Another big deadline passed on Tuesday for committees to approve general (non-revenue) bills from the opposite chamber for floor votes.
Some of the bills that survived the deadline included a vaccine mandate ban, an overhaul of the state’s business incentive program and bills that would change the way counties maintain their voter rolls.
Bills that died included a pay raise for state troopers, another that allowed municipal utilities to offer broadband service and two House bills that would’ve created scholarship programs for high school students attending one of the state’s universities or community colleges in a dual enrollment/dual credit arrangement. A bill that would've used bond money to help upgrade Jackson's two water treatment plants died on the deadline as well.
The next deadline of the session for general bills is March 9, when floor votes are due on general bills from the other chamber. Any bill that didn’t receive a floor vote, barring a rare suspension of legislative rules, is dead for the year.
Here are some of the more interesting bills that have been submitted so far:
House Bill 1509 would prohibit state and local governments from imposing vaccine mandates and was sponsored by House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton. The Senate Rules Committee rewrote the bill on February 28 before approving it for a floor vote.
HB 1365, sponsored by Gunn, would prohibit election officials from either soliciting or accepting private funds from any non-governmental source for election-related expenses or voter education, voter outreach or registration. The Senate Elections Committee rewrote the bill on February 28.
Senate Bill 2159 would reform the state’s 42 different incentive programs to lure new companies to the state and urge existing ones to expand. The bill is authored by state Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch, and the bill offers a one easy-to-use calculation on initial investment, jobs, wages and benefits with a minimum investment of $2.5 million and a minimum of 10 jobs created. The bill would also repeal an income tax incentive ($1,000 per each qualifying employee with a minimum of 75 employees) originally passed in 2013.
The bill was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee on March 1.
HB 1510 is sponsored by state Rep. Brent Powell, R-Flowood, and would require county election commissioners to compare the voter rolls with the statewide driver’s license database to determine if the registered voter is a U.S. citizen. The bill would also change the distribution of the state’s Election Support Fund to a ratio of 70 percent to counties and 30 percent to the Secretary of State’s office for upgrades to the Statewide Elections Management System, election security and voter education.
The bill was rewritten with a strike-all amendment by the Elections and Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency committees in the Senate.
SB 2879 would create a grant program to be administered by the Secretary of State’s office to modernize voting machines statewide. Counties could apply to receive grants to upgrade their voting machines under a few conditions. The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Tate, R-Meridian, and has been approved by the House Apportionment and Elections Committee for a floor vote.
HB 1365 would forbid state and local election officials from either soliciting or accepting private funds from any non-governmental source for election-related expenses or voter education, voter outreach or registration. The bill is sponsored by Gunn and was approved by the Senate Elections Committee on February 28.
SB 2113 would ban the teaching of critical race theory and was authored by State Sen. Michael McClendon, R-Hernando. The bill forbids the teaching that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior or that individuals should be adversely treated based on those same criteria. The bill does lack an enforcement mechanism.
It was passed by the House Universities and Colleges Committee on February 28.
With two competing tax cut proposals still, the deadline for appropriations and revenue bills to pass the opposite chamber is March 15.
HB 531 is called the Mississippi Tax Freedom Act and would eliminate the state’s income tax while increasing the state sales tax on most items from 7 percent to 8.5 percent. The Senate Finance Committee is handling the bill.
SB 3164 would eliminate the state’s 4 percent income tax bracket, cut the state’s tax on groceries by 2 percent and provide a rebate of 5 percent of a taxpayer’s 5 percent liability that would be no less than $100 and no more than $1,000. It has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee.
HB 1550 would provide $39.4 million for the first phase of the construction of a new headquarters for the state Department of Public Safety. It is sponsored by state Rep. John Read, R-Gautier and passed the House on February 17 before it was assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
SB 2822 will create separate matching grant programs for local governments and rural water associations to be managed by the state Department of Environment Quality and is sponsored by state Sen. Walter Michel, R-Ridgeland. Local governments would receive matching funds for every dollar they spend from federal relief funds given to them directly for water and sewer projects. It was passed by the House Appropriations Committee on March 1.
SB 3065 would appropriate $400 million for local governments and $350 million for rural water associations. It was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.
HB 1421 would create the Rural Water Associations Grant Program under the state Department of Health, which would approve grant applications and ensure that the terms of each project agreement were honored. The bill was sponsored by state Rep. John Read, R-Gautier. It passed the Senate on March 3 and the House will need to concur with the changes before it goes to the governor’s desk for signature.
Read also sponsored HB 1425, which would create the Wastewater and Drinking Water Infrastructure Grant Programs. If the bill becomes law, the MDEQ will manage the wastewater grant program for local governments, utility authorities and non-profit utilities (such as rural water associations). It has been amended and passed by the Senate on March 3 and needs concurrence from the House before it can become law.
Dead as a proverbial doornail
HB 33 would’ve required that candidates for municipal and county offices file their campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State’s office.
HB 1394 would've created a scholarship program for dual credit high school students at the state’s community colleges as would HB 884, but both bills died in the Senate.
HB 1344 would’ve provided salary hikes for both state troopers and officers in the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.
SB 2474 would’ve allowed any municipal utility that serves one third of its customers outside municipal boundaries to have the same powers as a non-profit electric cooperative.
HB 1640 would’ve provided $42 million for improvements to the city of Jackson’s embattled water system, with $20 million for repairs to the city’s two treatment plants — O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell — along with $12 million for repairs to the city’s water distribution center and $6 million to do a computer model of the city’s water distribution system.
SB 2062 would’ve assessed the state’s 15 percent excise tax on electronic smoking devices such as E-cigarettes.
SB 2069 would’ve provided $32 million in bonds for the second phase of a new headquarters for the state Department of Public Safety.