The Mississippi Senate Democratic Caucus released their 2021 Legislative Priorities on Monday. Lawmakers are set to head back to the capitol on Tuesday, January 5.
Senator @SenDTSimmons, Senate Minority Leader, outlined the Senate Democratic Caucus priorities today before gaveling in for the 2021 Legislative Session #msleg READ MORE>> https://t.co/QlkW2KbSPa pic.twitter.com/ysh5OJmfTE
— Yall Politics (@MSyallpolitics) January 5, 2021
2021 is an unprecedented time for Mississippi. We must recover from both the coronavirus health pandemic and the economic one. Mississippi is losing population. We are one-fifth of the way through the 21st Century, and Mississippi needs to plan for the future. While changing the state flag was a positive step forward, that historic action should be the first of many steps in achieving the long-term goals in our state. We need to make our state the type of place people want to live in. Mississippians want good schools, good hospitals, good roads, and good paying jobs. As Senate Democrats, we are committed to supporting and crafting policies that will improve Mississippi for all citizens and that will address the long-term needs of the state. What we do today will determine the Mississippi our children will live in tomorrow.
COVID PANDEMIC RECOVERY ASSISTANCE
We will continue our work to provide families, small businesses, first responders, caregivers, cities, counties, and schools the protection and support they need to recover from the devastating impacts of COVID-19. Mississippi’s cities and counties are facing hardships regarding their loss in tax collections which have resulted or likely will result in layoffs or furloughs affecting essential public servants. From additional small business support, food insecurity, distance learning to rental assistance, Senate Democrats will continue our work in COVID pandemic recovery assistance.
The children we educate today will be leading our state tomorrow. The higher the investment in education today, the greater the return tomorrow. We want public tax dollars going to public schools. From Pre-K through college, we will continue to push for full funding of education. Full funding includes, but is not limited to, adequately compensating teachers and providing affordable pathways for educators to pursue or renew teaching certifications. Senate Democrats support an across the board teacher pay raise.
All Mississippians need greater access to improved proactive healthcare that could prevent the need to visit a hospital emergency room for non-emergency care. Rural Mississippians need access to hospital care closer to home. Rural hospitals and Mississippi’s healthcare system as a whole benefit from the expansion of Medicaid and/or some alternative that expands access to affordable, reliable healthcare. We believe that healthcare includes mental health and does not discriminate in cost or access because of race, age, sex or gender or pre-existing conditions.
All Mississippians need to travel on safe roads and bridges. While our state highway system is worth approximately $25 billion dollars, our cities and towns are cash-strapped with water and sewer systems with 100-year old pipes that are in dire need of replacement or repair. The state should adopt a comprehensive program to repair our infrastructure for the next 100 years. Cities and towns need infrastructure improvements and dedicated long term maintenance funding from the issuance of bonds. Senate Democrats will continue to push for our cities’ and counties’ long overdue infrastructure needs. We believe that infrastructure includes the opportunity for all Mississippians to connect globally and have high-speed reliable internet access.
ECONOMIC JUSTICE & EQUALITY
Mississippians deserve and need good paying, secure jobs to sustain their families and would allow them to contribute and help grow the state’s economy. All Mississippians regardless of age, sex, race or religious beliefs should be able to realize their careers in this state on a level playing field where no biases, prejudices or roadblocks exist. All Mississippians deserve a living wage and women deserve equal pay for equal work. We believe that when we support Mississippi women, we support Mississippi families. State employees need a pay raise and Senate Democrats continue to support efforts to reward and retain state employees. We believe that there should be a fair and equal opportunity for individuals and businesses to do business with the state.
The right to vote is a sacred one that many paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to have. The fundamental right to vote should not be suppressed and burdened with unnecessary restrictions; instead, this essential American freedom should be protected, encouraged, expanded, and restored. Senate Democrats support full restoration of voting rights for Mississippians who have successfully completed their sentences. Senate Democrats believe in online voter registration, early voting, expansion of absentee voting and protections that ensure the health and safety of voters during a pandemic and/or disaster.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Mississippi faces a prison crisis – overcrowding, violence and lawsuits – including one from the U.S. Department of Justice – largely from Mississippi’s harsh sentencing laws and lack of reentry programs. Mississippi has the second highest incarceration rate in the world, due in part to ill-advised amendments to the parole statutes in the 1990s. Our criminal justice system needs revamping so our jail populations are safely reduced and taxpayers’ dollars are saved and reinvested.
Senate Democrats will continue to support criminal justice reform through intervention courts and other pre-trial diversion programs, rehabilitative programs, geriatric and compassionate release, parole eligibility, habitual offender laws, expungement, reentry, Fresh Start Act and Ban the Box. We believe that our returning neighbors should be released back into society with dignity and respect. Senate Democrats also support training for our local law enforcement to include additional funding for the Mississippi Law Enforcement Academy.