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Dead or alive? Legislation that made it out of committee deadline day

Mississippi legislature
The top of the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson (Photo by SuperTalk Mississippi News)

Following Tuesday’s deadline for general bills and constitutional amendments to come out of their corresponding committees, Mississippi lawmakers have cut down on the issues they believe are worth focusing on with two months remaining in the 2023 legislative session.

Here are some important bills that are still alive and now head over to their cross-chamber counterparts for additional debate.

Hospital Aid

With 38 hospitals across Mississippi currently in danger of closing, lawmakers have proposed multiple bills they believe would serve as both short-term and long-term solutions to the state’s hospital crisis.

Senate Bill 2372 would provide $80 million in lifeline money for struggling hospitals. Senate Bill 2323 would allow community hospitals to collaborate and consolidate with non-profit entities. Senate Bill 2373 would create a loan repayment program, awarding nurses $6,000 each year for three years. Senate Bill 2371 would create grants for both community college nursing programs and residency and fellowship programs at the state’s hospitals.

Postpartum Medicaid Extension

While Democratic lawmakers were not able to get full Medicaid expansion through the legislature in the previous legislative session, one bill that would expand postpartum benefits has been passed from the committee on Senate Medicaid. Senate Bill 2212 would “authorize and direct the division of Medicaid to provide up to 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum.” At this time, Mississippi and Wyoming are the only remaining states in the United States that do not have an extension of postpartum benefits to 12 months or a full expansion of Medicaid.

Restoring Ballot Initiative Process

For the second year in a row, lawmakers are looking to restore the ballot initiative process in Mississippi. The process, which previously gave residents the ability to propose laws and constitutional amendments with enough signatures, was stripped by the Mississippi Supreme Court in May 2021 when it ruled that medical marijuana was improperly placed on the ballot during the prior election cycle. Senate Bill 2638 would restore the process, but as the text currently reads, any initiative put forth by voters would first have to be approved by the legislature before becoming law.

Transgender Healthcare Access

As one of more than two dozen states seeking to restrict transgender healthcare access, House Bill 1125 would ban gender-confirming care for minors. The legislation, which has already passed the House by a 78-30 vote, would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from receiving hormone treatments or therapy.

Arming Teachers

Following confusion last year in which the Mississippi Department of Education seemingly opened the door for school personnel to carry guns on campus before going back and prohibiting the idea, House Bill 532 and Senate Bill 2079 would allow some school employees to carry concealed firearms. Licenses would be required, along with instructional courses, and weapons could only be used in a “situation that would cause death or bodily harm.”

Transferring Jackson’s Water System

After countless boil water notices and failures at Jackson’s water treatment plants, legislators are attempting to transfer ownership of the capital city’s water system to a new public entity. According to Senate Bill 2889, which is titled the “Mississippi Capitol Region Utility Act”, a nine-member board composed of city and state-appointed leaders would be created to ensure clean water is provided to Jackson residents. The board would be composed of four individuals appointed by the mayor of Jackson, three from the governor, and two from the lieutenant governor.

Unelected Court System in Jackson

Lawmakers are looking to curb crime in Mississippi’s capital city with an unprecedented measure that has received pushback. House Bill 1020 would create a new court system within the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) that would act separately from the Hinds County Court. Judges would be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and prosecutors will be appointed by the state’s Attorney General. The CCID would expand to cover roughly 26 miles of Jackson and Capitol Police would have exclusive jurisdiction over the land mass.

Fentanyl Testing Strips

As cases of fentanyl overdoses become a rising epidemic across the state, lawmakers are looking to decriminalize the use of fentanyl test strips in Mississippi. House Bill 722, which has been passed unanimously in the House, would remove the test strips from being considered paraphernalia in an effort to decrease the number of accidental overdoses due to fentanyl-laced drugs.

Prohibition of EV Direct Sales

Legislation that would prohibit electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers from the direct sale of vehicles has passed the House and now heads to the Senate. The bill, in an effort to protect franchise dealership locations from the route-to-market strategy exploited by EV companies, would require all auto manufacturers in Mississippi to exclusively sell through independent retailers.

Online Sports Betting

Mobile sports betting is now legal in 26 states and there has been a push to legalize it in Mississippi. House Bill 606 would make online sports betting legal in Mississippi. Mississippians would legally be able to wager on sporting events and other events sanctioned by the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

Recall Elections

Lawmakers looking to provide residents with a way to remove officials from office have proposed a bill that would allow recall elections on the municipal level. According to House Bill 370, at least 30 percent of voters in an area must sign a petition requesting for an election to be held to remove the municipal official. At this time, recall elections can only be held to remove county elected officials from office. The bill has been passed from the committee on House Judiciary B and is subject to call.

Volunteer Firefighter Benefits

Legislation that would provide volunteer firefighters in Mississippi with annual payments as an incentive to serve communities across the state has been passed from three House committees. The Mississippi Length of Service Award Program (House Bill 521) would allow volunteers to receive up to $500 each year if a minimum number of service points is met. On top of the yearly payments, the program would also award a lump sum of $10,000 after 20 years of service.

Pecan Theft

Pecan farmers in Mississippi are looking to crack down on pecan thefts, with Senate Bill 2523 aiming to place tougher penalties on those who steal pecans during harvesting season. Those found guilty of stealing pecans would be subject to the penalties of petty larceny or grand larceny.

Pet Insurance

Pet lovers may be able to purchase insurance for their animals in Mississippi with the help of House Bill 1191. The bill would “establish the legal framework by which pet insurance may be sold in this state.”

State Fruit

House Bill 1027 proposes that the Mississippi legislature should “designate the blueberry as the state fruit of Mississippi.” The blueberry, which is native to the southeastern portion of the U.S., is a massive fruit crop across Mississippi as over 2,000 acres are used for growing blueberries alone.

State Gemstone

Two bills proposing that the Mississippi Opal be named the state’s gemstone have been passed by the committees on House and Senate Tourism. Both Senate Bill 2138 and House Bill 772 would “designate the Mississippi Opal as the official state gemstone” as the opal is the only gem naturally produced within the state’s geographical boundaries.

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