1/4/22 -1/14/22 Weekly Sessions Recap
Week of January 3, 2022
The Mississippi legislature began this year’s legislative session on Tuesday, January 4th. Many big items are set to be addressed over the next few months. Several noteworthy agenda items are the state income tax elimination, establishing a medical marijuana program, a rework of the state referendum process, congressional and state legislative redistricting, the banning of Critical Race Theory, and a host of efforts to curb the Biden administrations unconstitutional overreach that has come to our state in the form of employer vaccine mandates.
In what will more than likely play out to be a very interesting and potentially contentious session, it only took three days for conflict to raise its head. On Thursday the 6th, the Mississippi House of Representatives took up the only piece of legislation addressed in either chamber for the week – the approval of the Congressional Redistricting Plan. Democrats argued that the proposed Congressional House District 2, currently being served by Representative Bennie Thompson, was geographically too large. District 2 lost some 65,000 residents over the last 10 years, more population than any other district. Population had to be pulled from contiguous counties to the district, without adversely affecting the minority majority status of the predominantly Mississippi Delta district. The Democrats offered up their own plan in the form of an amendment, which was voted down by the body. In the end, the plan offered up by the joint congressional redistricting committee (on which I serve), was passed. A lawsuit has already been filed over the issue. It is important to note, that the Black Voting Age Population remained higher under the committee’s plan that was approved by the House, than the one offered up by the NAACP and Representative Bennie Thompson.
Many in the Senate, along with Lt. Governor Hosemann tested positive for COVID, and that chamber dismissed early for the week without taking up any legislation.
Early in the week it was great visiting with my good friends Ron Scarborough and Bruce Cook (the former state directors for the Convention of States Movement in Mississippi). They were there introducing the new leaders as they pass the baton. Mississippi was the 15th state to join the movement and two more states joined so far this year.
On Friday, I did a live show with my good friend Gerard Gibert on SuperTalk MISSISSIPPI. On the program we talked about both Congressional redistricting, state redistricting, and legislative issues and priorities which are sure to be at the forefront of the session, especially dealing with all of the unconstitutional COVID related mandates.
Week of January 10, 2022
For the last four years in the legislature, I have led the Capitol Prayer Group. The group is made up of Representative, Senators, Department and Agency Heads, Lobbyist, and concerned citizens from the Jackson metro area. At the beginning of each week, we come together for prayer and a devotion. At the beginning of each session I organize a prayer walk to go around the Capitol and pray for God's blessing and guidance for the leadership and people of our state and nation.
Three major pieces of legislation were passed in their respective chambers this week. These bills will now continue on through the legislative process.
Senate Bill 2095 passed the Senate and will be transmitted to the House. This bill will be responsible for establishing a Medical Marijuana program in the state, after Initiative 65 was struck down earlier in the year by the Mississippi Supreme Court. This 450+ page bill has not been without its share of controversy. Senate members as a whole, didn’t even have access to the bill until a few days before the vote. After much deliberation, the bill passed 45 to 5.
In the House, two major pieces of legislation passed, and will be transmitted to the Senate. The first was House Bill 531. This bill if ultimately enacted into law, will eventually eliminate the state income tax. Under this plan, each individual Mississippian will initially receive a $40,000 exemption to their income (or $80,000 per married couple). The remaining taxes for those households making over their allotted exemption, will continue to pay taxes at the 5% rate. Those still paying income tax would ultimately be phased out over the following decade based on state growth and revenue triggers. In addition to the exemption, individual car tags would be cut in half, and taxes on groceries would ultimately be reduced to 4%. To offset some of the lost revenue to the state from this plan, the state’s sales tax would increase from 7% to 8.5%, which is still less than our surrounding states. For the majority of Mississippians, the savings through tag and grocery tax reductions, along with greater income exemptions, will more than offset any increase resulting from sales taxes. The bill passed 96 to 12.
The third major piece of legislation taken up for the week, was also passed in the House, and will now be taken up by the Senate. House Bill 530, is a teacher pay raise bill. This bill would raise teacher and teacher assistant pay above our surrounding states. It would also raise starting pay above the national average. If HB 530 makes it into law, it would be the largest teacher pay increase in Mississippi’s history. The bill does however come with a pretty hefty price tag, almost a quarter billion dollars in additional expense to the taxpayers per year. Several in the House argued that they would like to see every working Mississippian receive a pay raise through the elimination of the state income tax. With the increase cost that this bill would cause to state government, it is argued that future triggers that would fully eliminate the income tax would be put in jeopardy. The bill passed 114 to 6.
During the week, many of our municipal leaders were down here in Jackson at their annual conference, and I was pleased to hang out with two of our Horn Lake Alderman and their wives (Dave Young and wife Bettie, Robby Dupree and wife Heather) and Horn Lake's City Manager Jim Robinson.