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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.

Gene NewmanI will post House updates below and on the @genenewman61 Facebook page.

Here are the House Committees that I serve on:

Apportionment and Elections
Corrections
Judiciary B
Judiciary En Banc
Military Affairs
Public Property - Vice Chair
 

Here is a link to bills that I have sponsored or cosponsored in the 2022 session: Bills introduced by Rep. Gene Newman

Thank you!

- Gene

You can call or text me at: 601-316-2491

You can email me at gene@genenewman.ms

RULES:  If you put me in a group text or a chain email - I will block you.

 

2024 Mississippi Legislative Session

 

Week of April 8, 2024

This was the fifteenth week of the 2024 legislative session. Wednesday was the deadline for the House to discuss general Senate bills. Any Senate bills that did not make it off the calendar and before the House died.

After the Senate killed the House’s education funding formula proposal (INSPIRE Act), House Education Chairman Rob Roberson (R – Starkville) introduced a strike-all amendment to Senate Bill 2693 inserting the language into the bill. The amended legislation passed 104-16 and has been returned to the Senate. If passed, the INSPIRE Act would replace the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), the current formula that has only been fully funded twice since its inception in 1997.

Because it is late in the session, much of the week was spent deciding whether to concur with any changes made to House bills by the Senate or to invite conference on those bills. In conference, representatives and senators work together to finalize the details of each bill before they are sent to the governor. Included in the bills being sent to conference are most of the revenue and appropriations bills from both the House and Senate, which will determine the state’s budget.

Next week as the session begins to wind down, legislators will spend much of their time in conference committees ironing out the final details of bills that were sent to conference. These conference committees will then have to file reports before the end of the session.

On Thursday, the House honored former Representative Benjamin Eric Robinson, Sr. who passed away in 2023. Robinson served District 84 (portions of Clarke, Jasper, Lauderdale and Newton Counties) from 1994 until his retirement in 2007. His wife Teresa, children and grandchildren were presented with House Resolution 57, which recognized his legislative career and offered condolences upon his passing.

The House also recognized Okolona native and World War II veteran Mr. L.C. Gladney and presented him with House Resolution 71. He was also presented with the Mississippi Veterans Honor Medal by Mississippi Veterans Affairs Executive Director Mark Smith. Gladney, who will turn 100 years old in May, addressed the House and spoke of his time at Camp Shelby and serving in France.

Other visitors this week included the Piney Woods School, Oak Grove High School, the Meridian High School Boys Basketball team, the Long Beach High School Choir, Accelerate MS and the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency.

Week of April 1, 2024 

This was the fourteenth week of the 2024 legislative session. The deadline for House committees to report general bills originating from the Senate occurred Tuesday, April 2. Any Senate bills that did not make it out of committee died. Members debated general Senate bills on the House floor, and the deadline for these bills to be passed is next Wednesday, April 10. The House took up more than 60 Senate bills this week including the following:

Senate Bill 2689 would replace the state subject area testing requirements in high schools with alternative assessments, like the ACT. Currently, high school students must pass tests on Algebra, American History, Biology and English. The bill passed 103-6, and it has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2349 would require schools to adopt and implement cardiac emergency response plans. The House adopted Amendment 1 which would allow schools to accept gifts or donations for the purchase of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). SB 2349 passed unanimously 121-0 and has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2339 would allow American Sign Language to be counted as a foreign language credit for high school graduation requirements. The bill passed unanimously 121-0 and has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2244 would allow foster care children to have free access to museums and state parks, as well as free transcripts from public universities and junior colleges. The bill passed by a unanimous vote of 120-0.

Senate Bill 2577 would create a criminal penalty for a person creating and disseminating a deepfake or digitization of a candidate 90 days before an election. A deepfake is a video in which a person has been digitally altered to appear as someone else, typically with malicious intent. The bill is similar to House Bill 1689, which passed the House earlier this session. SB 2577 passed unanimously 120-0 and has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2441 would prohibit the distribution or sale of certain alternative nicotine products, like an electronic cigarette or vape, that cannot be marketed or sold under federal law or FDA rule. A strike-all amendment was introduced creating the “Mississippi Tobacco Harm Reduction Act of 2024;” however, a point of order was raised saying that the amendment was not germane to the original bill. The point of order was well taken, and the strike-all was removed from the bill. SB 2441 passed 115-0.

