Speaker of the House Philip Gunn met with reporters in the House Chamber on Monday to talk about top agenda items for the House of Representatives in the upcoming 2019 Legislative Session.
Of first mention was his desire to see the issue of human trafficking within the state of Mississippi addressed, with potential legislation to significantly reduce the problem.
“One of the things that is very important to me is the issue of human trafficking,” said Speaker Gunn. “I became aware of the issue last year at a conference I attended. They had a speaker there who talked about human trafficking and the fact that it exists right here in every home town in Mississippi.” As a result of that the Speaker hosted a Summit back in October on the issue.
Currently Mississippi has a grade of a B by Shared Hope, an organization who grades states on how they address the issue of human trafficking.
“They measure us on six different areas, three of them we measure very well in, the other three we could stand to improve,” said the Speaker. One of those areas that needs improvement is to try and protect young people caught in trafficking from being prosecuted for any crimes they could be charged with. He alluded to potential legislation that could change some definitions in order to protect these children, along with providing training to those who come in contact with these individuals.
“One big emphasis we are going to have in the House is trying to make improvements in the area of human trafficking,” said the Speaker. “I don’t know if we realized just how prevalent it is, I did not know this, I thought it was something that existed in other places.”
Other items include mental health, and allowing an avenue within the court system for individuals who suffer from mental illness instead of sending them straight to jail. He also mentioned rural broadband, a potential brain drain bill in regards to keeping graduates in the state of Mississippi, filling the teacher supply fund, and potentially eliminating some subject area tests.
“That is something also on our agenda for the year, criminal justice reform. There are a lot of different angles to that,” said the Speaker.
He referred to a bill passed in Session a few years ago, HB 585 which is a comprehensive reform measure that. He said there are still tweaks to be done to that and that will be an agenda item this year.
School safety will also be brought up this year. Recommendations are expected to be made by the task force that the Governor had put together since last year’s session. When asked if he would be for allowing teachers to have a firearm in the classroom, this is what the Speaker had to say:
“I am very pro gun. I believe in our second amendment rights and we have created an avenue for people to carry the enhanced carry weapon which gives them the rights to carry that,” said the Speaker. “I don’t know how it will work out and I don’t know what these other states have done or read their legislation but it is certainly something to be considered.”