, and it has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 1318 would revise provisions related to baby drop-off and safe haven laws. The maximum age of the infant would be changed to 90 days, and municipalities and counties would be able to sponsor a baby safety device, or “baby box,” for anonymous drop-off. The bill passed unanimously by a vote of 111-0 before being held on a motion to reconsider.
House Bill 1315 would regulate pornographic media exposure to minors by requiring commercial entities to conduct age verification of the consumer. The bill is similar to one passed in the Louisiana Legislature earlier this year. HB 1315 passed with a vote of 111-2.
House Bill 1371 would make it a felony for therapists to have sexual contact with current patients or former patients after up to twelve months of receiving services. The bill caused some debate with opponents arguing that some of the relationships could be consensual. Proponents of the bill countered that this bill was trying to prevent abuse of power by a person rendering services. The bill passed by a vote of 62-47 before being held on a motion to reconsider.
Several bills were passed unanimously with little debate: the Department of Revenue would be authorized to issue electronic titles and liens for motor vehicles and manufactured homes (House Bill 1170); state agencies would have to give preference to Mississippi-made drones, and drones made in China would be prohibited (House Bill 1293); Mississippi would enter into an occupational therapy license compact with several other states for license reciprocity in member states (House Bill 478); and veterans will now be included in provisions under occupational licensing when relating to military members (House Bill 1039).
Floor debate will continue on general bills until the Feb. 9 deadline. After that, discussion will move to appropriations and revenue bills, as well as bills originating in the Senate.
On Tuesday, Representative Alyce Clarke (D – Jackson) asked for a point of personal privilege to speak to the House. From the well, she announced that after almost 38 years of service, she will not be seeking re-election this November. Representative Clarke, who was first elected in March 1985, was the first African American woman to serve in the Mississippi Legislature.
Week of February 6, 2023
This was the sixth week of the 2023 Legislative Session, and it proved to be the busiest thus far. The House met as a whole throughout the week to discuss bills that made it out of committee and onto the calendar. Thursday, Feb. 9 was the deadline for members to introduce and discuss these general bills. Any bills not discussed in session by this deadline died on the calendar. The almost 150 bills that were considered dealt with a wide range of topics.
The most debated bill this week was House Bill 1020. The bill would create inferior courts in the Capitol Complex Improvement District, a portion of the city of Jackson, to hear criminal and civil cases within the CCID. The chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court would appoint two judges to this new district, the attorney general would appoint four prosecutors, the state defender would appoint public defenders, and various other court staff would be appointed as well. Proponents of the bill said that the bill would help with the current backlog in the court system due to crime in Jackson. Opponents argued that the CCID is located in majority-white neighborhoods in a majority-black city and that the appointments of the court officials would strip Jacksonians of their right to elect judges and prosecutors. After almost five hours of debate, the bill passed with a vote of 76-37 before being held on a motion to reconsider. That motion was tabled the next day by a vote of 76-37, and HB 1020 has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
After causing some debate and being laid on the table subject to call earlier in the session, House Bill 370 came back before the House on Thursday. The bill would have authorized a removal process of municipal elected officials using the same process of removal of county elected officers. The bill failed by a vote of 54-60.
House Bill 1276 would provide for a runoff election for state officials if no candidate receives a majority of the votes. The runoff would be held three weeks after the general election. HB 1276 passed by a vote of 75-39.
House Bill 698 would require equity-based billing on municipal water, wastewater and sewer services. The bill comes after a suggestion that the city of Jackson change to a billing system based on property values instead of water usage. The bill passed by a vote of 83-26 and will now be considered by the Senate.
Penalties for fleeing law enforcement would increase under House Bill 402. The bill comes after several accidents across the state that occurred were caused by police pursuit of a suspect. HB 402 passed by a vote of 85-31.
House Bill 1317 would have authorized pharmacists to test for minor, nonchronic health conditions and administer treatment for those conditions. The conditions included influenza, COVID-19, lice, and skin conditions like ringworm and athlete’s foot. Proponents of the bill said that this would alleviate long waiting room times at a doctor’s office and that pharmacists are knowledgeable about diseases and medicines after going to pharmacy school for four years. Opponents argued that doctors are specifically trained in diagnosing and treating conditions. HB 1317 was tabled, therefore it died on the calendar.
House Bill 1070 would create the Patriotic Education Grant Program under the Department of Education. The program would encourage school districts to teach American history outside of regular school requirements. School districts would be able to apply for grants for activities like after-school clubs, field trips and guest speakers. HB 1070 passed with a vote of 110-6 and will now go to the Senate.
House Bill 1490 would require the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to suspend hunting licenses for people who fail to pay child support. The bill passed 81-29 and has been sent to the Senate.
House Bill 723 would establish the Mississippi Transit Corporation and create a study committee to make recommendations for bus, rail and light rail services in Mississippi. The bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 109-7.
Two bills would give Mississippi an official gemstone and an official fruit. House Bill 772 would designate the Mississippi Opal as the official state gemstone. Opal is the only gem found thus far to be naturally occurring in the state. HB 772 passed unanimously and has been sent to the Senate. House Bill 1027 would make the blueberry the official state fruit of Mississippi. Fourth graders from Mannsdale Elementary School in Madison conducted research and discovered that the blueberry is the most grown and sold fruit within the state. The students contacted Representative Jill Ford (R – Madison) who introduced the bill on their behalf. HB 1027 passed by a vote of 110-1 and will now go to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 264 would extend the repealer on the statute requiring certain buildings to meet energy efficiency standards. The bill was introduced by Representative Andy Boyd (R – Columbus) marking his first time presenting a bill from the well. HB 264 passed by a vote of 117-2.
Several bills that passed overwhelmingly with little debate included the following: the Department of Public Safety would be authorized to issue state identification cards to homeless individuals (House Bill 368); language in the Mississippi Code regarding rape would be updated, and spousal exception of rape would be removed (House Bill 995); a domestic abuse court program would be established (House Bill 170); and the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks would be allowed to issue a hunting license to a person whose parents was born in Mississippi and on active duty military service at the time of the applicant’s birth (House Bill 49).
The coming weeks will consist of floor discussion of House appropriations and other revenue bills. The deadline for these types of bills to be sent to the Senate is Wednesday, Feb. 22. The House will then begin work on general originating in the Senate.
Visitors to the House this week included the Mississippi Film Office; Miss Rodeo America Kennadee Diggs, Miss Rodeo Mississippi Jacqueline Ervin and Miss Dixie National Wren Algee; students and teachers from Barack Obama Magnet School; leaders from Mississippi 4-H; Miss Mississippi Emmie Perkins of Hattiesburg; Crusaders for Veterans; Teen Pact; and the Mississippi Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.