The Ways and Means Committee also took up several bills from the Senate Finance Committee including a bill to move the Back to School sales tax holiday to the second Friday in July (SB 2470); a bill to allow cigar shops to sell alcohol on the premises (SB 2567); a bill to extend the repealer on tax credits for qualified charitable organizations (SB 2476); a bill to amend the qualifications for the Mississippi Main Street Grant Program (SB 2696); and a bill to define the authority of demolition and removal of structures in the Capitol Complex Improvement District (SB 2917).

The House will continue to work on bills originating from the Senate until the deadline next Wednesday. All Senate bills approved by the House will be sent back with changes to the Senate where they can concur with the changes or invite conference. There are more than 50 Senate bills remaining on the House calendar that must be dealt with by Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the House was visited by the family of the late singer-songwriter and Pascagoula native Jimmy Buffett. His sister Lucy Buffett and cousin Mark Lumpkin were presented with House Concurrent Resolution 16, which celebrates his legacy and expresses sympathy upon his passing.

Other visitors this week included Friends of Mississippi Veterans, Tupelo Young Republicans, Leadership Jackson County, South Jones High School Band, Mississippi Young Bankers and the Mississippi Children’s Museum.

 

Week of March 25, 2024

This was the thirteenth week of the 2024 legislative session. Wednesday, March 27 marked the deadline for original floor action on House appropriations and revenue bills. The Appropriations Committee and the Ways and Means Committee took up several bills to meet this week’s deadline.

The Mississippi School Resource Officers School Safety, or MS ROSS, Act (House Bill 1982) would provide funding for local law enforcement agencies to employ school resource officers at schools within their jurisdictions. The bill passed unanimously by a vote of 120-0, and it has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 1988 would increase the amount of tax credits that may be allocated under the Children’s Promise Act of 2019. These tax credits are for contributions to charitable organizations that provide services to children in foster care, children with chronic illnesses or disabilities and children who are eligible for free or reduced meal programs. The bill passed 101-1 before being held on a motion to reconsider. That motion was then tabled, and the bill has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1953 would authorize an income tax credit for businesses that make contributions to a rural hospital in the state. The bill passed unanimously 118-0 and will now go to the Senate.

House Bill 1768 would authorize an income tax credit for taxpayers who provide paid maternity and paternity leave to employees. The bill passed unanimously 120-0.

House Bill 1710 would authorize an income tax credit for employers that participate in employer-sponsored training programs through community and junior colleges. HB 1710 passed 118-0 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1985 would authorize an income tax credit and an ad valorem tax credit for taxpayers for each dependent child residing with parents who are legally married to one another. HB 1985 passed 117-0.

House Bill 1485 would exclude forgiven, cancelled or discharged federal student loan debt under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program from the definition of “gross income” for state income tax purposes. HB 1485 passed 115-0 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1855 would exempt sales, leases or other retail transfers of certain fixed-wing aircraft from sales tax. HB 1855 passed 116-1 and will now go to the Senate.

House Bill 1984 would authorize an ad valorem tax credit for certain refines of oil, gas and petroleum products. HB 1984 passed 120-0.

Many of these bills include a reverse repealer clause, meaning that these bills will go to conference for further revision before the end of session.

Committees began to meet again this week to discuss Senate general bills. The deadline for these bills to be passed out of committee is Tuesday, April 2. Senate bills will come out of House committees and onto the House floor discussion. The Senate will go through the same process with House general bills. The deadline for these bills to pass the House is Wednesday, April 10.

Senate Bill 2072 would revise the circumstances and criteria under which a physical therapist may provide treatment without a referral from another health care provider. The bill passed 107-8 and has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2156 would create the Mississippi Rare Disease Advisory Council at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. This bill is similar to House Bill 616 which was passed earlier this year. SB 2156 passed unanimously 120-0 and has been returned to the Senate.

Under Senate Bill 2157, Mississippi would join 41 other states in the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact. This interstate compact facilitates the practice of telepsychology across state boundaries. The bill passed unanimously 120-0 and has been returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2408 would require identification cards at any of the state institutions of higher learning to have 988 Crisis Lifeline information on the cards. The bill passed as amended by the House by a vote of 120-0.

Senate Bill 2698 would create the Cyber Security Review Board. The board would be responsible for addressing cybersecurity threats made to the State of Mississippi. The bill passed unanimously 118-0.

