BPF Legislative Review
The final deadline has now passed for Governor Reeves to sign or veto bills approved by the Legislature in the session that officially ended April 4. Of the 2,623 bills that legislators introduced, only 13% made it to his desk. He vetoed one bill, line-item vetoed specific items in two others, and allowed nine to become law without his signature.
Many of the headline-grabbing issues in this year’s session never made it to the Governor because the Legislature couldn’t come to an agreement on them. That includes eliminating the state’s personal income tax, regulating and taxing the medical use of marijuana beyond what was approved in Initiative 65, expanding Medicaid, privatizing the state’s wholesale liquor operation, and others.
Some high-profile bills did pass, including:
- pay raises for teachers (HB 852) and for most state employees (SB2948)
- a limited expansion of parole eligibility for certain crimes (SB2795)
- prohibiting biological males from competing in women’s sports (SB2536)
- adopting a new state flag consistent with the choice voters made on last year’s election ballot (HB 1),
- allowing college athletes to earn money through product endorsements, social media compensation, or other sources for the use of their “name, image and likeness” (SB2313),
- allocating additional money for local roads and bridges (SB2825), and
- requiring a computer science curriculum to be taught in K-12 public schools (HB 633).
Here’s a quick review of some of the bills tracked by Bigger Pie Forum. Unless otherwise noted, all were signed into law.
Regulatory Relief to expand the economy
- HB1263 makes Mississippi the first state in the Southern U.S. to require occupational licensing boards to issue a license to people who move to Mississippi who have an occupational license issued by another state. SB2267 is similar but applies only to teacher licenses issued by other states.
- HB1312 frees from regulation of the Cosmetology Board those who practice eyebrow threading, apply eyelash extensions, or apply makeup to other people as an occupation.
- HB1091 allows microbreweries to operate in the state, SB2435 reduces restrictions on where and how distilleries may sell their products, and SB2606 allows more flexible distribution options for distilleries which produce alcohol that is composed of products grown or made in Mississippi.
- HB1135 allows delivery of alcohol, including beer, wine, and liquor, from an alcohol retailer (package store, restaurant, grocery or convenience store, etc.) to a consumer, similar to the service provided by DoorDash and other food delivery services. It does not allow direct shipment to consumers from wineries or other alcohol manufacturers or distributors.
- HB 632 forbids local ordinances that would have the effect of prohibiting certain types or sources of energy from being delivered to a consumer. For instance, a local government could not require that all electrical energy connections be provided by “green” energy sources.
- HB1139 reverses a budget gimmick that has been in place since 2014, first implemented to make that fiscal year’s budget (which ended June 30) appear to be in balance, by forcing businesses to pay two months’ (May and June) sales and income taxes in June, the last month of the fiscal year. That requirement has been maintained each year since, but will no longer apply this fiscal year or any in the future.
Regulatory Relief to expand access to healthcare
- SB2119 allows Sudafed and similar drugs to be bought without a prescription, beginning January 1 of next year. These drugs will remain behind the counter, the purchase will be recorded, and the quantity will be somewhat limited.
- HB1302 provides optometrists a limited expansion of the procedures they are allowed to perform, as long as they are properly trained to do them.
- HB 160 allows more access to care for children and adolescents who need psychiatric or chemical dependency treatment, by removing the moratorium on new Certificates of Need (CON) for such treatment. CONs are anti-competitive monopolies granted to certain health care providers for a long list of treatments, equipment, and facilities. While removing the moratorium in this bill is good, a better solution would be to eliminate the CONs altogether.
- HB 200 expands the eligibility for telehealth services for chronically ill patients by deleting the requirement that the patient must have been hospitalized twice recently in order to qualify for remote patient monitoring.
- SB2750 simplifies the process by which a doctor or other provider may delegate certain prescribing authority to a pharmacist for the benefit of the provider’s patients.
The Bad and The Ugly
- HB 95 is a simple bill to extend the life of a law regulating nursing home administrators. However, the bill added a new twist: Members of the Legislature who serve on the Public Health or Medicaid Committees in either house will now be exempt from continuing education requirements that apply to all other licensed administrators.
- HB1048 changes the qualifying deadline to February 1 for statewide, state district, county, and county district offices, including the Legislature. This will limit to one month the time in which candidates may qualify to run. (Click here for related article)
- SB2948, an otherwise-routine appropriations bill for a state agency, contains $97 million for 88 earmarked projects which seem to be favors provided to legislators, similar to earmarks many of these legislators complain about when the U.S. Congress does this. These include repaving an industrial park, paving beach sidewalks, making park and athletic field improvements in various locations (though three were line-item vetoed by the Governor), “maintenance of facilities” at a coast high school, a slew of fire trucks, and many street repairs.
- SB2971 is the annual “bond bill,” a 1,082-page bill totaling $300 million in borrowing. While SB 2948, described above, appropriated current funds for projects, this bill is worse. It calls for borrowing money on which taxpayers will be paying interest for 15-20 years in addition to the amount shown for the projects. $121 million is for unspecified projects for state universities and junior/community colleges. $80 million is for various state economic development programs, and the remaining $100 million funds more than 120 earmarked projects that, like SB 2948, appear to be favors requested by legislators. Many of these are for local road and bridge projects. Some are for building repair and renovation projects which will likely be necessary again before these bonds are paid off for this round of “R&R.” Also included is $250,000 to conduct a study for the location of a sports stadium in downtown Jackson.
- Five “Local and Private” bills authorize various municipalities to create taxes on restaurants and hotels, and 13 extend the authority for those taxes where they already exist. Ten Local and Private bills authorize local government contributions to private organizations.
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