The good, the bad and the ugly of bills presented in the Mississippi Legislature
With Tuesday's deadline for bills to pass out of committees for consideration by the whole originating chamber, here are some of the more important bills being considered in the Mississippi Legislature:
The Good HB 98 would authorize direct sales and shipments of wine to state residents and was authored by state Rep. Charles Busby (R-Pascagoula).
HB 127, sponsored by Hank Zuber (R-Ocean Springs), would limit the introduction of general (non-revenue) bills to even-numbered years. This would reduce the amount of time required for the Legislature to meet.
HB 1058 would establish an Office of Shared Services with the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration to handle accounts payable and payable functions from occupational licensing boards and commissions. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. John Read (R-Gautier).
HB 251 would boot any employee convicted of job-related felonies from the state's retirement system known as the Public Employees' Retirement System. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Rushing. Senate Bill 2107 is similar and is sponsored by Senate Education Committee chairman Gray Tollison (R-Oxford).
HB 360 would prevent state agencies from dividing up competitive contracts to get around state purchasing laws and is sponsored by state Rep. Jerry Turner (R-Baldwyn). He chairs the House Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee.
HB 411 would require the phasing out of state graduation testing and its replacement with the ACT test. State Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) is the bill's sponsor. A similar bill, HB 24, was sponsored by state Rep. Tom Miles (D-Forest).
House Bill 691, authored by House Speaker pro temp Greg Snowden (R-Meridian), would increase the amount of sales tax revenue that goes to municipalities from the present rate 18.5 percent to 20 percent by 2020. The state's general fund keeps the rest. A similar bill by state Rep. Randy Rushing (R-Decatur) is also being considered.
HB 957 would rewrite the state's education funding formula, known as the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, with a base student cost and financial weights for low income, gifted, English language learners and gifted students. It was sponsored by House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) and is already in the hands of the Senate.
HB 1480 would disperse use tax revenues, which now remain in the state's general fund, to cities at the same rate as the sales tax (now 18.5 percent). It is sponsored by state Rep. Mark Baker (R-Brandon).
SB 2101 would allow certified nurse practitioners to practice without a collaborating physician if they have 3,600 hours of clinical practice. Two similar bills from the House — HB 338 and HB 994 — would do the same thing.
SB 2482 would prohibit elected officials from appearing in publicly-funded television advertisements during election years and is sponsored by state Sen. John Polk (R-Hattiesburg), who chairs the Senate Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee.
SB 2623, sponsored by Tollison, would expand the state's education scholarship account program from just children with special needs to all children in the state. State Rep. Busby's version is also similar.
HB 344 would increase the state's gasoline tax and is sponsored by state Rep. Robert Johnson III (D-Natchez).
HB 1292 would create a debtor's prison in Mississippi for those who don't pay fines, fees and assessments. State Rep. Adrienne Wooten (D-Ridgeland) sponsored the bill.
SB 2608, sponsored by state Sen. Sally Doty (R-Brookhaven), would allow public and non-profit hospitals to collect debts against a debtor's state income tax refund. A debtor would have 30 days to respond to the Mississippi Department of Revenue to ask for a hearing to dispute the finding.
HB 130 would designate the Bible as the state's official book and was authored by state Rep. Tom Miles (D-Forest). The bill has already been double-referred, which means it was sent to two committees (the House Tourism Committee and the Rules Committee) and that is usually a death sentence for a bill.
HB 464 would mandate that the state's three NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools — Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss — would have to retain 33 percent of bowl revenues and provide them for graduating seniors. State Rep. Omeria Scott (D-Laurel) authored the bill.
HB 592 would designate Queen of the South as the state's second official song and was sponsored by state Rep. Tom Weathersby (R-Florence).
SB 2025 would designate Meet My Mississippi by Patricia Neely-Dorsey as the state's official poem. The bill, authored by state Sen. Bob Dearing (D-Natchez), is now in the hands of the Senate Rules Committee. A similar bill died in committee last session.