UPDATE: 10:40 a.m. – Lieutenant Governor Reeves refused to allow a roll call vote on SB 3049 stating that there were not enough members standing to request to roll call (6 or more are required). Several members objected saying they had enough members standing. They were gaveled down almost immediately by Reeves. The bill has effectively been passed from the legislature and will go to the Governor.
I urge the Mississippi House of Representatives to pass the conference report for SB 3049, which has $2 million for special needs childrens’ education in it. Send it to me, and I will sign it. #MSLeg
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) March 29, 2019
UPDATE 10:18 a.m. – The House passed the motion to table the bill 55-51 waiting on the Senate to convene and bring the issue to a close. Sine Die will likely happen after this.
The state legislature has passed a negotiated version of a spending bill to provide additional funds $2 million for special needs scholarship accounts.
The $2M was a part of a bill (SB 3049, lines 439-440) providing $27.3 million for special projects throughout the state. There has been some outcry over the passage of the bill, however, because the legislative bodies were reportedly not made aware of the presence of the $2M being spent on the Education Scholarship Account program which was denied an extension to 2024 and additional funds earlier in the session with House Education Chairman Richard Bennett citing concerns about the program.
Grant Callen, President of Empower Mississippi who has championed school choice took to social media to applaud the legislature for including the $2M.
RELATED: Special needs students not receiving promised funds
It’s always been a false choice to argue that the legislature could either give teachers a raise or help students with special needs on the ESA wait list. Yesterday, the legislature did both because both were needed, and I applaud them for it. #msleg #waitlisted
— Grant Callen (@grantcallen) March 29, 2019
VOUCHERS & Sneaky Empower MS: In a late trick play, $2Million in new voucher money was snuck in one of the final reports that were just rushed out. It passed almost unanimously after promises were made that no voucher money was in it. It was caught seconds after passage.
— Jay Hughes (@Jay4Mississippi) March 28, 2019
Tensions were high in the House Friday morning with members asking if there were secret vouchers added to various spending bills being addressed on the floor. Representative Jay Hughes took the floor speaking against the motion to table the bill including the ESA funds.
“This is not a motion to table, it’s a motion of secrecy,” said Hughes. “It’s a motion against transparency, against public school teachers, support staff, bus drivers and cafeteria workers. It is a motion against those state workers who protect our children, our elderly, our mentally ill, and our incarcerated. It’s a motion that says it’s ok to tell all working people in this state that you don’t have a single penny for anymore raises but you have $2 million in discretionary funds that you can just stick in somewhere for a special donor. It’s a motion against democracy… This is not a vote on whether you support vouchers. This is a vote on whether you support the absence of transparency, secrecy, and one person being able to play with the lives of 80,000 state workers. It is whether you respect the institution that you are in that we will do things in the daylight. A vote of no is a vote of transparency and democracy.”
The motion to table failed 52-57 and the bill will remain in limbo for the time being.
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