Senate Bill 2557 would authorize Agricultural and Forestry Experimental Stations at Mississippi State University and Alcorn State University to enter into a ground lease for solar installation. SB 2557 passed as amended 118-1.

Senate Bill 2888 would create the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Research Program at the National Center for Cannabis Research at the University of Mississippi. The bill would also establish the Medical Cannabis Research Advisory Board. SB 2888 passed 106-10.

On Thursday, the House was honored to have songwriter Don Poythress visit the Capitol. The Clinton native played one of his songs during session and received a standing ovation. He was recently inducted into the Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The House was also visited by the Raymond High School Boys Basketball Team who won the MHSAA 4A State Championship earlier this year. The team was presented with House Resolution 77 commending them on their accomplishments.

Other visitors this week included Rust College, the Boy Scouts of America, West Union Attendance Center, Black Voters Matter, the Department of Mental Health and Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi.

 

Week of March 18, 2024

This was the twelfth week of the 2024 legislative session. Next Wednesday, March 27 is the deadline for original floor action on House appropriations and revenue bills. Members will then continue to work on general bills from the Senate. The House did discuss two of these Senate bills this week despite the deadline being a few weeks away.

On Wednesday, the House took up Senate Bill 2453. The bill would authorize the Public Service Commission to cancel a municipality’s certificate to provide utility services upon findings of inadequacies. The City of Holly Springs Utility Department (HSUD) currently provides power to almost 12,000 customers not only in the city limits but also to customers in Marshall, Benton and Lafayette Counties in Mississippi and Fayette and Hardeman Counties in Tennessee. Customers of HSUD have experienced frequent outages for years, including 133 outages in 90 days. After much debate, the bill passed as amended by the House by a vote of 78-32. SB 2453 has been held on a motion to reconsider.

House Education Chairman Rob Roberson (R – Starkville) introduced Senate Bill 2332, which would revise the funding formula for MAEP. The House adopted Strike-All Amendment 1, inserting the House’s INSPIRE Program (HB 1453) into the bill instead. Strike-all amendments are commonly used when taking up bills from the other house. SB 2332 passed as amended 94-18, and it has been sent back to the Senate.

Visitors this week included Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Delta State University, Jackson State University, the Mississippi Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition, the Brain Injury Association of Mississippi, Tomorrow’s 25 and the Mississippi Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs.

 

Week of March 11, 2024

This was the eleventh week of the 2024 legislative session. The House met as a whole throughout the week to discuss bills that made it out of committee and onto the calendar. Thursday, March 14 was the deadline for members to introduce and discuss these general bills. Any bills not discussed in session by this deadline died on the calendar. The bills discussed dealt with a variety of topics.

House Bill 1590 would reconstitute the membership of the board of the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS). The new board would be made up of the state treasurer, the commissioner of revenue, four appointees from the governor, three appointees from the lieutenant governor, one retired member and one current state employee. The bill would also rescind the scheduled employer’s contribution increase that was scheduled for July 1. An increase would be left up to the new board. The bill passed the House by a vote of 85-34 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1208 would provide for penalties for hunting and fishing on the lands of others without permission. The fines for this kind of trespassing would start at $500 for a first offense.

The bill passed 67-43 before being held on a motion to reconsider.

House Concurrent Resolution 23 would amend the Constitution to provide that only United States citizens are allowed the opportunity to vote. HCR 23 passed by a vote of 81-23 and will now be considered in the Senate.

Several Education bills were discussed this week including the following: the Students Safe at School Act (HB 1379); a bill transferring employment of student attendance officers from MDE to local school districts (HB 73); a bill to authorize the creation of virtual public schools (HB 1192); a bill creating a study committee (SAVED) to determine establishing a model school for failing schools in the Mississippi Delta (HB 1447); and a bill removing the requirement for the current district of a student to approve their release in the event of a transfer (HB 867).

Two bills would target telephone solicitors. House Bill 1350 would prohibit solicitors from making any calls regarding Medicare Advantage Plans. House Bill 1352 would prohibit any calls regarding Medicare supplements and would allow consumers to opt out of all calls. Both bills passed the House and have been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1607, or the Women’s Bill of Rights, was a major point of discussion this week. The bill would provide legal definitions of “male” and “female,” “man” and “woman,” and “sex.” It would also ensure social or athletic groups could remain single sex. The bill passed 82-30 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 349 would prevent “squatted vehicles,” where a vehicle is modified so that the front fender is raised four inches or higher than the rear fender. Proponents of the bill said that this would keep other drivers safe on the road because the driver of the modified vehicle cannot properly see. Opponents argued this was discriminating against individuals who participate in recreational activities such as car shows. HB 349 passed 75-43.

