Mississippi lawmakers filed nearly 2,000 bills as of this week’s deadline for drafting general legislation, slightly lower than the nearly 2,500 that had been filed this time last year.

With the COVID-19 pandemic — and at least three cases reported among lawmakers — the legislative leadership has urged members to limit the number of bills they file this year so the session can be wrapped up quickly and the 174-member Legislature can leave the Capitol. Committee chairmen said leaders also urged them to drastically limit the number of bills they take up and move forward out of committees this session.

More bills will be filed later — taxing, spending and other bills face later deadlines for drafting and filing. Last year, more than 2,800 total bills were filed. In a typical session, about 600 or so general bills will be passed into law.

Here are some key bills we are watching in the Mississippi Legislature this session. This list will be updated.

EDUCATION

SB 2001: Teacher pay raise. This would give all teachers and assistants a $1,000 annual pay raise. For starting teachers through three years with a bachelor’s degree, it would be $1,110, raising the starting salary to $37,000. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann is pushing for a raise, a major campaign promise.

SB 2142: Corporal punishment. Would establish the right of public school parents or guardians to choose to include or not include a student in the district’s corporal punishment police.

SB 2267: Teacher license reciprocity. Aimed at helping combat teacher shortages, this would allow teachers licensed in other states to more easily obtain a standard five-year license to teach in Mississippi.

SB 2314/HB 316: Compulsory kindergarten attendance. One of several such measures proposed again this year, it would apply the state’s compulsory school attendance law to 5-year-olds.

SB 2305: Would repeal the multiple teacher loan programs that have not been funded for six years and replace with the William F. Winter and Jack Reed Sr. Teacher Loan Repayment Program. The bill aims to pay a portion of a teacher’s college loan each year for three years after first graduating from college and accepting a teaching position in the state.

HB 314: Allows the Mississippi State Board of Education to receive donations and gifts. Authored by Chairman Bennett.

SB 2536: Mississippi Fairness Act. Would require K-12 and higher education schools to designate teams based on biological sex and prevent students from playing on teams that align with their gender identity. Students who don’t make a team could sue schools that violate this section; they could also sue if they encounter a student of the opposite sex in bathrooms or locker rooms.

HB 802: Voting precincts on college campuses. Would require voting precincts on public and private four-year colleges.

SB 2313/ HB 1030: Would allow student athletes to be paid for their name, image, likeness, and endorsements.

HEALTH CARE

HB 156: Medicaid managed care. Would require managed care companies to provide detailed, signed explanation for denial of coverage for a procedure, signed by the person who denied the coverage.

HB 207: Would expand Medicaid as is allowed under federal law to provide coverage to primarily the working poor. Numerous bills have been filed this year to expand Medicaid.

Various efforts have been under way for multiple years to expand Medicaid with the federal government paying most of the costs.

HB 1013: Would establish a commission to govern the Division of Medicaid, which is currently operated by an executive director appointed by the governor. The commission would consist of seven members. Four would be appointed by the lieutenant governor and three by the governor.

HB 338: Would make all abortion illegal in Mississippi. Prior to this bill, the most restrictive ban passed by the Legislature banned abortions after six weeks, though it was later struck down in court. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly delayed a decision on whether to take up Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which was also struck down in a lower court. The state’s sole clinic which provides abortions will not perform them after 16 weeks.

SB 2171: The Transgender 21 Act, introduced by Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, would prohibit medical professionals from performing certain gender confirming procedures on minors under 21 years old.

SB 2160: Repeal the state’s Health Care Certificate of Need Law, which requires that health care facilities show that new services are needed before they are permitted to expand or purchase certain equipment.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

HB 525: The “omnibus” criminal justice reform bill. As with a mirror bill in the Senate, this measure includes numerous state codes and is a vehicle for major criminal justice reform many lawmakers are hoping to enact to address the state’s prison crisis. The measure will include increased parole and probation eligibility for some inmates.

SB 2091: Protection of pets in domestic abuse protection order. This would allow a judge to include protection of pets in orders in cases of domestic abuse. Anti-domestic violence advocates have said pet abuse as a way to threaten or control an abuse victim is common. Similar measures have failed in the past.

HB 24: Allow a municipality to give tax-forfeited land or buildings to any police officer employed in the municipality as part of the officer’s compensation.

HB 84: Allow local sheriffs to use radar. Several bills have been filed and are routinely filed each session without any success.

HB 1041: Would prohibit federal law from stopping a manufacturer within the state from making certain types of firearms and ammunition, such as limiting the size of a magazine in a gun.

HB 465: Compassionate Parole Eligibility Act. Would allow inmates who were not convicted of sex offense, capital murder or sentenced to death to be eligible for parole if they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of a year or less or are completely disabled.

COVID-19

HB 719: Would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to take a COVID-19 vaccination as condition of employment.

ANTI-POVERTY PROGRAMS

HB 976/SB 2759: Increase the monthly amount of cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, known as “welfare.”

The benefit is currently capped at $170-a-month for a family of three and Mississippi Department of Human Services Director Bob Anderson previously told Mississippi Today he would like to see the amount increased. TANF is the program officials allegedly targeted in a massive embezzlement scheme that the state auditor uncovered last year.

HB 49: Introduced by Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, would terminate the state’s contract with a private company to run child support enforcement, bringing the program back in-house. Hines has filed similar unsuccessful bills in previous years. Read Mississippi Today’s coverage of the program and its privatization here.

SB 2079: Would increase minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024. The Legislature traditionally refuses to address bills raising the state minimum wage.

HB 17: Develop a Working Families Study Committee to develop recommendations to ensure that all working families have access to affordable child care so they can participate in the workforce.

HB 987: Use unspent TANF funds, or welfare, to pay the expenses of people enrolled in nursing school.

HB 65: Remove the requirement that separated parents comply with child support enforcement in order to qualify for the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) child care voucher.

HB 890: Require teenage recipients of either TANF, often referred to as welfare, or Medicaid to participate in birth control, abstinence and parenting programs.

ELECTIONS

SC 508: Would amend the state Constitution to allow felons to vote after serving their sentence and meeting certain conditions. Several similar proposals have been filed.

SB 2368: Allow no excuse early voting up to 10 days before the election.

SB 2102: Would create an agreement among states to elect the president via popular vote rather than the Electoral College. In theory the bill would render the Electoral College useless by enough states agreeing to designate their electors to the candidate who won the popular vote.

TAXES

SB 2182: Tax vaping devices. Would apply the 15% excise tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes to electronic smoking or vaping devices.

SB 2822: M-Flex economic development incentives. This measure, pushed by Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, seeks to reform and streamline Mississippi’s hodgepodge of economic development incentives including tax breaks offered to businesses looking to relocate or expand in Mississippi. The measure would eliminate or consolidate some measures, and require more “transparency” on whether a company is living up to its promises of jobs and salaries when it receives state incentives.

Note: Several tax bills, including proposals to eliminate the state’s income tax, will be filed later this session.

MISCELLANEOUS

SB 2196: Require governor or lieutenant governor to make appointments to fill vacant offices within 90 days. If a governor fails to make an appointment within 90 days, the appointment authority would shift to the lieutenant governor, and vice versa. The bill would not apply to constitutionally chartered positions, such as the state Board of Education or IHL.

HB 16: Pay raise for troopers. Would increase salaries of Highway Patrol troopers and other Department of Public Safety officers. Would create a new scale with officers starting at $49,140, with pay for highest ranking colonels with decades of experience capped at $125,360.

HB 89: Allow for the issuance of bonds to incur long-term debt for improvements to be made at state parks.

 

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