Hello, my name is Gene Newman and I am thankful for the opportunity to represent the voters of Mississippi House of Representative District 61. As a Pearl school graduate who has lived in Pearl for most of my life, I have been a dedicated community leader committed to bringing a strong voice to the area. If you have a legislative issue or any issue or problem dealing with a state agency, please contact me and I will do my best to help.
I will post House updates below and on the @genenewman61 Facebook page.
Here are the House Committees that I serve on:
Here is a link to bills that I have sponsored or cosponsored: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2020/pdf/house_authors/newman.xml
You can call or text me at: 601-316-2491
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
RULES: If you put me in a group text or a chain email - I will block you.
UPDATES from the 2020 Session:
Weeks of January 6 and 13
On January 7, 2020, the Mississippi State Legislature began the first session of the new four-year term. Per the Constitution of the State of Mississippi, the first session of every term is scheduled to last 125 days, as opposed to 90 days. This is done to accommodate inaugurations, new committee chairmanships and procedural matters like choosing parking spaces and offices.
House members took the oath of office on the first day before the election of Speaker of the House and Speaker Pro Tempore. As part of the House Rules, both of these positions and the House Clerk are elected by the members and are sworn into office the first day of session. Speaker of the House Philip Gunn was elected to his third term as Speaker. Jason White was elected as the Pro Tempore after previously serving as Chairman of the Rules committee. Andrew Ketchings was also re-elected as House Clerk for the third time.
Although it is early in the session, the House has already taken up one bill. On Wednesday, January 8, House Bill 1 passed with a vote of 121-1 and has since passed the Senate floor. The bill would fully fund last year’s teacher pay raise after a miscalculation in the number of teachers led to a deficit. By appropriating an extra $18.4 million of the General Fund, teachers will now receive the $1,500 pay raise as promised last session.
On Thursday, January 9, six of the statewide elected officials were sworn into office by Chief Justice Michael Randolph before a joint session of the House and the Senate. The joint session also re-elected Steven Parks as state librarian.
Speaker Philip Gunn announced leadership of two important House committees. Representative John Read (R – Jackson) will return as the Chairman of Appropriations, while Representative Trey Lamar (R – Tate) is the new Chairman of Ways and Means. Representative Karl Oliver (R – Montgomery) was named the new Vice Chairman of Appropriations, and Representative Jody Steverson (R – Tippah) will be the new Vice Chairman of Ways and Means.
House members also had to elect fellow representatives to serve on the both the Management and Rules committees. All members split into the four Mississippi Congressional districts and nominate members to serve on these committees. Both committees are comprised of two members from each of the four Congressional districts, as well as the Speaker and the Pro Tempore.
On Tuesday, January 14, the inauguration ceremony of Governor Tate Reeves was held in the House Chamber due to the inclement weather outside. A packed chamber filled with legislators, statewide officials, Mississippi Supreme Court justices and other important personnel watched as he took the oath of office.
The Capitol was overflowing with guests the last two weeks because several swearing-in ceremonies were held. Visitors are always welcome to come to the Capitol to visit with their legislators and witness the legislative process.
Week of January 20
This was the third week of the 2020 Legislative Session. Speaker Philip Gunn made the much anticipated announcement of committee assignments on Thursday of this week. With this announcement, legislators will now begin meeting in their respective committees. The deadline for the introduction of general bills and constitutional amendments is later in the session, and after this deadline passes, committees will meet more often.
Because of the recent outbreak of prison violence across the state, legislators have begun to focus on our corrections system. The Legislative Black Caucus Criminal Justice Reform Task Force held a meeting this week to discuss different policy solutions. Many lawmakers and visitors also attended a prison reform rally held on the Capitol grounds on Friday morning.
Visitors at the Capitol this week included the Mississippi Nurses Association, gifted K-12 students from around the state, the Junior League of Jackson and the Mississippi Tourism Association.
Next Monday, Governor Tate Reeves will deliver his first State of the State address before a joint session of the House and the Senate. It will be held outside on the south steps of the Capitol, weather permitting.
Week of January 27
This was the fourth week of the 2020 Legislative Session. Because it is early in the session, the committees are just starting to meet as bills are still being drafted, so the floor action has been light. Bills must be passed out of committee before they are considered by the entire House. As a result of this, only one bill was voted on this week.
