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Statehouse report – Week 11

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Mississippi State House

This was the eleventh week of the 2024 legislative session. The House met as a whole throughout the week to discuss bills that made it out of committee and onto the calendar. Thursday, March 14 was the deadline for members to introduce and discuss these general bills. Any bills not discussed in session by this deadline died on the calendar. The bills discussed dealt with a variety of topics.

House Bill 1590 would reconstitute the membership of the board of the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS). The new board would be made up of the state treasurer, the commissioner of revenue, four appointees from the governor, three appointees from the lieutenant governor, one retired member and one current state employee. The bill would also rescind the scheduled employer’s contribution increase that was scheduled for July 1. An increase would be left up to the new board. The bill passed the House by a vote of 85-34 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1208 would provide for penalties for hunting and fishing on the lands of others without permission. The fines for this kind of trespassing would start at $500 for a first offense.

The bill passed 67-43 before being held on a motion to reconsider.

House Concurrent Resolution 23 would amend the Constitution to provide that only United States citizens are allowed the opportunity to vote. HCR 23 passed by a vote of 81-23 and will now be considered in the Senate.

Several Education bills were discussed this week including the following: the Students Safe at School Act (HB 1379); a bill transferring employment of student attendance officers from MDE to local school districts (HB 73); a bill to authorize the creation of virtual public schools (HB 1192); a bill creating a study committee (SAVED) to determine establishing a model school for failing schools in the Mississippi Delta (HB 1447); and a bill removing the requirement for the current district of a student to approve their release in the event of a transfer (HB 867).

Two bills would target telephone solicitors. House Bill 1350 would prohibit solicitors from making any calls regarding Medicare Advantage Plans. House Bill 1352 would prohibit any calls regarding Medicare supplements and would allow consumers to opt out of all calls. Both bills passed the House and have been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1607, or the Women’s Bill of Rights, was a major point of discussion this week. The bill would provide legal definitions of “male” and “female,” “man” and “woman,” and “sex.” It would also ensure social or athletic groups could remain single sex. The bill passed 82-30 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 349 would prevent “squatted vehicles,” where a vehicle is modified so that the front fender is raised four inches or higher than the rear fender. Proponents of the bill said that this would keep other drivers safe on the road because the driver of the modified vehicle cannot properly see. Opponents argued this was discriminating against individuals who participate in recreational activities such as car shows. HB 349 passed 75-43.

House Bill 430 would allow for direct sales and shipment of certain wines to Mississippi residents. After being held on a motion to reconsider, the bill passed 91-21.

The Walker Montgomery Protecting Children Online Act (HB 1126) was passed this week. The bill would protect minors from online harmful material and would require digital service users to register their age. The bill passed unanimously 121-0.

One representative presented a bill for the first time before the House. Representative Beth Luther Waldo (R – Pontotoc) presented House Bill 753, which would extend the repealer on the State Board of Cosmetology. The bill passed by a vote of 118-0.

After most general bills were taken up this week, representatives began working on appropriations bills. The appropriations bills determine how much money is given to various state departments and agencies.

The House is responsible for looking at the preliminary budgets of about 50 state agencies, including the Departments of Education, Transportation, Health, Medicaid and Human Services. These bills represent half of the state’s budget; the other half will be considered by the Senate and will be sent to the House for consideration later in the legislative session.

In the budget for the Department of Education (House Bill 1823), the House appropriated more than $3 billion for the implementation of the INSPIRE program, which was passed by the House last week.

Most budgets include reverse repealers, a clause that ensures that a bill cannot become law before going to a conference committee for further revisions. With reverse repealers in place, many appropriations bills were voted on in a block to help speed up the process. The deadline for original floor action on House appropriations and revenue bills is Wednesday, March 27.

The FY25 budgets for these state agencies are recommended by the Legislative Budget Office. These budgets will not be complete until the end of session when they go to conference committees.

Visitors to the Capitol this week included Main Street New Albany, Horn Lake Youth Council, the Medgar and Angela Scott Foundation, the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Jackson Young Lawyers Association and the Mississippi Reentry Coalition.

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This summary is done by the office of Jeffery Harness, State Representative for District 85

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