Legislature hits next major deadline

Jackson, Mississippi, USA cityscape at dusk.

On Thursday, the legislature hit their latest major deadline of the session. All “general bills” (the ones that create or change laws) and constitutional amendments had to pass the chamber they originated in.

A great deal of the energy so far this session has been focused on the city of Jackson and bills that attempt to address the various ailments of Mississippi’s capital city. But there are other issues being addressed as well, albeit with less attention. Here are a few we are supporting.

  • House Bill 1150, authored by Rep. Randy Boyd, would make needed updates to the state’s charter school law that was passed 10 years ago. It passed the House in a bare-bones form, keeping it alive for possible amendment in the Senate.
  • House Bill 1173, authored by Rep. Richard Bennett, would provide charter school teachers the same debit cards provided to teachers in traditional public schools that help pay for classroom supplies. That bill has passed the full House.
  • House Bill 1000, authored by Rep. Bill Kinkade, was introduced as a bill to make children in foster care eligible for an Education Scholarship Account (ESA), but the House eliminated the reference to ESAs and now will allow foster children to attend the school or school district chosen by their foster parent or their adoptive parent, if the child was adopted out of the state’s foster care system. With that pared-down change, it has passed the House.
  • House Bill 752, authored by Rep. Larry Byrd, would make the Dyslexia Scholarship available to children starting in kindergarten. The scholarship eligibility currently does not start until first grade. It has passed the House.
  • Senate Bill 2160, authored by Sen. Kevin Blackwell, was introduced to dissolve the Boards of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners – two of the most regulated professions (unnecessarily so) in the state – and move their operations to the Department of Health. This week, cosmetologists and barbers expressed their desire to merge these boards, a move they have vehemently opposed in the past. The Senate passed the bill after amending it to combine the two boards, lower the age requirements to be eligible for a license, and allow a licensure pathway through apprenticeship rather than only through cosmetology or barber schools.
  • House Bill 722, authored by Rep. Chris Bell, would decriminalize fentanyl testing strips, which could be used to prevent drug overdoses and reduce harm if they were decriminalized and available. It has passed the House and heads to the Senate.

These bills will now go to the other chamber (House bills to the Senate and vice versa), where they will be assigned to a committee to be approved, amended, or die. But in the meantime, the focus will now shift to finances. After adopting the largest tax cut in state history last year, will there be an appetite for more cuts? Will rebate checks be an option the legislature pursues? We will know more in the coming weeks. All appropriations and revenue bills must clear the chamber they originate in by Wednesday, February 22.