Senate Bill 2149 is an appropriation bill that would divert an additional $400,000 to the Department of Finance and Administration in preparation of the 2020 U.S. Census. These funds will be used to promote and educate Mississippians about the importance of being counted by the census. The bill passed with a vote of 114-5.
Governor Tate Reeves delivered his first State of the State address on Monday to a joint session of the Mississippi Legislature. He spoke of his plans for education, health care and workforce development. He also announced his plan to close Unit 29 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, or Parchman. This is a response to the string of killings and other violent incidents in Mississippi prisons.
On Thursday evening, a special House Election Committee met to determine the outcome of the House District 40 election. Representative Hester Jackson-McCray (D – DeSoto) was elected by 14 votes in November 2019, and she has been serving in the House since the start of the Legislative Session. The bipartisan committee voted unanimously to recommend to the House that she remain in her seat. The entire House will have a vote on the floor to determine the final outcome.
Representative Ramona Blackledge (R – Jones) announced her resignation this week. A special election to fill the District 88 seat has not been announced.
Visitors at the Capitol this week included the Mississippi Occupational Therapy Association, Jackson State University Alumni and pharmacy students from around the state.
Week of February 3, 2020
This was the fifth week of the 2020 Legislative Session. Floor action has been light because the deadline to file general bills is still over a week away. Bills must be filed and then passed out of committee before they are considered by the entire House. The deadline for the introduction of general bills and constitutional amendments is Monday, February 17.
One bill that reached the House floor this week was House Bill 95. The bill would provide that the Commissioner of Insurance shall resolve certain disputes between provider and the insured regarding billing. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 111-4. The following day, the bill was held on a motion to reconsider.
This week, the House voted unanimously to seat Hester Jackson McCray (D – DeSoto). McCray won the District 40 election by 14 votes in November 2019. After her opponent contested the election results, a House Special Committee voted unanimously last week to recommend that Representative McCray keep her seat.
Visitors at the Capitol this week included Alcorn State University, the Mississippi Speech-Language Hearing Association, the Mississippi School of Math and Science, the Mississippi Economic Development Council, members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., the Mississippi Library Association and the Mississippi Physical Therapy Association.
Week of February 10, 2020
This was the sixth week of the 2020 Legislative Session. House members had a busy week full of committee meetings and hearings. The deadline for the introduction of general bills and constitutional amendments is Monday, February 17, so members will remain busy over the next few weeks deciding which drafted bills will make it onto the House floor.
On Tuesday, Speaker Philip Gunn was presented the Angel Award by the Mississippi Center for Violence Prevention and was recognized for his commitment to fight human trafficking. In October 2018, Speaker Gunn’s Commission on Public Policy hosted a Human Trafficking Summit, and last session, the House passed House Bill 571 which made it illegal for a person under the age of 18 to be charged with prostitution.
After being held on a motion to reconsider at the end of last week, House Bill 95 came before the House again. The bill would provide that the Commissioner of Insurance shall resolve certain disputes between provider and the insured regarding billing. Amendment 1 to HB 95 was introduced and passed on a voice vote. The bill passed as amended and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 756 was the source of much debate during session on Thursday. The bill would require the Department of Finance and Administration to ascertain cost estimates of repairs at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility. The correctional facility has been closed since the fall of 2016. The bill passed 91-22, and it has been held on a motion to reconsider.
Two Representatives presented bills for the first time before the House. Representative Price Wallace (R – Simpson) presented House Bill 687, which would extend the date of the repealer on the provision of law that requires the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation to submit the annual audit of its accounts to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce by November 15. The bill passed 117-2. Representative Lee Yancey (R- Rankin) presented House Bill 408, which would provide requirements for credit for reinsurance. The bill passed 115-4.
Although several resolutions were passed by the House this week, one concurrent resolution in particular stood out. House Concurrent Resolution 13 honors the life of Mr. William J. “Billy” McCoy, who passed away in November 2019. Speaker McCoy was a member of the House from 1980 to 2012, serving as Speaker of the House from 2004 to 2012. During his time in the House, he also served as Chairman of Ways and Means, Chairman of Education and Vice-Chairman of Highways and Highway Financing (now Transportation), among his other committee appointments. HC 13 was passed unanimously by the members.
During session on Thursday, the House was visited by Miss Mississippi Mary Margaret Hyer. She addressed the House and spoke of her platform to increase the number of registered organ donors across the state.
