Desoto County NewsMississippi News

Legislative Weekly Summary

Photo: Madilyn Grace Hall and Anna Rhoades Bridgforth, both of Olive Branch, recently served as pages for the Mississippi State Senate. Pages generally run errands for officials and Senate staff. Madilyn is the daughter of Matthew and Martha Hall and attends Lewisburg High School. Anna is the daughter of Rob and Alison Bridgforth and also attends Lewisburg High School. They are shown with state Sen. Dr. David Parker (R-Olive Branch), who sponsored their visit, and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. (Courtesy photo)

The following is a summary of the week’s actions in the Mississippi State Senate and House of Representatives. This summary is provided to DeSoto County News by the Senate and House Press Offices.

Mississippi State Senate Weekly Summary

In the 14th week of the 2024 Legislative Session, the Senate met the Tuesday, April 2,  deadline for committees to report general bills and constitutional amendments originated by the House. The Senate faces a Wednesday, April 10, deadline for original floor action on general bills and constitutional amendments originating in the House, a Thursday, April 11 deadline for reconsideration and passage of general bills and constitutional amendments originating in the House, and a Friday, April 12 deadline to dispose of motions to reconsider general bills and constitutional amendments originating from the House.

Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann on Thursday, April 4 made the following appointments to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee: President Pro Tempore Dean Kirby, Senator Briggs Hopson, Senator Josh Harkins, Senator David Parker, Senator Nicole Boyd, and Senator Rod Hickman. Lt. Governor Hosemann serves as Chairman of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. 

The Senate passed House Bill 1644, which seeks to have cities and counties contract with more than one ambulance service provider so, when necessary, a backup service provider can respond to emergencies and help save lives. Some ambulance services have recently taken an hour or more to respond to emergencies, which has cost citizens their lives, when the goal should be to arrive in under 20 minutes. Having the backup ambulance agreement would give emergency dispatchers the ability to choose the ambulance with the quickest arrival time.

Passage of House Bill 1697, would allow cities, counties, or state agencies to continue for up to 30 days, salary payments to survivors of first responders like firefighters and police officers, killed in the line of duty, if they so choose. It would be in addition to insurance or pensions.

House Bill 310, would extend from seven days to 30 days, the time required to buy a tag for a newly purchased motor vehicle.

House Bill 728, would prohibit discriminating actions against 340B drug discount program entities. The 340B program allows community hospitals to receive wholesale prices on top shelf prescription drugs.

House Bill 1638, would allow the Department of Human Services to collect debts owed the agency from state income tax refunds of persons who owe more than $125, due to circumstances such as overpayments of benefits.

House Bill 1024, would authorize the Department of Human Services to recover their costs for investigating fraudulent activity.

House Bill 292, clarifies existing DUI license suspension law to say, “The first day of any one-hundred-twenty-day period shall begin to run on the date the judge signs an order for suspension.”

Passage of House Bill 1210, creates the Dr. Elton Mac Huddleston Rural Veterinarians Scholarship Program, which would provide two scholarships for veterinary medicine at Mississippi State University. The scholarship seeks to encourage recipients to work in rural areas.

Among other bills passed were: 

  • House Bill 1519, authorizes certain towns to acquire and operate short-line railroads.
  • House Bill 624, extends until January 1, 2027, the repeal date on credits paid for certain railroad upgrades.
  • House Bill 1640, revises procedures for screening, evaluation and commitments of persons who may suffer from mental illness. It seeks to have a person who files for involuntary commitment of another individual to have a medical professional determine whether committal is justified.
  • House Bill 1006, Increases limit from six recreational crab traps per household, to six recreational crab traps per license holder, bettering their chances of a greater harvest.
  • House Bill 1007, would allow the harvesters of oysters to electronically print their own tags, which the Department of Marine Resources currently does. It will save time, since it is done electronically, and the harvester will also continue to pay permit fees.
  • House Bill 1129, transfers control of the Office of Mississippi Physician Workforce from University of Mississippi Medical Center to the State Department of Health.
  • House Bill 978, helps veterans filing claims by giving the State Veterans Affairs Board more time to process claims.
  • House Bill 317, approves the Department of Health to design and construct a memorial honoring EMS personnel who died in the line of duty.

The bills will be transmitted to the House for consideration.

The New Albany High School Choir under the guidance of Director Lillian Swilley, performed at the second-floor rotunda of the Capitol on Tuesday, April 2 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.

