The ninth week of the 2020 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 bill deadline. After Tuesday, all general bills that were not passed out of committee died before reaching the House calendar. The House convened Wednesday through Friday to discuss legislation that made it out of committee. The bills that were considered dealt with a variety of topics.
House Bill 1208, or the Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Act, would legalize the cultivation, processing and transportation of the hemp plant. Industrial hemp is a distinct strain of the cannabis plant that can be refined into commercial items, such as paper, textiles and clothing. Proponents of the bill said that the production of hemp would help farmers and be a boost for the state’s economy. Opponents of the bill argued that regulation and enforcement could be difficult because of its close resemblance to marijuana. The bill passed the House with a vote of 104-10.
Another greatly debated bill was House Bill 730, which would allow municipalities with a population of less than 2,500 residents to conduct special elections at one central polling place. If enacted into law, it would only apply to special elections. Both general elections and primaries would still be held at regular voting precincts. Proponents of the bill said it would help smaller communities save money in special elections. Opponents argued that the law could potentially hinder people by showing up at their regular voting precinct to cast their ballot instead of the temporary polling place. An amendment to the bill was added calling for a notice to be placed in front of the regular precincts informing voters of the change. The bill passed the House as amended by a vote of 94-21.
Several bills on the floor this week covered the sale of alcohol across the state. House Bill 917 would allow for the sale of light spirit products, which by definition contain no more than 4% of alcohol. These products would be regulated in the same way as beer and light wine. HB 917 passed by a vote of 82-28 and has been sent to the Senate. House Bill 4 would increase the maximum number of package retailer’s permits a person may own from one to three. Debate ensued when opponents argued that this change could potentially impact small business owners around the state, while proponents noted that other states have similar laws and that the change would increase healthy economic competition. The bill had a vote on the floor of 57-55, but a motion to reconsider was entered and a point of order was raised asking if the bill required a three-fifths majority instead.
House Bill 978 would increase the penalties for the crime of hazing, including failing to report hazing. This bill comes after a string of hazing-related deaths among U.S. college students in recent years. The bill passed the House by a vote of 96-18 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
A number of noncontroversial bills also passed through the House this week, including a bill creating the “Future of Mississippi Agriculture Act of 2020” (HB 1566), a bill allowing freestanding emergency rooms to be established near recently closed rural hospitals (HB 752), a bill requiring inspection of amusement and carnival rides (HB 999) and a bill allowing active duty highway patrolmen to teach driver’s education programs (HB 1503).
Floor debate will continue on these general bills until the March 12 deadline.
Many group convened at the Capitol this week. On Tuesday, the state's Republican Women came from all over the state to Jackson for their annual convocation and lunch. I had the joy of having my favorite Republican woman (my wife Corey) at the Capitol, along with the honor of having lunch with both our Desoto County Women's Republican Club President Brenda Womble, Desoto County Republican Club Vice-President Betty Farmer, and a host of other Republican Women from back home.
In addition to the Republican Women, the Mississippi
Parents for Vaccine Rights were at the Capitol to ask that religious freedom and parental rights be granted to Mississippians. For years, this group has fought to gain the same rights guaranteed in 47 other states, but denied in Mississippi. Many of these parents of vaccine injured children must face the impossible decision/task of continuing to vaccinate their injured child or be denied a public education. As a parent of a vaccine injured child, I am very active in this group, and was honored to both open the event with prayer and have an opportunity to speak. For more information about the
group, or to join the fight for these Constitutional Rights and Freedoms which are available in every surrounding state yet being denied in ours, please visit MPVR's Facebook Page or Website.
This week was also a big week for Desoto County Schools in Jackson. I had the pleasure of taking the Desoto Central Middle School's Student Council on a tour of their capitol, while explaining the legislative process to them and fielding questions. Desoto County was also well represented at the Secretary of State's "Get Out The Vote" awards ceremony. Many of our students from across the county won awards in both art and writing. I was especially thrilled to have Horn Lake High School Student Hailey Morano and teacher Cole Bostick be recognized and receive awards.
Other visitors this week included singer-songwriter and Mississippi native Paul Overstreet, opera conductor William Garfield Walker, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, realtors from across the state, students from Obama Magnet Elementary School, Canopy Children’s Solutions and the Mississippi Association of Nurse Practitioners.