Other visitors at the Capitol this week included Teen Pact Leadership Schools; the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks; the Mississippi Court Reporters Association; Mississippi Public Broadcasting; and the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians.
Week of February 17, 2020
Legislators had a full schedule during the seventh week of the 2020 Legislative Session. The deadline for introducing bills was on Monday night, so the calendar quickly became full with bills and resolutions to discuss. Although most work is still happening in committees, several pieces of legislation reached the House floor.
After being held on a motion to reconsider last week, House Bill 756 came before the House again. The bill would require the Department of Finance and Administration to ascertain cost estimates of repairs at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility. Amendment 1 to HB 756 was introduced and passed on a voice vote. The bill passed as amended and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 851 was another bill discussed both in committee and before the House this week. The bill adds an additional member appointed by the governor to the Corrections and Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force. The new member will act as an advocate for offenders and families who have been directly affected by the criminal justice system. The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 117-1 and has been transmitted to the Senate.
Another uncontested bill was House Bill 412. The bill would authorize the State Veterans Affairs Board to sell or dispose of surplus property of veterans’ nursing homes and cemeteries. HB 412 passed unanimously in the House and has been sent to the Senate.
One bill that received much attention this week was House Bill 97. If enacted, this bill would prohibit the selling, transferring or marketing of urine, most notably used for manipulating drug tests. The bill passed on a vote of 108-8, and it has been held on a motion to reconsider.
Visitors at the Capitol this week included the Madison County Business League, the Mississippi Aquarium, the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi, the Mississippi Chapter of Links, Inc., the Stennis Space Center, Future Farmers of America students, the Mississippi Poultry Association and the Mississippi Egg Marketing Board.
Week of February 24, 2020
Committees met frequently during the eighth week of the legislative session, as next Tuesday’s deadline to have House Bills out of their corresponding committees quickly approaches.
After Tuesday, March 3, no additional general bills will be added to the House calendar for consideration. Members will also meet in session for longer periods of time to discuss the bills that have made it out of their respective committees.
Although most work is still happening in these committee meetings, several bills reached the House floor and were discussed.
The most heavily discussed bill this week was Senate Bill 2257. The bill will authorize the State Auditor’s office to examine tax returns of individuals who receive federal benefits like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid. Proponents of the bill say that the State Auditor requested the bill to comply with a federal mandate. Opponents argued that tax returns are not necessary for this type of audit and that the bill would unfairly target poor Mississippians. After much debate, SB 2257 passed 76-45 and has been returned to the Senate.
Another bill that was the source of much debate was House Bill 1259. The bill would have allowed proprietary schools to submit certain debts owed to them to the Department of Revenue for collection through a setoff against the debtors’ Mississippi income tax refund. HB 1259 failed by a vote of 56-61.
Several bills did pass through the House relatively uncontested. House Bill 1253 is a bill that designates the State Fire Academy as an authorized medical first responder training program. The bill passed unanimously by a vote of 121-0 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 1559 is a bill that expands upon Speaker Philip Gunn’s commitment to fighting human trafficking. The bill creates a special fund in the State Treasury called the “Victims of Human Trafficking and Commercial Exploitation Fund.” This special fund will go towards assisting specialized human trafficking and sexual exploitation shelters. Currently, there is only one shelter of this type in the state. The bill passed with a vote of 90-20.
On Thursday afternoon, House Bill 1371 made its way onto the floor. The bill would make various changes to the Division of Driver Services in the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Some of these changes would include modernizing driver’s license kiosks around the state and updating the license renewal website to make the process more streamlined and transparent. The bill passed after a bipartisan vote of 117-3 and has been sent to the Senate.
Dr. Robert Ballard, a retired Navy officer whose career includes discovering the shipwreck of the RMS Titanic in 1985, visited the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Dr. Ballard announced the partnership of his organization Ocean Exploration Trust and the University of Southern Mississippi to map the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico. He was joined at the Capitol by USM President Rodney Bennett.
Many groups from across the state also visited the Capitol this week. These included Mississippi Valley State University, the women of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., the Human Rights Campaign, the American Heart Association, the Mississippi Recycling Coalition and Leadership DeSoto.
