The Mississippi Legislature adjourned for the last time during the 2021 regular session. Sine Die will official stand as April 4 according to the record, but members are headed home.
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann made final remarks to the press regarding the successes and shortcomings of the Legislature this year.
Speaker Gunn said the biggest accomplishment of the Legislature was setting the budget for FY 2022. That included a $102 million increase to the Education budget, a $1,000 teacher pay raise, as well as a raise for state employees up to 3%.
“Revenues have continued to be good. We are grateful for that, this has allowed us to fund all of our state agencies. It actually allowed us to restore what cuts we made last year,” said Gunn. He added that the Rainy Day Fund was full.
The Speaker said another area of great improvement was the nearly 20% increase in funding for the Department of Public Safety. That includes $1.5 million for a Trooper school as well as funds for bullet proof vests. They continue to make improvements to drivers services with additional funding.
One issue that arose when the Medicaid Tech budget was eventually brought before members in its final form was the removal of the stipulation for postpartum care for women up to 12 months after birth. It was said that the House caused the removal of that item, proposed by the Senate.
Speaker Gunn said it was due to the fact that the code section for that change was not included in the bill and he was told that there would be members who would bring a point of order against it. Therefore, it was removed.
Coming back in 2022 Speaker Gunn said he has his sights narrowly set on eliminating the income tax, an effort that failed this year in the Senate.
“I’ve said it repeatedly and I’ll say it again. I don’t know of any policy item we as a Legislature can do that would benefit the people more or result in greater economic prosperity in our state than the elimination of the income tax,” said Gunn.
Gunn said the plan he brought forward this year had bipartisan support from the House so they will work with the Senate to come to an agreement to move that forward next year.
Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann also said he was very pleased with the session given the amount of policy that came out of the Senate addressing a significant number of issues.
He commented on the additional expansion of broadband this year adding to the expansion last year. Hosemann called this initiative a “key to the future.” He said they will continue to push this issue as long as they can.
Other issues close to the Senate’s heart were increases in Education and a teacher pay raise as well as criminal justice reform. The Mississippi Earned Parole Eligibility Act was passed by both chambers and now heads to the Governor. Hosemann said he expects the Governor will sign it, unlike the veto he issued last year.
“With that our non-violent criminals are able to get out somewhat earlier depending on the time frame of sentence they’ve served. I thought that was important that we have a period where someone can work while incarcerated. I also thought it was critical that they have a job skill before they get out,” said Hosemann.
The Lt. Governor did express his disappointment with not getting postpartum care in the Medicaid Tech bill. He said there were other successes with that bill and he complimented the chairmen and conferees on their work.
The Senate also named the redistricting committee on the Sine Die day. Members will be responsible for reapportioning the Legislature and redistricting the state’s four congressional districts after receiving data from the 2020 Decennial Census.