House Bill 430 would allow for direct sales and shipment of certain wines to Mississippi residents. After being held on a motion to reconsider, the bill passed 91-21.

The Walker Montgomery Protecting Children Online Act (HB 1126) was passed this week. The bill would protect minors from online harmful material and would require digital service users to register their age. The bill passed unanimously 121-0.

One representative presented a bill for the first time before the House. Representative Beth Luther Waldo (R – Pontotoc) presented House Bill 753, which would extend the repealer on the State Board of Cosmetology. The bill passed by a vote of 118-0.

After most general bills were taken up this week, representatives began working on appropriations bills. The appropriations bills determine how much money is given to various state departments and agencies.

The House is responsible for looking at the preliminary budgets of about 50 state agencies, including the Departments of Education, Transportation, Health, Medicaid and Human Services. These bills represent half of the state’s budget; the other half will be considered by the Senate and will be sent to the House for consideration later in the legislative session.

In the budget for the Department of Education (House Bill 1823), the House appropriated more than $3 billion for the implementation of the INSPIRE program, which was passed by the House last week.

Most budgets include reverse repealers, a clause that ensures that a bill cannot become law before going to a conference committee for further revisions. With reverse repealers in place, many appropriations bills were voted on in a block to help speed up the process. The deadline for original floor action on House appropriations and revenue bills is Wednesday, March 27.

The FY25 budgets for these state agencies are recommended by the Legislative Budget Office. These budgets will not be complete until the end of session when they go to conference committees.

Visitors to the Capitol this week included Main Street New Albany, Horn Lake Youth Council, the Medgar and Angela Scott Foundation, the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Jackson Young Lawyers Association and the Mississippi Reentry Coalition.

 

Week of March 4, 2024

The tenth week of the 2024 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. Floor debate will continue on general bills until the March 14 deadline.

On Wednesday, House Education Chairman Rob Roberson (R – Starkville) introduced the Investing in the Needs of Students to Prioritize, Impact and Reform Education (INSPIRE) Act of 2024, or House Bill 1453. The plan would replace the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or MAEP, the state’s current funding formula. MAEP has only been fully funded twice since its inception in 1997. Under the INSPIRE Act, the base student cost is $6,650, and schools would receive more money for low-income students, special-needs students, English language learners and others. Every four years, a group comprised of the State Superintendent of Education, local superintendents and employees of the State Department of Education would submit a report to the Legislature reviewing the formula and making recommendations. After more than one hour of debate, the House passed HB 1453 by a vote of 95-13. It has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 1609 would allow a person to have their voting rights restored and felony records expunged after five years. This would not include certain crimes such as arson, armed robbery, carjacking, murder, sexual battery, voter fraud and others. The bill passed by a vote of 99-9 before being held on a motion to reconsider.

House Bill 1210 would establish the Dr. Elton Mac Huddleston Rural Veterinarians Scholarship in honor of the late former House member and veterinarian. Representative Mac Huddleston served as a member of the Legislature from 2008 to 2023 where he represented District 15 (Pontotoc County). The bill passed unanimously by a vote of 122-0.

House Bill 315 would modernize terminology in the Mississippi Code by replacing the term “mentally retarded” with the term “intellectual disability.” The bill passed unanimously 122-0.

House Bill 1450 would enter Mississippi into the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact to facilitate the mobility of teachers who are married to service members. HB 1450 passed 118-0 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1655 would revise the candidate qualification process by requiring a notarized written statement and a copy of a Mississippi ID card. HB 1655 passed 81-35 before being held on a motion to reconsider.

House Bill 1156 would prohibit polling places from being closed within sixty days before an election. HB 1156 passed unanimously 122-0 and is now in the Senate.

Two bills would affect the pawnbroking industry in the state. House Bill 1021 would authorize the Commissioner of Banking to allow pawnbrokers to store certain purchased or pledged goods off premises. HB 1021 passed 118-2. House Bill 1062 would authorize pawnbrokers to pass credit and debit card processing charges to customers. HB 1062 passed 104-14.

