The Mississippi legislature returned on Tuesday to gavel in the 2021 session. EmPower Mississippi provides a recap of what occurred this week and an overview of what is to come.
The first major deadline of the year will be the deadline for the introduction of bills on January 18 followed by a February 2 deadline for committees to report on general bills. If all goes as scheduled, the last day will be April 4.
A number of bills have already been introduced, but the slow trickle will speed up in the days ahead. The main action from the first week was the ratification of the new state flag adopted by voters last fall. House Bill 1 quickly moved through the House and Senate and was sent to the governor on the second day of the session.
New this year, Empower Mississippi will be rating and promoting bills we support during the session.
Here are two early bills we supported last year that have been introduced again.
- Senate Bill 2048, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Blackwell, would require five state agencies to begin a regulatory reduction program over the next three years.
- Senate Bill 2019, sponsored by Sen. Tammy Witherspoon, would prohibit public employers from using an applicant’s criminal history as an initial barrier to employment.
Birthed in 2004 through the work of All of Us or None, the Ban the Box campaign has been focused on allowing skills and qualifications to be the preliminary deciding factors for an applicant’s progression through the hiring process, as opposed to arrest and conviction history. The impact of this movement reached national heights as Congress passed the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019, as a part of the larger National Defense Authorization Act to address the issue within federal hiring practices.
This would only apply to state and local government employers, not private employers.
Currently, over 100,000 Mississippians have some sort of criminal record that would appear on a background check. This bill, if adopted into law, would prevent that information from being disclosed until the applicant has signed a waiver to release the information, been considered for a specific position, or granted an interview.
Putting Mississippians back to work is and should continue to be a major focus. Mississippi currently ranks 5th in the lowest labor force participation rate in the country. To date, over 30 states and over 100 cities and counties have adopted some form of fair chance practices including our neighboring southern state of Louisiana
Mississippians with skills and expertise that are giving a fair chance to gainful employment without being overlooked due to the stigma of past mistakes increase our workforce participation, grow our economy, and ultimately increase our public safety.
Empower Mississippi supports this legislation.
It has been referred to the Labor Committee. You can read the bill here.