Desoto County NewsMississippi News

Legislative weekly summary

Note: The Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives weekly provides DeSoto County News a summary of their actions during the past week. The following information is courtesy of the Senate and House Press Offices.  

Senate weekly summary

In the 10th week of the 2024 Legislative Session, the Senate passed Senate Bill 2332, that would revise the Mississippi Adequate Education Program Funding formula, to the tune of an additional estimated $206 million, according to Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, Jr., who said the updated formula mirrors the realities of running a school district.

Among the revisions Senate Bill 2332 would make are:

  • Revising the inflationary factory connected to the formula to reflect an average rate over 20 years.
  • Providing that 90% of state funds must be used on expenses other than administrator and principal salaries.
  • Holding harmless for one year 10 districts which will lose money under the revised formula because of a loss of students ($2.1 million).
  • Requiring charter schools to return a pro rata share of education funds to the public school district the student came from if the student returns to that school district during the year.

Passage of Senate Bill 2685, would allow retired teachers to continue receiving PERS retirement benefits while again returning to the classroom as full time educators earning a check in certain critical shortage areas.

Senate Bill 2627, seeks creation of a state law forbidding ownership, manufacture or use of weapon conversion devices that make semi-auto weapons fire in fully automatic mode. Currently, possession of a “switch” or “Glock switch,” is a federal violation, but if made law, Senate Bill 2627 would allow Mississippi prosecutors to give a 10-year maximum state prison sentence and a $10,000 fine for a first conviction. It was amended to be known as the Jeremy Todd Malone Law, in honor of a George County Deputy who was shot and killed January 4, 2024, during a traffic stop.

Among other bills passed were: 

  • Senate Bill 2841 would create the “State Treasury Efficiency and Transparency Act,” encouraging certain state agencies to place unspent money “when it is reasonably feasible to do so,” into a master account which would be invested in interest bearing accounts.
  • Senate Bill 2848, would allow the transfer of $144 million in remaining federal American Rescue Plan Act, (ARPA), funds to be placed in the state treasury until it is reallocated, since it is not expected to be spent by the deadline date. 
  •  Senate Bill 2470, moves the back-to-school sales tax holiday to the second Friday in July, making it occur earlier than it would in surrounding states to draw in more shoppers to Mississippi. It exempts sales tax on school related items like clothing, shoes, and school supplies retailing for less than $100.
  • Senate Bill 2444, would expand the Central Mississippi Pilot Prison Industries program to all state, regional and private correctional facilities. The program allows certain inmates to hold job while incarcerated. They can earn money to pay fines, save towards their release dates and learn a skill or trade. Of the 51 inmates who participated in the pilot program, only two committed violations that placed them back in prison.
  • Senate Bill 2339, would allow high school graduation credits for students who chose to learn sign language as their foreign language requirement.
  • Senate Bill 2169, would prohibit school districts from reducing the local salary supplement for assistant teachers who received the state minimum raise.
  • Senate Bill 2288, would create a criminal charge for digitally altering a person’s likeness in a graphic manner. The bill makes the use of “AI” or artificial intelligence to perform such tasks a crime.
  • Senate Bill 2196, amends Mississippi’s Terroristic Threats Law to include a five-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of making a threat against an airport.
  • Senate Bill 2125, seeks creation of a health savings accounts for state employees who are enrolled in a cafeteria plan that allows them to use pretax deductions for certain known health benefits. Currently, whatever money in the plan is not used is lost at year’s end. The intent of the bill is to allow leftover money to be rolled over into an investment plan.
  • Senate Bill 2340, extends the repeal date until 2027 for Harper Grace’s Law – authority for University of Mississippi Medical Center to research and dispense cannabidiol (CBD oil) for medical purposes, specifically for treatment of severe epileptic seizures.
  • Senate Bill 2250, bans operation of squatted vehicles on public roads. Squatting a vehicle requires lifting the front end and the squatting the rear end, which lessens the field of vision for a driver.
  • Senate Bill 2016, amends existing law to increase penalties for illegal dumping, including seeking up to a $75,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence for those convicted of dumping objects more than 500 pounds or 100 cubic feet in volume, or hazardous waste.
  • Senate Bill 2708 authorizes the Department of Public Safety to sell or lease the 9.6 acres of property the current headquarters occupies in Jackson once they move operations to Rankin County.
  • Senate Bill 2495, allows county boards of supervisors to assign their board attorney as hearing officer in disputes regarding delinquent solid waste fees.
  • Senate Bill 2519, creates the Mississippi Foreign Land Ownership Act, which would limit the ability of non-resident aliens from countries considered to be foreign adversaries, from owning Mississippi agricultural and forestry land.