House Bill 907 would create the Mississippi Childcare Teachers Shortage Study Committee. This committee would make a report on how to increase affordable childcare in the state while also increasing the supply of early childhood teachers. HB 907 passed 121-0.

House Bill 1013 would aim to combat the shortage of paramedics by creating the Paramedics Recruitment and Retention Scholarship Program. To qualify for the program, an applicant must be a certified EMT, have necessary prerequisites for an accredited paramedic program and commit to living in the State of Mississippi for a minimum of three years. HB 1013 passed 118-0.

Seven Representatives presented bills for the first time before the House:

  • Representative Lance Varner (R – Florence) presented House Bill 1123, which would authorize the Mississippi Department of Transportation to transfer certain property to the Greene County Board of Supervisors.
  • Representative Jonathan McMillan (R – Madison) presented House Bill 1257, which would clarify the maximum fee charged by a notary public and would allow nonresidents who work in Mississippi to be commissioned as a notary public.
  • Representative Timaka James-Jones (D – Belzoni) presented House Bill 1404, which would revise the time for holding runoff elections to four weeks instead of three weeks after the first election.
  • Representative Jim Estrada (R – Saucier) presented House Bill 1577, which would make bidding terms for public deposits compatible with between counties and municipalities.
  • Representative Lawrence Blackmon (D – Canton) presented House Bill 1558, which would require social media platforms to regulate the advertisement of tobacco and nicotine products.
  • Representative W.I. “Doc” Harris (R – Hernando) presented House Bill 1311, which would authorize boards of trustees of community or junior colleges to reduce or waive out-of-state tuition for certain students.
  • Representative Andy Stepp (R – Bruce) presented House Bill 761, which would extend the repealer on Harper Grace’s Law, which authorizes research and dispensing of CBD oil for medical purposes.

Several noncontroversial bills were passed on Friday including the following: a bill to revise certain provisions regarding telework by employees of state agencies (House Bill 1356); the Peer-to-peer Car Sharing Program Act (House Bill 1048); a bill to prohibit health plans from requiring step therapy before treating advanced metastatic cancer (House Bill 1143); the Seizure Safe Schools Act (House Bill 346); and a bill that would authorize community organizations to receive and administer opioid antagonists, such as Narcan (House Bill 1137).

The House honored the West Point High School Football Team on Thursday for winning the Class 5A MHSAA State Championship in fall 2023. The team was presented with House Resolution 58.

Other visitors this week included the Oxford GIRL emPOWERment Class, Mississippi Tourism Association, the Mississippi Center for Re-Entry, the American Red Cross and the Mississippi Chapters of The Links, Incorporated.

 

Week of February 26, 2024

Committees met frequently during the ninth week of the legislative session, as next Tuesday’s deadline to have House Bills out of their corresponding committees quickly approaches. After Tuesday, March 5, no additional general bills will be added to the House calendar for consideration. Members will also meet in session for longer periods to discuss the bills that make it out of committee. Despite most work still happening in committees, members took up several bills on the House floor this week.
House Medicaid Chairwoman Missy McGee (R – Hattiesburg) presented House Bill 1725, or Healthy Mississippi Works. The act would direct the Mississippi Division of Medicaid to seek a federal waiver to allow coverage for persons described in the Affordable Care Act. The persons included in the expansion are 19 to 64-year-olds whose income is not greater than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. They must also work 20 hours or more a week, be a full-time college student or be enrolled in a workforce training program. HB 1725 passed by a vote of 99-20, and it has been referred to the Senate Medicaid Committee.

Two bills that would affect package retailers were introduced this week. House Bill 328 would increase the number of package retailer’s permits a person or entity may own from one to three. No location could be within 100 miles of another location held by the same permittee. HB 328 passed 65-28. House Bill 329 would authorize local authorities of a wet jurisdiction to permit package retail sales on Sunday. HB 329 passed 68-31. Both bills have been held on a motion to reconsider.
House Bill 1354 would increase the amount of state revenue bonds to assist with the construction of a new warehouse for the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division. The proposed site of the new warehouse would be at the Holmes County Industrial Park, the approximate geographical center of the state. HB 1354 passed 107-7.
House Bill 903 would prohibit the manufacture and possession of machine gun conversion devices. These “Glock switches” or “auto sears” can easily change a semiautomatic handgun or rifle into a fully automatic weapon. The bill is named in honor of fallen George County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Malone who was gunned down during a routine traffic stop in January. HB 903 passed 112-8 and has been sent to the Senate.

