Tuesday marked the second committee deadline for the Mississippi Legislature. After a long break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the members were back at the Capitol to move bills through the process. Bills that were not passed through committee today died.
Here are a few that survived:
One measure people have been waiting anxiously to know the fate of is HCR 69, a resolution that would allow for the Legislature to extend its session this year so they could come back to the Capitol to handle matters surrounding COVID-19. The Senate amended the original bill with a few tighter restrictions. The new rules only allow members to meet for a total of six days after July 12 and only extends the session until October 10 at midnight.
HB 1559, this year’s Human Trafficking bill, is championed by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn. The bill addressed the gap in services for victims of these crimes. It puts a non-profit organization in partnership with the state in charge of using existing resources to create shelters for minor victims to be taken care of. The bill passed Sen. Sally Doty’s Judiciary A Committee and was amended with a reverse repealer.
A long-awaited felony dog and cat abuse bill has moved not only through committee, but the House floor as well. SB 2658 would make it a felony first offense for any torturous abuse of a domesticated dog or cat. It would include a fine of $5,000 and up to five years in prison. The bill passed the Judiciary B committee early Tuesday morning with added language from the human trafficking bill and went on to pass the floor with no major issues. The bill will go back to the Senate in which they can concur or not.
Another law to protect victims of abuse, SB 2009 Carly’s Law, was passed out of committee. This bill would mandate that a sex offender is prohibited from making contact with their victim after being convicted. Currently, state law requires that a victim’s family ask for this provision to be put into place. Language from HB 1559 was also added to this bill.
The Senate also passed HB 1295, the Life Equality Act of 2020, an abortion ban bill. This bill would prevent abortions being performed based on race, sex or genetic abnormality except in extreme medical emergencies.
Several criminal justice bills made it through the deadlines including SB 2112 also called the “Ban the Box Act.” This would get rid of the box on an initial job application for a public employer that asks if you are a convicted felon. The idea is that if applicants are able to get to an in-person interview, they can explain the situation and have a better shot at gaining employment.
The Mississippi Correctional Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2020 (SB 2123) also made it out of House committees. The double referred bill that went to Judiciary B and Corrections deals with parole eligibility and limitations on inmate ability to petition for parole if serving a life sentence for a non-violent crime.
SB 2286 or the Early Learning Collaborative Act will dictate a minimum funding level for prekindergarten programs and authorize teachers and teachers’ assistants more support services. These include professional development and curriculum plans. The Department of Education will be required to provide the Governor and the Legislature with a PEER Committee review and annual findings of the funding measures.
A bill that has been important to the Secretary of State’s office and the conducting of elections this year is SB 2398. This bill allows for the limit on the number of poll managers to be removed. This gives Election Commissions more ability to staff their polling locations for what is anticipated to be a different kind of voting year. The expectation is that polling locations will need quite a bit more people to manage the process due to safety measures being taken during the pandemic.
Also, SB 2838 which would create a Department of Tourism, passed out of committee. Currently, Tourism is housed under the Mississippi Development Authority. This bill would allow it to function on its own.
But not all bills on the chopping block today came out with such good news.
Bills that didn’t survive the committee deadline:
Senator Brice Wiggins’ Gang Bill (SB 2459) did not make it out of the House Judiciary B committee. The bill was held on a motion, effectively killing it. The bill would have provided new penalties for gang activity and allowed prosecutors more authority to press charges on gang related crimes. It also revises the Mississippi code section to prohibit the participation in the early release program within MDOC for those guilty of gang related crimes.
The teacher pay raise bill (SB 2001) also met its end today. This was somewhat anticipated after the economic impact COVID-19 has had on the state and the state budget. SB 2001 would have provided the minimum salary of $15,000 for assistant teachers and $37,000 for new teachers.
An Equal pay bill (SB 2522) authored by Sen. Doty was killed in the Workforce Development committee. It would have ensured that no employer paid an employee a wage at a rate less than the rate of another employee of the opposite sex in the same position. It would have ensured that a pay rate was determined by equal skill, effort, education, experience and responsibility.
The IHL bill was dead by the end of Tuesday. HB 870 would have provided that the IHL Board of Trustees were appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House. The board is to consist of 12 members. There would be four appointments from each of the Mississippi Supreme Court districts, they would serve a term of nine years. The Governor and Lt. Governor would each receive one appointment a piece, and the Speaker would receive two. Another motion similar to this one also died, HC 31.
The next deadline is set for June 17, which is original floor action on bills originating in the opposite chamber.