On Friday, March 8, 2024, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 34, and stood in a moment of silence to honor the memory of former Mississippi Public Service Commissioner-Southern District Samuel F. (Sam) Britton of Laurel, who passed on October 16, 2023. Britton was the husband of Senator Robin Robinson.

On Tuesday, March 5, 2024, American Red Cross North Mississippi Chapter Executive Director KC Grist, of Tupelo, addressed the Senate and accepted a proclamation from Senator Hob Bryan and Senator Chad McMahan. March is American Red Cross Month.

On Tuesday, March 5, 2024, Senator Briggs Hopson, and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann visited with the Vicksburg High School Choir, and the Warren Central High School Choir, who performed at the second-floor rotunda, as part of Lt. Governor Hosemann’s tradition of allowing students to share their talents which gives lawmakers time to reflect on the importance of the job they are at the Capitol to do.

The Virginia Glee Club from Charlottesville, Va., performed on Thursday, March 7, 2024, at the invitation of Senator Hob Bryan, during their tour of the South. 

The Senate passed a Tuesday, March 5, 2024, deadline for committees to report general bills and constitutional amendments that originated in the Senate. The Senate faces a Thursday, March 14, 2024, deadline for original floor action on general bills and constitutional amendments originating in the Senate, and a Friday, March 15, 2024, deadline for reconsideration and passage of general bills and constitutional amendments originating in the Senate.

From left, Rep. Cedric Burnett (D – Tunica), Rep. Kim Remak (R-Olive Branch), Pastor Dwight Mosley, his wife Ruby Mosley, Speaker Jason White and Rep. Hester Jackson-McCray (D–Horn Lake). (Courtesy photo)

Pastor Dwight Mosley of Nesbit gave the opening prayer to the Mississippi House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 6. Mosley is the pastor of Glover’s Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Walls, and he was invited by Representative Kimberly Remak (R – Olive Branch).

House of Representatives weekly summary

The tenth week of the 2024 legislative session proved to be the busiest thus far. Committee meetings to discuss House bills wrapped up early in the week because of Tuesday’s general bill deadline. After Tuesday, all general bills that were not passed out of committee died before reaching the House calendar. The House convened Wednesday through Friday to discuss legislation that made it out of committee. The bills that were considered dealt with a variety of topics. Floor debate will continue on general bills until the March 14 deadline.

On Wednesday, House Education Chairman Rob Roberson (R – Starkville) introduced the Investing in the Needs of Students to Prioritize, Impact and Reform Education (INSPIRE) Act of 2024, or House Bill 1453. The plan would replace the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or MAEP, the state’s current funding formula. MAEP has only been fully funded twice since its inception in 1997. Under the INSPIRE Act, the base student cost is $6,650, and schools would receive more money for low-income students, special-needs students, English language learners and others. Every four years, a group comprised of the State Superintendent of Education, local superintendents and employees of the State Department of Education would submit a report to the Legislature reviewing the formula and making recommendations. After more than one hour of debate, the House passed HB 1453 by a vote of 95-13. It has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 1609 would allow a person to have their voting rights restored and felony records expunged after five years. This would not include certain crimes such as arson, armed robbery, carjacking, murder, sexual battery, voter fraud and others. The bill passed by a vote of 99-9 before being held on a motion to reconsider.