Sexual extortion would become illegal under “Walker’s Law,” or House Bill 1196. Sextortion refers to when a person entices another into sharing explicit images or videos and then threatens to post the material online, usually to extort money or sexual favors from the victim. HB 1196 passed 116-0.

House Bill 1665 would allow for incentives for property development within the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID). HB 1665 passed 109-1 and has been sent to the Senate.
House Bill 1378 would allow an honorably discharged veteran aged 90 years or older to have an exemption on all ad valorem taxes on a homestead property. The bill passed unanimously by a vote of 120-0 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Two Representatives presented bills for the first time before the House. Representative Kenji Holloway (D – Carthage) presented House Bill 702, which would authorize the Department of Transportation to form public-private partnerships including naming rights. HB 702 passed 120-0. Representative Justis Gibbs (D – Jackson) presented House Bill 1669, which would revise the qualifications for assistant teachers. HB 1669 passed 118-0.

Governor Tate Reeves delivered his fifth State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature on Monday night. In his speech, Reeves spoke of the two Mississippi Major Economic Impact projects passed earlier this year, and he encouraged the Legislature to continue focusing on economic development, infrastructure and education.
On Wednesday, the House presented Ameshya Williams-Holliday with House Resolution 37. The resolution commends and congratulates the former Jackson State standout for many accomplishments, including being the first Mississippi HBCU player drafted by the WNBA.

Other visitors this week included NASA’s Stennis Space Center; the Blue Mountain School Girls Basketball Team; the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks; the Association of Mississippi Midwives; Mississippi Farm Bureau; and the Mississippi State Troopers Association

 

Week of February 19, 2024

This was the eighth week of the 2024 Legislative Session. The deadline for introducing general bills and constitutional amendments was on Monday night.

Next week, committees will meet even more frequently as the Legislature approaches the next deadline. After Tuesday, March 5, no additional bills will be added to the House calendar, and members will meet in session for longer periods to discuss the bills that have made it out of committee. If a bill is not passed out of committee by this deadline, it is considered dead.

Although most work is still happening in committees, the House was busy taking up legislation this week.

House Bill 922 would make the office of county election commissioner nonpartisan. The bill passed the House by a vote of 112-6 before being held on a motion to reconsider.

House Bill 1035 would amend the “Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act” to include justice court judges. The bill passed 106-11 before being held on a motion to reconsider.

House Bill 438 would increase the penalty for shoplifting. Currently, the fine for the first shoplifting conviction is $1,000, the fine for the second is $2,500 and the fine for the third is $3,000. Under HB 438, these would increase to $1,500, $3,000 and $4,000, respectively. The bill passed by a vote of 89-28, and it has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 313 would create the Board of Cosmetology and Barbering to regulate their respective professions. There are two separate boards which oversee cosmetologists and barbers, and HB 313 would combine them into one board. The bill passed 115-0 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 1105 would remove the prohibition on using the words “partnership” and “limited partnership” when providing a name for a limited liability company. HB 1105 passed unanimously 120-0 and will now go to the Senate.

Eight Representatives presented bills for the first time before the House:

  • Representative Justin Keen (R – Byhalia) presented House Bill 697, or the Mississippi Aviation Safety Act.
  • Representative Josh Hawkins (R – Batesville) presented House Bill 940, which would revise publication and bid requirements for Design-Build projects for the Mississippi Transportation Commission.
  • Representative Steve Lott (R – Lucedale) presented House Bill 751, which would extend the repealer on the authority of the Commissioner of Public Safety to create a voluntary inspection program of commercial motor vehicles.
  • Representative Fabian Nelson (D – Jackson) presented House Bill 873, which would establish the Purple Alert as an additional means to aid the search for missing persons with cognitive disabilities.
  • Representative Grace Butler-Washington (D – Jackson) presented House Bill 1121, which would make minor, non-substantive changes regarding the swearing-in of state officers.
  • Representative Chuck Blackwell (R – Ellisville) presented House Bill 1149, which would authorize counties to only maintain an electronic format of law books in county courtrooms and public county law libraries.
  • Representative Clay Mansell (R – Clinton) presented House Bill 628, which would extend the repealer on the statute granting persons the right to access public records.
  • Representative Kimberly Remak (R – Olive Branch) presented House Bill 653, which would extend the expiration date of the moratorium on the application of the trip optimizer system to state agencies.

