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Education Scholarship Accounts bill is among key casualties on deadline day

ACTIVITY: Key deadlines were the end for bills such an ESA expansion. Photo by Steve Wilson

Thursday was the deadline in the Mississippi Legislature for floor action (either an up or down vote or a motion to consider) general bills by the originating chamber and several bills, such as the expansion of the state's Education Scholarship Program, died without a floor vote.

The next deadline is Monday for bills held by a motion to reconsider, which has to be removed before a bill can be passed by the originating chamber.

Here are some that still are alive and several that will have to wait until next year:

Still alive

House Bill 344 would increase the state's gasoline tax and is sponsored by state Rep. Robert Johnson III (D-Natchez). It has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and will need to be passed by the February 21 deadline for appropriations and revenue bills to pass out of the originating chamber.

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.

Senate Bill 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. The bill passed the Senate with a reverse repealer that keeps the bill alive so that legislators can perform more work on it.

House Concurrent Resolution 33, sponsored by Hank Zuber (R-Ocean Springs), is a change to Legislature rules that 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.

See you next year

HB 1058 would've established 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 was sponsored by state Rep. John Read (R-Gautier).

SB 2608, sponsored by state Sen. Sally Doty (R-Brookhaven), would've allowed public and non-profit hospitals to collect debts against a debtor's state income tax refund. State Sen. Michael Watson championed a committee substitute that cut the non-profit hospitals from the language, but the bill was allowed to die without a vote on the floor.

SB 2623, sponsored by Senate Education Committee chairman Gray Tollison (R-Oxford), would've expanded the state's education scholarship account program from just children with special needs to all children in the state.

In a statement, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves blamed a lack of votes in the House for the bill not making it to the Senate floor. House Speaker Philip Gunn strongly disagreed with that view.

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