House Bill 1210 would establish the Dr. Elton Mac Huddleston Rural Veterinarians Scholarship in honor of the late former House member and veterinarian. Representative Mac Huddleston served as a member of the Legislature from 2008 to 2023 where he represented District 15 (Pontotoc County). The bill passed unanimously by a vote of 122-0.

House Bill 315 would modernize terminology in the Mississippi Code by replacing the term “mentally retarded” with the term “intellectual disability.” The bill passed unanimously 122-0.

House Bill 1450 would enter Mississippi into the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact to facilitate the mobility of teachers who are married to service members. HB 1450 passed 118-0 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1655 would revise the candidate qualification process by requiring a notarized written statement and a copy of a Mississippi ID card. HB 1655 passed 81-35 before being held on a motion to reconsider.

House Bill 1156 would prohibit polling places from being closed within sixty days before an election. HB 1156 passed unanimously 122-0 and is now in the Senate.

Two bills would affect the pawnbroking industry in the state. House Bill 1021 would authorize the Commissioner of Banking to allow pawnbrokers to store certain purchased or pledged goods off premises. HB 1021 passed 118-2. House Bill 1062 would authorize pawnbrokers to pass credit and debit card processing charges to customers. HB 1062 passed 104-14.

House Bill 907 would create the Mississippi Childcare Teachers Shortage Study Committee. This committee would make a report on how to increase affordable childcare in the state while also increasing the supply of early childhood teachers. HB 907 passed 121-0.

House Bill 1013 would aim to combat the shortage of paramedics by creating the Paramedics Recruitment and Retention Scholarship Program. To qualify for the program, an applicant must be a certified EMT, have necessary prerequisites for an accredited paramedic program and commit to living in the State of Mississippi for a minimum of three years. HB 1013 passed 118-0.

Seven Representatives presented bills for the first time before the House:

  • Representative Lance Varner (R – Florence) presented House Bill 1123, which would authorize the Mississippi Department of Transportation to transfer certain property to the Greene County Board of Supervisors.
  • Representative Jonathan McMillan (R – Madison) presented House Bill 1257, which would clarify the maximum fee charged by a notary public and would allow nonresidents who work in Mississippi to be commissioned as a notary public.
  • Representative Timaka James-Jones (D – Belzoni) presented House Bill 1404, which would revise the time for holding runoff elections to four weeks instead of three weeks after the first election.
  • Representative Jim Estrada (R – Saucier) presented House Bill 1577, which would make bidding terms for public deposits compatible with between counties and municipalities.
  • Representative Lawrence Blackmon (D – Canton) presented House Bill 1558, which would require social media platforms to regulate the advertisement of tobacco and nicotine products.
  • Representative W.I. “Doc” Harris (R – Hernando) presented House Bill 1311, which would authorize boards of trustees of community or junior colleges to reduce or waive out-of-state tuition for certain students.
  • Representative Andy Stepp (R – Bruce) presented House Bill 761, which would extend the repealer on Harper Grace’s Law, which authorizes research and dispensing of CBD oil for medical purposes.

Several noncontroversial bills were passed on Friday including the following: a bill to revise certain provisions regarding telework by employees of state agencies (House Bill 1356); the Peer-to-peer Car Sharing Program Act (House Bill 1048); a bill to prohibit health plans from requiring step therapy before treating advanced metastatic cancer (House Bill 1143); the Seizure Safe Schools Act (House Bill 346); and a bill that would authorize community organizations to receive and administer opioid antagonists, such as Narcan (House Bill 1137).

The House honored the West Point High School Football Team on Thursday for winning the Class 5A MHSAA State Championship in fall 2023. The team was presented with House Resolution 58.

Other visitors this week included the Oxford GIRL emPOWERment Class, Mississippi Tourism Association, the Mississippi Center for Re-Entry, the American Red Cross and the Mississippi Chapters of The Links, Incorporated.