Week of March 2, 2020
The ninth week of the 2020 legislative session proved to be the busiest thus far. Committee meetings to discuss House bills wrapped up early in the week because of Tuesday’s general bill deadline. After Tuesday, all general bills that were not passed out of committee died before reaching the House calendar. The House convened Wednesday through Friday to discuss legislation that made it out of committee. The bills that were considered dealt with a variety of topics.
The first legislation that I introduced passed the House. House Bill 811 requires an operator of a motor vehicle that is involved in an accident, where no one is injured and the vehicle is still drivable, to move the vehicles out of the lane of traffic. It requires MDOT to post signage notifying drivers upon passage and there is no penalty until July 2021. It passed 115-3.
House Bill 1208, or the Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Act, would legalize the cultivation, processing and transportation of the hemp plant. Industrial hemp is a distinct strain of the cannabis plant that can be refined into commercial items, such as paper, textiles and clothing. Proponents of the bill said that the production of hemp would help farmers and be a boost for the state’s economy. Opponents of the bill argued that regulation and enforcement could be difficult because of its close resemblance to marijuana. The bill passed the House with a vote of 104-10.
Another greatly debated bill was House Bill 730, which would allow municipalities with a population of less than 2,500 residents to conduct special elections at one central polling place. If enacted into law, it would only apply to special elections. Both general elections and primaries would still be held at regular voting precincts. Proponents of the bill said it would help smaller communities save money in special elections. Opponents argued that the law could potentially hinder people by showing up at their regular voting precinct to cast their ballot instead of the temporary polling place. An amendment to the bill was added calling for a notice to be placed in front of the regular precincts informing voters of the change. The bill passed the House as amended by a vote of 94-21.
Several bills on the floor this week covered the sale of alcohol across the state. House Bill 917 would allow for the sale of light spirit products, which by definition contain no more than 4% of alcohol. These products would be regulated in the same way as beer and light wine. HB 917 passed by a vote of 82-28 and has been sent to the Senate. House Bill 4 would increase the maximum number of package retailer’s permits a person may own from one to three. Debate ensued when opponents argued that this change could potentially impact small business owners around the state, while proponents noted that other states have similar laws and that the change would increase healthy economic competition. The bill had a vote on the floor of 57-55, but a motion to reconsider was entered and a point of order was raised asking if the bill required a three-fifths majority instead.
House Bill 978 would increase the penalties for the crime of hazing, including failing to report hazing. This bill comes after a string of hazing-related deaths among U.S. college students in recent years. The bill passed the House by a vote of 96-18 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
A number of noncontroversial bills also passed through the House this week, including a bill creating the “Future of Mississippi Agriculture Act of 2020” (HB 1566), a bill allowing freestanding emergency rooms to be established near recently closed rural hospitals (HB 752), a bill requiring inspection of amusement and carnival rides (HB 999) and a bill allowing active duty highway patrolmen to teach driver’s education programs (HB 1503).
Floor debate will continue on these general bills until the March 12 deadline. Other visitors this week included singer-songwriter and Mississippi native Paul Overstreet, opera conductor William Garfield Walker, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, realtors from across the state, students from Obama Magnet Elementary School, Canopy Children’s Solutions and the Mississippi Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Week of March 9, 2020
The House met as a whole throughout the week to discuss general bills that made it out of committee and onto the calendar. Thursday, March 12 was the deadline for representatives to discuss these general bills. Any bills not discussed in session by this deadline died on the calendar. The bills listed below are just some of the many bills that were passed by the House this week.
One greatly debated item in the House was House Concurrent Resolution 39. The concurrent resolution would provide an alternative to Initiative 65 on the ballot in November. Initiative 65 would amend the Constitution to allow Mississippians with a debilitating medical condition to obtain a medical marijuana prescription. Proponents of HC 39 claimed that the language in Initiative 65 was misleading and could potentially lead to a recreational marijuana environment in the state. Opponents of HC 39 argued that the resolution was a tactic to make it more difficult for Initiative 65 to pass in November. HC 39 passed with a vote of 72-49. HCR 39 was also taken up by and passed the Senate by a vote of 34-17. It now awaits the Governor's signature which will place it on the ballot.
Another concurrent resolution that would propose an amendment to the Constitution was House Concurrent Resolution 47. Currently, if no gubernatorial candidate receives a majority of votes, the election is decided by the House of Representatives. The proposed amendment would remove the electoral requirement for governor and allow the governor to be elected by a majority. If no candidate receives a majority, then a runoff election would be held. HC 47 passed with a bipartisan vote of 114-2 and has been sent to the Senate.
