Mississippi Senate weekly report

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

The Mississippi Senate passed a host of appropriation bills proposed toward the $6.57 billion total state support budget for the 2023 fiscal year. 

Among the Senate’s proposals is a pay raise to bring state employees who are under the State Personnel  Board (SPB) up to the minimum pay level of their job classification as defined by SPB, and a $9.26 million  increase for employee health insurance. However, department heads have the authority to exceed the minimum  pay level but can grant no more than a 10 percent raise in any given year up to market if the SPB deems the raise is  equitable, and the agency has the funds available. 

When the Senate receives the Department of Education appropriation bills, originating in the House, the  plan is to allocate $170.2 million toward the $210 million public school teacher pay increase plan outlined  earlier in Senate Bill 2444, which occurs over two years. In the second year of the plan, the Senate plans to  appropriate an additional $45 million. 

The Senate passed appropriation bills to allocate $1.4 billion of the $1.8 billion received directly to the  state as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). 

Among the appropriation bills passed was Senate Bill 3057, which transfers $49 million in ARPA funds  from the Mississippi Healthcare Workforce Development Program Fund, the Mississippi Nursing Preceptor  Grant Program Fund, and the Mississippi Health Science Training Infrastructure Grant Program Fund to  Accelerate MS, toward the Nurse/Health Science Workforce Development and Retention Act to provide nurse  training at community colleges and institutions of higher learning. 

A companion bill, Senate Bill 3058, was passed and would allocate $6 million in ARPA funds from the  Hospital Nursing and Respiratory Therapist Professional Loan Repayment Program Fund to the Institutions of  Higher Learning Student Financial Aid Fund toward $3,000 annual school loan repayment for up to three years  for the health professionals. 

Senate Bill 3056, proposes $750 million in ARPA funds for water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure  projects. It would allow $400 million in reimbursable grants for cities and counties for a one-to-one match on  the ARPA funds provided to them by the federal government. Of the amount allocated to cities and counties,  $50 million is provided for a two-to-one match to any city that received under $1 million in ARPA funds. The  plan also provides $350 million for Rural Water Associations and Utility Authorities with two hundred fifty  (250) or more residential meters to receive a one-to-one match on any funds available or any ARPA funds  provided to them by the counties for a maximum of $2.5 million per entity. 

Senate Bill 2081, lays out reasons why an appointed state officer can be removed from office for certain forms of willful neglect. The bill reads in part, “If any public officer, state, district, county or municipal, shall  be convicted or enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere in any court of this state or any other state or in any federal court of any felony other than manslaughter or any violation of the United States Internal Revenue Code, of corruption in office or speculation therein, or of gambling or dealing in futures with money coming to  his hands by virtue of his office, any court of this state, in addition to such other punishment as may be  prescribed, shall adjudge the defendant removed from office; and the office of the defendant shall thereby  become vacant. If any such officer be found by inquest to be of unsound mind during the term for which he  was elected or appointed or shall be removed from office by the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction  or otherwise lawfully, his office shall thereby be vacated; and in any such case the vacancy shall be filled as  provided by law.“ 

Senate Bill 2358, would allow political parties to determine the amount of filing fees candidates should  pay.  

Senate Bill 2575 would limit the speech of judicial candidates. It amends current law by adding, “No  judge of any circuit court may provide an opportunity for any candidate for Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge  of the Court of Appeals, circuit judge or chancellor to address the public during court terms.” 

Senate Bill 2373 would amend current law, removing the requirement that the governor make  appointments to the Professional Engineers and Surveyors Licensing Board from names submitted by the  Mississippi Engineering Society or the Mississippi Association of Professional Surveyors. 

Senate Bill 2658 would delete a provision that required rates of reimbursement to not be changed unless  amended by the Legislature. 

All bills were sent to the House for consideration. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 15, Jackson State University Day at the state Capitol. Senators Sollie Norwood and Derrick Simmons recognized JSU President Thomas Hudson, Athletic Director Ashley Robinson,  and Head Football Coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders on the Senate chamber floor. The special guests, along with the JSU football team, were honored by the Mississippi Senate with Senate Concurrent Resolution 534  celebrating their historic winning season after the legendary retired NFL cornerback took over the program in  his first head coach role. The House of Representatives also honored the school. 

The Tigers have set a program record with 11 wins and captured the Southwestern Athletic Conference  (SWAC) Title for the first time since 2007. The Tigers qualified for the Historically Black Colleges and  Universities Title Celebration Bowl for the first time. Sanders’ son Shedeur, a freshman quarterback, led the  offense and was the 2021 Jerry Rice Award recipient, and the defense ranking as the SWAC’s best, Jackson  State has gone 11-1, including 9-0 against conference opponents. JSU averaged 42,293 fans at its six home  games – a single-season record for an FCS school. Coach Prime was named SWAC “Coach of the Year” and  FCS “Coach of the Year.”  

On Thursday, Feb. 17, Senator David Blount honored two retired Mississippi State Parole  Board members on the Senate chamber floor. Steven Pickett, former chairman of the Parole Board, was  commended for being the longest serving chairman after 30 years of service to the State Parole Board.  Nehemiah Flowers, Jr., was also recognized for his retirement from the board. Both addressed the body. 

Wednesday, Feb. 23, is the deadline for original floor action on appropriation and revenue  bills originating in the Senate. Thursday, Feb. 24, is the deadline for reconsideration and passage of  appropriation and revenue bills originating in the Senate. Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, is the deadline to dispose  of Motions to Reconsider appropriation and revenue bills originating from the Senate.

Call Sen. Blackwell at 601-359-2222 or email kblackwell@senate.ms.gov.

Call Sen. McLendon at 601-359-3232 or email MMcLendon@senate.ms.gov.

Call Sen. Parker at 601-359-2886 or email dparker@senate.ms.gov

Bob Bakken

Bob Bakken is the most recognized and most trusted name in DeSoto County news and sports reporting, as readers continue to express their appreciation for his accuracy and fairness in the stories he writes. Bob provides content for DeSoto County News and occasionally is heard on the OB Pod podcast talking about area happenings. A former newspaper editor and writer, his award-winning background also includes television news producing, sports media relations, and radio broadcasting.

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