Mississippi Senate Weekly Report, Friday, March 5, 2021
This week in at your Mississippi Senate, the committee deadline for passage out of committee passed on Tuesday. Following the committee deadline, the Senate floor action. Of those bills considered, several are of note. The passage of House Bill 949 would prohibit placement of a landfill in a county where two or more already exist without a called referendum. The bill is specific to Madison County, where residents and city officials have spoken against a proposed municipal landfill near an area where one exists.
The Senate amended and passed House Bill 852 to contain the language of Senate Bill 2001 that would give $1,000 raises to teachers and increase starting pay to $37,000. Teachers assistants would receive a $1,000 increase to make their minimum salaries $15,000. The increase would climb to $1,110 for teachers who have less than three years’ experience. The bill goes back to the House where it can be accepted or sent to conference. The House killed Senate Bill 2001 which was passed unanimously within the first weeks of session. Regardless of the place the bill originated, the Senate has taken the position that this is a priority.
In healthcare news, the Senate concurred on the House amendment to Senate Bill 2221 that would create the pilot Mississippi Dementia Care Program to assist caregivers of Alzheimer's or Dementia sufferers who cannot afford to pay sitters and whose only other option for providing care for their loved one would be placement in a nursing home or outside facility. The bill is contingent on sufficient federal funds to run it. The program would operate three years initially and would be housed within the Department of Human Services. The program would serve 60 families in its initial phase. Subject to federal operating funds, the bill would also establish a grant program to assist regional food banks in the acquisition, storage, and distribution of food.
Several House Bills replaced Senate Bills bearing similar language. Among the bills passed were:
• House Bill 1230 would allow businesses located on federal tribal lands to participate in certain programs offered by Mississippi Development Authority.
• House Bill 277 would recognize tribal identification cards of members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians as their legal ID.
• House Bill 550 would eliminate the phrase “intermediate driver’s license,” and do away with references to it. However, restrictions placed on certain youthful drivers would remain.
• House Bill 357 would increase from $75,000 to $100,000 the bonding requirement for county purchase clerks.
• House Bill 886 would exempt law enforcement officers from the fee paid for concealed carry permits and renewals.
• House Bill 632 would authorize counties to offer Medicare eligible employees benefits if they secured Medicare supplements rather than insurance offered by the job.
• House Bill 72 would provide immunity from civil liability to dentists performing charitable or emergency services.
• House Bill 1174 would enable the Department of Corrections to provide on premise or contract hospice care for terminally ill inmates. On site hospice care at the prison facility done by MDOC personnel would not require a license as required by the Mississippi Hospice Law.
• House Bill 551 would provide a six months provisional driver’s license to released prison inmates. Some exclusions apply, but the concept is to make them mobile so they can become employed.
• House Bill 929 would allow Mississippi Department of Corrections to establish a rehabilitation, jobs training and workplace development program in certain court districts that would help to place reformed inmates back into society.
• House Bill 200 seeks removal of the requirement that two recent hospitalizations are required to qualify for remote patient monitoring services.
• House Bill 208 in part removes postdoctoral training requirements for licensure of psychologists.
Additionally, I have received several comments regarding HB1439. I can assure you that members of the Senate have printed copies of this bill and have carefully read all 300 plus pages. In the consideration of any income tax bill, I want to make sure that we truly lower the tax burden on the citizens. I have grave concerns about the true effects of this bill. To shift the tax burden to retired individuals, to hardworking farmers, to struggling loggers, and to small businesses is not the answer. Over the next week, the Senate will continue to review the bill and consider any workable alternative.
Lastly, I’m sure that you’ve heard that Governor Reeves has lifted the statewide mask mandate. This does not lift individual city mandates. In his comments, he notes that the vaccinations are continuing to grow across the state and that cases are decreasing. If you still have not secured a vaccination, I encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider and inquire. I know that local clinics and pharmacies are now getting supplies of the vaccine to give. As always, I thank you for giving me the chance to serve you.