Two items passed this week that would bring changes to the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees. House Bill 870 would require that appointments to the IHL Board be made by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House. Currently, the governor has the sole power to appoint all twelve members of the board with Senate confirmation. HB 870 passed by a vote of 78-41. House Concurrent Resolution 51 would propose an amendment that would revise the authority of the IHL Board to choose university presidents. HC 51 passed by a vote of 86-35.
House Bill 1407 would raise the state’s minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 and would group alternative nicotine products, like vaping and e-cigarettes, with other forms of smokeless tobacco so that these products can be taxed. The bill passed by a vote of 99-13 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
Similar to last week, several bills on the floor covered the topic of alcohol sale across the state. House Bill 1086 would create the Mississippi Liquor Distribution Corporation. The corporation would be similar to the one created by the Legislature to run the state lottery system, and it would function as the state’s wholesale distributor and seller of alcoholic beverages in the state. HB 1086 passed with a vote of 78-35 and has been sent to the Senate. House Bill 1096 would in turn remove the Mississippi Department of Revenue from being the wholesale distributor of wine. HB 1096 passed with a vote of 67-43 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
Bill 1091, or the Mississippi Educational Talent Recruitment Act, would work to prevent “brain drain” in the state caused by recent college graduates leaving the state in pursuit of more lucrative employment opportunities. The bill is similar to one that was passed last year by the but died in a Senate committee. HB 1091 passed the with a vote of 111-8.
House Bill 1295, or the Life Equality Act of 2020, would prohibit abortions being performed because of race, sex or genetic abnormality except in a medical emergency. The bill passed the House by a vote of 79-33.
Despite how busy legislators were with the general bill deadline, most thoughts this week were centered around COVID-19, or the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. On Wednesday evening, the first case of the illness in Mississippi was reported in Forrest County, and by the end of the week, several more cases had been announced. Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White and Public Health Chairman Sam Mims attended a press conference Thursday morning led by Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the State Health Officer of the Mississippi State Department of Health. Speaker Gunn later addressed the House to update members on the global pandemic’s status. At the present time, there are no plans to suspend business in the Legislature. However, all tours at the Capitol have been suspended until further notice.
On Thursday morning, the House passed House Bill 499, which will designate part of U.S. Highway 45 in Alcorn and Prentiss Counties as “Speaker William J. ‘Billy’ McCoy Memorial Highway.” The House was joined by the late Speaker McCoy’s family and former Representative Steve Holland. Speaker McCoy was first elected to the House in 1980 and served as Speaker of the House from 2004 to 2012. He also served as chairman of the Education Committee and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee prior to being elected speaker.
The House was also visited by Jackson native and current Super Bowl Champion Breeland Speaks. He was joined by family and friends as he was presented with House Concurrent Resolution 44, which commended him on his efforts as a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Week of March 16, 2020
On Tuesday, March 17, the Mississippi House of Representatives suspended the legislative session until April 1 at 2 p.m., or a date mutually agreed upon by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann if necessary. This suspension is out abundance of caution for the members and staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the House could adjourn, several items needed to be taken up in relation to the suspension. Because the general bill deadline has already passed, a resolution was needed to suspend the rules and allow for a general bill to be introduced. Senate Concurrent Resolution 561 called for a suspension of the rules and for the introduction of a bill to authorize leave with pay for local government and local school district employees. There is a statute that allows for state employees to receive benefits during certain circumstances, but the statute did not permit the same for local government employees. House Bill 1647 was then introduced authorizing local governmental entities and school districts to grant administrative leave with pay during certain emergencies. The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 118-2 and was sent to the Senate for consideration.
The second resolution taken up was House Concurrent Resolution 65. resolution extends the session by 30 days, allows for reconvening on April 1 or upon determination by the House and Senate and adjusts the session deadlines to conform with the extended schedule. HC 65 passed by a vote of 82-38 and is expected to be taken up by the Senate on Wednesday morning.
“Obviously we are trying to monitor the situation. We don’t want to see a spike in the number of cases,” said Speaker Philip Gunn in a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “We want to make sure we not only set a good example for the citizens of the state, but also protect those that work here and those who are dispersed to various parts of the state.”