Following Wednesday’s deadline for general bills and constitutional amendments to receive original floor action, Mississippi lawmakers have cut down on the issues they believe are worth focusing on as sine die is less than a month away.
Below is a list of key bills that are either still alive or have made it to the desk of Gov. Tate Reeves.
With 28 hospitals across the state in danger of closing, lawmakers continue to discuss 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 2371 would create grants for both community college nursing programs and residency and fellowship programs at the state’s hospitals.
Mississippi teachers may be able to soon arm themselves in the classroom if lawmakers approve Senate Bill 2079, which would establish a School Safety Guardian Training Program. Governing bodies of school systems throughout the state would have the autonomy to determine whether or not they will participate in the program. Authorities within participating school districts would either approve or deny permission for a volunteer school employee to be involved in the program.
Restoring Ballot Initiative Process
A resolution that would revive the state’s ballot initiative process continues to be debated in the Mississippi legislature. Senate Concurrent Resolution 533 proposes that only the legislature can propose amendments to the Mississippi constitution, as well as restricting residents from placing issues regarding abortion or PERs on the ballot. Under the House’s amended version, which the Senate is not expected to agree with, the signature threshold would be set at 106,000.
Jackson Water Tax
After countless boil water notices and failures at Jackson’s water treatment plants, legislators are attempting to pass a bill that would designate a portion of the city’s sales tax to fund needed repairs to the water and sewer system. House Bill 1168 would require Jackson’s one percent infrastructure sales tax to only be used on fixing issues with the capital city’s water and sewer system.
Online Sports Betting
House Bill 606 initially paved the pathway to have mobile sports betting legalized outright, but the bill was later amended to add further regulations. Now, the updated version of HB 606 would create an 11-member Mobile-Online Sports Betting Task Force. At this time, in Mississippi, the only legal wagers on sporting events can take place within the confines of certified casinos.
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.
Banning TikTok on Government Phones
Legislation that would ban the use of TikTok on any state-issued device or network has been returned to the Senate after the House adopted a committee amendment last week. Senate Bill 2140, or the “National Security on State Devices and Networks Act,” prohibits state employees from downloading or using the TikTok application on a state-issued device or state-operated network. State agencies and public officers are also not allowed to operate an account or publish content on the app.
Healthcare Access for Disabled Children
Senate Bill 2167, which is known as the “Early Intervention Pilot Project,” would create a panel of state officials, university faculty members, parents, pediatricians, psychologists, and representatives from local nonprofits to work towards providing greater access to early intervention services for children suspected to have disabilities.
Jackson Court System & CCID Jurisdiction
An amended version of House Bill 1020, which has been the center of attention and controversy among leaders in Mississippi’s capital city, has passed the Senate and been sent back to the House for further consideration. The legislation initially served to enact a court system within the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) that would operate separately from the Hinds County Court and expand the CCID to cover a larger land mass which would be under the exclusive jurisdiction of state-funded Capitol Police. Under the amended version of HB 1020, five special judges funded by the state would hold temporary positions to reduce the backlog of court cases in Jackson. Three would hear both civil and criminal cases, while two will exclusively hear criminal cases. Moreover, the state would fund three additional assistant prosecutors who would serve full-time positions.
The Senate unanimously passed an amended bill earlier this week seeking to fully fund the Mississippi adequate Education Program (MAEP) for the first time since 2007. House Bill 1369, which Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White recently said is unlikely to pass the House with the new amendments, would allocate roughly $181 million to the program. Reeves has since pitched in on the matter, urging lawmakers to remain cautious of the bill’s Democratic support and instead approve another teacher pay raise.
Legislators are still discussing a bill that would allow law enforcement to use their official uniform, firearm, and vehicle while working for private security services during off-duty hours. According to Senate Bill 2239, officers across Mississippi may be able to use such items issued in their law enforcement division with approval from their superiors.
Mississippi lawmakers are working to shield the state’s farmland from being controlled by hostile foreign nations. House Bill 280 was originally intended to completely prohibit foreign investors from purchasing farmland in Mississippi, but a recent amendment has proposed that a committee study the matter prior to implementing a strict law.
Volunteer Firefighter Benefits
Volunteer firefighters in Mississippi may soon be given annual payments as an incentive to serve communities across the state with the legislature’s approval of House Bill 521. The bill, also known as the “Mississippi Length of Service Award Program,” 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.
Postpartum Medicaid Extension
Arguably the biggest splash of the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers came together to pass an extension of postpartum Medicaid benefits from 60 days to 12 months. Senate Bill 2212 makes Mississippi the final state to pass legislation extending postpartum benefits for new mothers. Gov. Tate Reeves has already vowed to sign the bill.
Nurse Loan Repayment Program
Reeves signed Senate Bill 2373 into law Wednesday to create a loan repayment program for nurses who choose to work in Mississippi. The program will award nurses up to $6,000 each year for three years ($18,000 total) to go toward any outstanding student loan debt.
Transgender Healthcare Access
Reeves recently signed House Bill 1125 into law, banning gender-affirming care for minors. The bill, which is destined to be subject of future lawsuits, prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from receiving hormone treatments or therapy.
Prohibition of EV Direct Sale Dealerships
Legislation that would prohibit electric vehicle companies from opening direct sale dealerships in Mississippi has passed both chambers and heads to the governor’s desk. Proponents of House Bill 401 argue that this bill simply reinforces half-century-old franchise laws, while opponents of the bill see the legislation as an attempt to protect franchise dealership locations from the EV industry’s use of direct sales. Reeves has until March 14 to sign or veto the bill.
Fentanyl Testing Strips
House Bill 722 heads to the governor’s desk after being unanimously passed in both chambers. The bill, which would remove fentanyl strips from being considered paraphernalia, is intended to help put a stop to fentanyl overdoses across the state. Reeves has until March 14 to make a decision on the legislation.
Tax Misspender Registry
Senate Bill 2420, if signed by Reeves, will create a public registry of offenders found guilty of embezzling or misappropriating public funds. Aimed at cracking down on the corrupt handling of public money in Mississippi, anyone added to the registry will remain on the list until the state or municipality is reimbursed. They will also be prohibited from holding certain government positions.
Reeves has until March 14 to sign House Bill 1027 into law, naming the blueberry as the official state fruit of Mississippi. The bill made it through the legislative process with just one dissenting vote. The watermelon and tomato were also considered.
Mississippi officially has a state gemstone after Reeves signed Senate Bill 2138 into law this past Friday. The Mississippi Opal is the only gem naturally produced within the state’s geographical boundaries. It was first discovered in Claiborne County in 2004.