SOUTHAVEN, MS – Constituent Report
This is my last newsletter covering the 2016 Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature. I apologize for the lengthy delay in getting this newsletter out to you. Since the start of the session I have been in Jackson 78 days and home only 28 days. Thus I decided to take a few weeks off to spend time with my family, evaluate my absence on my businesses, renew my involvement within the community, and to decompress from the political environment.
Week 14 – April 4th to April 8th
Senate Bill 2527 – We agreed with House changes to Senate Bill 2527 – the “Right to Try Act” that would provide legal immunity for hospitals where investigational drugs are used or administered to critically ill patients whose condition has not responded to any other available treatment option. The bill would allow patients to have administered to them drugs under evaluation for effectiveness that have passed phase one of testing, but have not yet passed the full battery of USFDA testing, which could take years to complete.
Senate Bill 2515 – House changes to Senate Bill 2515 were accepted in an effort to exempt hunting license information from the public records act.
Senate Bill 2161 – We also agreed to House changes to Senate Bill 2161 – “Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2016” – that updates the public charter school law by allowing students in C-, D- or F-rated school districts to cross district boundaries to attend public charter schools. By allowing students to cross district lines, public charter schools will be able to open in rural areas and attract enough students to operate efficiently.
It was my honor and pleasure to recognize several of our student athletes this week with concurrent resolutions from the House & Senate
Week 15 – April 11th to April 17th
This week, is “conference week” and it is a very long week including working thru the weekend. So you can better understand what we are doing this week allow me to recap how bills become laws.
Bills are introduced in the House and Senate. They are assigned to the appropriate committee by the Lt. Governor for Senate bills and By the Speaker for house bills. The committees meet, discuss the bills, where they can amend the bills, vote them down or pass them. Those bills that are passed out of committee go the floor for debate and consideration. There they can be further amended, voted down or passed. The bills that are passed are then sent to the other house where the process starts all over again. If the non-originating house makes no changes to the original bill and passes the bill it then goes to the Governor for signature. But if there are any changes those bills go back to the originating house where that house can concur with the changes and in so doing the bill goes to the Governor, they can just drop the bill, or they can invite conference.
That brings us to “conference week”. During this part of the session, the House Speaker and President of the Senate appoint three (3) representatives and three (3) senators respectively who will go in conference to resolve differences in a bill. If an agreement is reached, a conference report is generated and it must pass both chambers before the bill is sent to the governor. If an agreement is not reached, or one chamber fails to pass the bill, the bill dies.
Senate Bill 2157– the “Literacy-based Promotions Act,” We approved of House changes to bill which would require third grade students to be more proficient readers than currently required, before advancing to fourth grade. It gives certain exceptions for special needs students and will add more money for literacy training at that level.
Senate Bill 2664 – We agreed to House changes that would require bail agents to be licensed by the Insurance Commissioner’s Office and approve other guidelines for that industry.
The Senate also passed commendatory resolutions honoring the achievements of American Idol winner Trent Harmon of Amory.
Week 16 – April 18th to April 20th
We ended the 2016 Regular Legislative Session on Wednesday, April 20, after approving board nominations and agreeing to bill changes made in conference. We approved a $6.16 billion general fund budget for Fiscal 2017 that includes more than $2.5 billion for education, including $2.2 billion for Mississippi Adequate Education Plan. Universities and community colleges were essentially funding at current year levels by $748.2 million and $264.7 million respectively.
House Bill 1205 – Law Enforcement Officers’ Death Benefits Trust Fund – that will allow firefighters to qualify for certain death benefits if they died in the line of duty from a heart attack or other situation caused by their work.
Senate Bill 2169 – will classify synthetic marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, carrying increase criminal penalties for use, sale or possession of. This substance commonly known as “spice,” has been cited as the cause of psychotic behavior in some persons.
Senate Bill 2858
– Under the “Taxpayer Pay Raise Act”, all taxpayers will see a tax cut. Senate Bill 2858, reduced income taxes, eliminated the franchise tax and reduced the tax burden on self-employed Mississippians. The plan, which saves Mississippians $415 million over 10 years, includes:
- Eliminating the 3 percent tax brackets levied on income beginning in 2018. The bracket will be phased out over four years, providing individual’s savings of up to $150 annually.
- Reducing the overall tax burden on an estimated 160,000 self-employed Mississippians. Self-employed individuals will be able to deduct half of the self-employment taxes paid to the federal government by 2019. This includes a variety of sole proprietors such as realtors, lawyers, accountants, preachers, landscapers and child care workers.
- Removing the investment penalty, or franchise tax, on businesses’ property and capital. Over the next 10 years, this investment penalty on job creators will be phased out. Mississippi is one of the few states to have a franchise tax, putting the state at a competitive disadvantage when competing for jobs.
Senate Bill 2808 – Allows job creators to increase investment in their businesses by reducing the unemployment tax rate. The bill reduces unemployment taxes up to $195 million over the next 10 years while increasing investment in workforce training at community and junior colleges for new jobs in the state.
In summation it was a very interesting session. Being my first, there was lots to learn and I still have a lot to learn going forward. I pray that the decisions we made were good ones and will benefit our people and our state.
I thank you for this opportunity to represent you in the legislature. I have tried to be true to my convictions in the way I vote on legislative matters. I am and will continue to be a defender of our second amendment, protector of the unborn; guardian of our Christian beliefs; supporter of our state’s rights; pro business and economic development; an advocate for improving our education system; and believer that less government is better government.
I will continue sending periodic newsletters of importance between now and the next session. I wish you and your family a safe and happy summer. Again, thank you for your support as we continue to move Mississippi forward.