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Mississippi Senate Weekly Report

Note: Item is provided by the Mississippi Senate Press Office on behalf of DeSoto County state Sens. Dr. David Parker, Kevin Blackwell, and Michael McLendon.

This week the Senate moved House bills on the floor and met the March 1 deadline for committees to pass general bills originating in the House of Representatives.

In an effort to continue making Mississippi teachers’ salaries competitive and attractive, the senate passed House Bill 530, the “Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers, START), Act of 2022,” adding senate language to present a teacher and teacher assistant salary raise over two years which totals to $230 million..

Under the legislation, teachers would receive a $4,800 raise on average through the base pay salary schedule after a two-year phase-in. Class A, baccalaureate-degreed teachers would start at $40,000. All teachers would also receive $500 step increases at most every year, including in the first three years of teaching. Larger steps are included at years 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25. Step increases are not provided in the current salary schedule until the third year of teaching, though many leave the profession before year 5. In addition to raises to teachers, the legislation added a $2,000 raise over two years for teachers’ assistants.

At Years 5, 10, 15, and 20, teachers would receive a larger increase based on their certification. Class A teachers (baccalaureate) would receive $1,325; Class AA teachers (master’s degree) would receive $1,425; Class AAA (specialist) would receive $1,525; and Class AAAA (doctoral) would receive $1,625. At 25 years of service, teachers would receive an increase of $2,500. The base salary schedule does not include any local supplements teachers receive or state supplements, like extra compensation to locate in critical needs areas or become a National Board-Certified Teacher. 

The bill will be discussed in conference with the House.

House Bill 1006 was amended with Senate Bill 2721 language to create “the Mississippi Healthcare Workforce Development Program, the Mississippi Nursing Preceptor Grant Program, and the Mississippi Health Science Training Infrastructure Grant Program, whose goal is, “working with community colleges, institutions of higher learning and employers, to provide education and training to help Mississippians find employment in the nursing field,” and increasing the number of health science students trained in Mississippi.”

House Bill 1005 was amended with Senate Bill 2419  language to create the “Hospital Nurses and Respiratory Therapist Retention Loan Repayment Program,” for new nursing and respiratory therapist graduates to be administered by the State Financial Aid Board.” It would give up to $3,000 a year for three years to 150 new registered nurse applicants, 50 new licensed practical nurse applicants and 25 new respiratory therapist applicants working in a “general acute care hospital in the state.”

Passage of House Bill 1029 will create the seven-member appointed “Mississippi Broadband Commission,” to oversee the spending of $162 million in federal money for expansion of broadband internet service across the state. It also creates the fund from which commissioners will operate a grants program.

House Bill 779 amends the Law Enforcement Death Benefits Trust Fund to extend the $100,000 line of duty death benefit to rural volunteer firefighters and covers COVID-19 related deaths. It also transfers $5 million from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund to the Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters Death Benefits Trust Fund.

House Bill 453 was amended with language from Senate Bill 2849, to create the “COVID-19 Destination Marketing Organization Grant Program,” that would issue $10 million per year over three years to tourism agencies.

House Bill 1425 was amended with language from Senate Bill 2822, to create the “Mississippi Water Infrastructure Grant Program Act of 2022.” It will set aside $750 million from the state’s $1.8 billion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds to create within the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the Mississippi Municipality and County Water Infrastructure Grant Program under which municipalities and counties may apply for reimbursement for investments in water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.

Other bills passed included:

House Bill 1408 increases by $6,000 salaries of sheriffs.

House Bill 232 removes medical marijuana from the list of banned illegal substances.

House Bill 1523 allows the City of Saltillo; to authorize a 2-percent tourism tax on hotels, motels, and restaurants if voters approve the measure in November.

House Bill 823 requires commercial electronic fence installers to purchase a $350 license from the state.

House Bill 514 extends until July 1, 2025, for the prison-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at Bolivar County Regional Facility for up to 250 inmates “designed to reduce substance abuse by inmates, correct dysfunctional thinking and behavioral patterns, and prepare inmates to make a successful and crime-free readjustment to the community.”

House Bill 515 extends until July 1, 2025, the Prison Overcrowding Emergency Powers Act, that seeks to lower populations in part by “advancement of parole eligibility dates,” for reformed inmates who qualify.

Senator Josh Harkins on Thursday, March 3, 2022, honored the Mississippi State University baseball team with Senate Concurrent Resolution 514 for clinching the 2021 National Collegiate Athletic Association College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, June 30, 2021, by beating defending National Champion Vanderbilt 9-0. MSU’s baseball team has appeared in three consecutive NCAA College World Series, totaling 12 appearances in school history. On June 20, 2021, the Mississippi State University baseball team recorded 21 strikeouts, which set an NCAA College World Series single-game team record.

Senator David L. Jordan on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, honored Dia Chawla, a senior at Pillow Academy senior in Greenwood with Senate Concurrent Resolution 558, for being named the National High School Heisman Trophy winner in the award’s 28th year. Dia attended the National Heisman Trophy Ceremony in New York City on December 11, 2021, and was recognized by ESPN on national television for being named the top student athlete in the country.

Senator Kathy Chism on March 3, 2022, honored Former Northern District Transportation Commissioner Zach Stewart with Senate Concurrent Resolution 542, for his achievements and leadership while serving. Stewart was elected Transportation Commissioner in 1983 and completed his fifth term as Commissioner for the Northern District in 2003.

Senator Chad McMahan spoke on Senate Concurrent Resolution 512, which honors the legacy of well-known former POW and Retired Air Force Colonel Carlyle “Smitty” Harris of Tupelo, who will have a United States Postal Service facility located at 500 West Main Street, in Tupelo, named in his honor. Circumstances arose that kept Harris from coming before the senate as planned.

The senate faces a Wednesday, March 9, 2022, deadline for original floor action on general bills and constitutional amendments originating in the House of Representatives, and a Thursday, March 10, 2022, deadline for reconsideration and passage of general bills and constitutional amendments originating in the House of Representatives. Friday, March 11, 2022, is the deadline to dispose of motions to reconsider general bills and constitutional amendments originating from the House of Representatives.

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