We passed a $6.3 billion general fund budget for Fiscal Year 2020 that included a raise for state employees and covers an anticipated increase in state employee retirement contributions.
Under the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which begins July 1, teachers will receive a $1,500 raise, which comes five years after a $2,500 teacher pay raise.
We passed Senate Bill 2928 that would create Energy High School Academy – a partnership between Entergy Nuclear, Mississippi Development Authority, Claiborne County schools and Vicksburg-Warren County schools designed to provide early learning for students to create a pool of potential workers for Grand Gulf Nuclear Plant. In coming years Entergy, certified to operate Grand Gulf through 2044, plans to hire about 500 workers and could benefit by hiring locally.
We passed House Bill 1352, the Criminal Justice Reform Act designed to ease jail overcrowding and give certain offenders a second chance to become productive. Among its benefits will be the expansion of drug courts, access to veteran’s courts, mental health courts and other courts. The bill emphasizes increasing expungement opportunities, providing TANF/SNAP benefits to help ex offenders to re-enter society and blend more easily into a family setting if the elements – such as proper nutrition and a support system are in place.
Another highlight of that bill is that it would do away with blanket suspension of driver’s licenses for controlled substance violations, which has restricted their ability to secure jobs.
We passed House Bill 1160 that would authorize $12.5 million in bonds up to four years for construction and furnishing the Mississippi Center for Medically Fragile Children on state owned property near I-55 and Lakeland Drive in Jackson.
The facility will have 30 beds and would be operated by University of Mississippi Medical Center as is Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. The major difference between the two facilities is the cost to care for child patients. Blair E. Batson’s daily cost for treating patients is about $2,500 officials say. The new facility would incur a cost of about $1,000 per day per child.
The Mississippi Center for Medically Fragile Children plans to have five beds for critically ill children and the other 25 beds for less severely ill/transitional patients.
We passed House Bill 991 that will allow local governments to collect past due debts from a debtor’s state income tax refund. Only child support payments would take precedent over the debts owed to city, county or state entities.
Our passage of House Bill 150 includes an effort to forgive up to $12,000 in student loans for teachers in geographical areas with critical needs, like the Delta, or those who teach in critical subject areas, like science, math and foreign languages.
Other major legislation passed included:
- Senate Bill 2744, which bans telemarketers from masking their identity with inaccurate phone numbers Senate Bill 2821 includes text messaging and soliciting for charitable purposes under the prohibitions of the Mississippi Telephone Soliciting Act. It also increase fines and penalties for businesses and persons found to be in violation.
- Senate Bill 2116 prohibits abortion in cases where a fetal heartbeat is detected. The bill included an exemption for cases of medical emergencies.
- House Bill 1182 that would ban public schools from using corporal punishment on disabled children.
- House Bill 1283 would create “The Mississippi School Safety Act of 2019 and require schools to assess their physical vulnerability to threats that might allow assailants to enter the building. The federally funded pilot program also deals with other security issues and would provide more money for school resource officers.
- Senate Bill 3019 adds money to fund a trooper school for the Department of Public Safety and money to help address long lines at driver’s license renewal stations.
- House Bill 1132 will offer through the Mississippi Development Authority, financial incentives for grocers to locate in rural areas and out of the way places whose citizens need access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Senate Bill 2781 enacts the Mississippi Fresh Start Act that will ensure no person can be denied a license by a Mississippi board strictly because of a criminal record. Denials have to be based on other factors.
- We approved House Bill 1659 that placed in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks budget $400,000 for a Chronic Wasting Prevention Program to try and stay ahead of the disease that has been detected in Mississippi’s deer population.
- Senate Bill 2901, the Landowner Protection Act limits the liability of property owners.
- Senate Bill 2305 increases certain criminal penalties for human trafficking and expands the definition of what constitutes the crime.
- Senate Bill 2827 increases the salaries of local elected officials by about 10-percent. The increase will come from county funds, which local officials will cover by increasing fees for services.
- Senate Bill 2243 would allow the president of a board of supervisors to declare a local state of emergency.
- Senate Bill 2193 created a tourism advisory board and will divert a percentage of hotel and restaurant sales tax revenues collected to tourism advertising.
- Senate Bill 2444 would allow county tax assessors and deputy tax assessors to substantially increase their salaries by earning any number of certifications.
- Senate Bill 2449 will ensure students in juvenile detention can continue their education to the point of high school graduation with their home district’s assistance.
- House Bill 1519 would authorize the Board of Nursing to establish an alternate discipline program for nurses who may have a substance abuse problem.
- Senate Bill 2043 raises the price of marriage licenses from $20 to $35.
- House Bill 977 provides legal protection for nonresident athletic team physicians who treat players at sporting events in Mississippi.
- Senate Bill 2053 will allow students at community colleges and universities to earn educational credits for military service;
- Senate Bill 2452 will requires occupational licensure boards to quickly address applications of military spouses for families stationed in the state for three years or less.
I thank you for entrusting me to represent our district. I can be reached at 601-359-3246