It’s easy to judge a legislature by what is passed in a session, but what doesn’t make it through the process is just as important a measure.
This year, there were some bills that advanced the cause of economic freedom and liberty that made it through the Mississippi Legislature.
The Legislature ended its session early on March 29, but before they left town, legislators passed another round of criminal justice reform, made it easier for ex-cons to get occupational licenses, protected the privacy of donors to non-profits and shielded landowners from ruinous, frivolous lawsuits if a third party injures someone else on their property.
Part of advancing a pro-freedom agenda is also killing bad bills and the Legislature did that as well this session.
Legislators killed a bill that would’ve brought back the onerous practice of administrative forfeiture that died last year when the authorizing law expired. This type of forfeiture gave law enforcement agencies the ability to seize property valued at less than $20,000 with only a notice to the property owner.
They also declined to increase taxes on cigarettes and provide more than $4.6 million to bring back Amtrak passenger rail service to the Mississippi Gulf Coast that was ended after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in 2005.
Call that addition by subtraction.
Not every bill passed by the Legislature was a winner. Legislators brought back a controversial incentive for out-of-state employees of movie productions, despite plenty of evidence showing that these subsidies were a net loser for taxpayers. They also enabled power cooperatives to start broadband service, passing the authorizing bill with little debate to help the co-ops get a jump on securing federal funds.
Legislators also killed some good bills, including one that would’ve eased constitutional challenges to local ordinances, another that would’ve helped cottage food operators grow their businesses and another that would’ve allowed out-of-state licensed healthcare providers such as physicians, nurses and dentists to provide charity care to poor Mississippians.
The Legislature decided to add more than $371 million to the taxpayers’ credit card for various projects, some legitimate and others of a questionable nature, such as a $45 million handout to massive shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls for improvements at its Pascagoula shipyard.
As with any session, there are wins and setbacks, but this session’s long-term legacy may be some important reforms that help Mississippi become more economically free and help ex-cons get a second chance at become productive citizens.