Senator Rod Hickman and Senator Jeff Tate, on Wednesday, April 3 led presentation of, Senate Resolution 47, to the Meridian High School “Wildcats,” boys basketball team, (24-9), and Head Coach Ronald Norman, saluting their first ever win of the MHSAA 7A Boys title with a 54-50 victory over Clinton (23-7) at the Mississippi Coliseum on March 2 after the new classification was added at the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

Senator Jeremy England, Senator Philman Ladner, and Senator Brice Wiggins, and Representative Jimmy Fondren, on Wednesday, April 3 led presentation of Senate Concurrent Resolution 518, mourning the loss and celebrating the contributions and career of Mississippi music icon and Pascagoula born Jimmy Buffett, who passed away on September 1, 2023, at age 76.

Senator John Polk, Senator Chris Johnson, and Representative Ken Morgan, on Wednesday, April 3 led the presentation of Senate Resolution 23, commending Purvis High School “Tornadoes” Baseball Team and Head Coach Tony Farlow for winning the Class 4A State Baseball Championship.

Senator Chris Johnson on Thursday, April 4 led a presentation of Senate Concurrent Resolution 537, honoring the sports program achievements, and academic successes of William Carey University.

On Thursday, April 4 the Sumrall High School A Capella Choir, Traces of Blue, performed at the second-floor rotunda of the Capitol, and visited with Senator Chris Johnson, who invited them, and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann. Traces of Blue has advanced to the finals of the ICHSA competition in New York City, where they will compete against the top nine A Capella groups in the nation. It marks the first time a Mississippi group has advanced to the finals in NYC. They were accompanied by choir director Jeffrey Coulter and assistant choir director Susan Albert. 

House of Representatives Weekly Summary

This was the fourteenth week of the 2024 legislative session. The deadline for House committees to report general bills originating from the Senate occurred Tuesday, April 2. Any Senate bills that did not make it out of committee died. Members debated general Senate bills on the House floor, and the deadline for these bills to be passed is next Wednesday, April 10. The House took up more than 60 Senate bills this week including the following:

Senate Bill 2689 would replace the state subject area testing requirements in high schools with alternative assessments, like the ACT. Currently, high school students must pass tests on Algebra, American History, Biology and English. The bill passed 103-6, and it has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2349 would require schools to adopt and implement cardiac emergency response plans. The House adopted Amendment 1 which would allow schools to accept gifts or donations for the purchase of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). SB 2349 passed unanimously 121-0 and has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2339 would allow American Sign Language to be counted as a foreign language credit for high school graduation requirements. The bill passed unanimously 121-0 and has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2244 would allow foster care children to have free access to museums and state parks, as well as free transcripts from public universities and junior colleges. The bill passed by a unanimous vote of 120-0.

Senate Bill 2577 would create a criminal penalty for a person creating and disseminating a deep fake or digitization of a candidate 90 days before an election. A deep cake is a video in which a person has been digitally altered to appear as someone else, typically with malicious intent. The bill is similar to House Bill 1689, which passed the House earlier this session. SB 2577 passed unanimously 120-0 and has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2441 would prohibit the distribution or sale of certain alternative nicotine products, like an electronic cigarette or vape, that cannot be marketed or sold under federal law or FDA rule. A strike-all amendment was introduced creating the “Mississippi Tobacco Harm Reduction Act of 2024;” however, a point of order was raised saying that the amendment was not germane to the original bill. The point of order was well taken, and the strike-all was removed from the bill. SB 2441 passed 115-0.

The Ways and Means Committee also took up several bills from the Senate Finance Committee including a bill to move the Back to School sales tax holiday to the second Friday in July (SB 2470); a bill to allow cigar shops to sell alcohol on the premises (SB 2567); a bill to extend the repealer on tax credits for qualified charitable organizations (SB 2476); a bill to amend the qualifications for the Mississippi Main Street Grant Program (SB 2696); and a bill to define the authority of demolition and removal of structures in the Capitol Complex Improvement District (SB 2917).

The House will continue to work on bills originating from the Senate until the deadline next Wednesday. All Senate bills approved by the House will be sent back with changes to the Senate where they can concur with the changes or invite conference. There are more than 50 Senate bills remaining on the House calendar that must be dealt with by Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the House was visited by the family of the late singer-songwriter and Pascagoula native Jimmy Buffett. His sister Lucy Buffett and cousin Mark Lumpkin were presented with House Concurrent Resolution 16, which celebrates his legacy and expresses sympathy upon his passing.

Other visitors this week included Friends of Mississippi Veterans, Tupelo Young Republicans, Leadership Jackson County, South Jones High School Band, Mississippi Young Bankers and the Mississippi Children’s Museum.