On Tuesday, the House Medicaid Committee conducted a hearing on the potential impact of Medicaid expansion for Mississippi workers. The House State Affairs Committee also conducted a hearing this week on Mississippi’s Certificate of Need. Both issues greatly impact the state’s health care system.

Last week, the House passed House Concurrent Resolution 29, calling for a joint session of the Legislature to hear the State of the State address from Governor Tate Reeves. The address is scheduled for Monday, February 26 at 5 p.m. and will be held on the south steps of the Capitol, weather permitting.

Visitors this week included the Jackson Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Mississippi Valley State University, the Department of Child Protective Services, the DuBard School of Language Disorders at USM, the Florence High School Dance Team, the Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and Delta State University.

 

Week of February 12, 2024

This was the seventh week of the 2024 Legislative Session. Members worked throughout the week dropping bills and meeting in committee. After Monday, February 19, no new general bills or constitutional amendments can be introduced. More than 1,200 House bills have been filed already. Despite how early it is in session, committees continued to meet, and several bills were introduced before the whole House.

House Bill 286 would remove the statute of limitations on sexual battery if DNA evidence is discovered. Currently, the statute of limitations for sexual battery is two years. The bill passed with little debate by a vote of 121-0 before being held on a motion to reconsider.

Two bills that would add celebrations to our state calendar were introduced. House Bill 124 would designate the fourth Thursday in March as “Tuskegee Airmen Day.” While it would not be a legal state holiday, the day would honor and recognize the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. HB 124 passed the House unanimously and has been sent to the Senate. House Bill 365 would designate the month of March as “Mississippi Musicians Month.” The bill passed 118-0.

Three Representatives presented bills for the first time before the House. Representative Jimmy Fondren (R – Pascagoula) presented House Bill 526, which would allow hunters to wear fluorescent pink as an alternative to orange. The bill passed 110-4. Representative Rodney Hall (R – Southaven) presented House Bill 80, or the Zeb Hughes Law, which would create a presumption of death for missing persons who have undergone a catastrophic event. Hughes, for whom the bill is named, and Gunner Palmer were two young men from Copiah County who went missing in December 2020 after scouting duck hunting locations on the Mississippi River. HB 80 passed unanimously 121-0. Representative Zachary Grady (R – D’Iberville) presented House Bill 1004, which would revise definitions for the provisions of law that regulate the sex offender registry. The bill passed unanimously 119-0.

On Tuesday, former Representative Alyce G. Clarke of Jackson was honored by the House of Representatives and other community leaders with the hanging of her portrait in the House Education Committee Room. Ms. Clarke was the first African American woman elected to the Mississippi Legislature. During her 38 years in the House, she implemented the federal WIC food program, established drug courts, organized school breakfasts and championed the state lottery system. She is the first woman and first African American to have a portrait in the State Capitol.

On Thursday, the House honored the Louisville High School Football team for winning the 2023 MHSAA Class 4A State Championship. Representative Carl Mickens (D – Brooksville) presented Coach Tyrone Shorter with House Resolution 29, which congratulated the team on its accomplishment.

Other visitors this week included Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Alcorn State University Purple and Gold Day, Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, Mississippi State Medical Association, Mississippi Association of Physicians Assistants, Mississippi Psychiatric Association, DeSoto County Economic Development Council and Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

 

Week of February 5, 2024

This was the sixth week of the 2024 Legislative Session. House members had a busy week full of committee meetings. The deadline for the introduction of general bills and constitutional amendments is Monday, February 19, so members will remain busy over the next few weeks deciding which drafted bills will make it onto the House floor. This week, several bills were brought out of committee ahead of the deadline.

The Mississippi Prior Authorization Reform Act, or Senate Bill 2140, would regulate how insurance companies can use prior authorization, which is when a doctor or provider must check with a patient’s insurance to see if certain non-emergent medications or procedures are covered. The bill would require insurance companies to create a web portal for doctors to submit prior authorization applications. SB 2140 passed by a vote of 115-0 and has been returned to the Senate for concurrence.

House Bill 777 would end the alcohol prohibition as state policy and would automatically legalize the sale of wine and spirits in municipalities with less than 5,000 residents. Currently, cities with more than 5,000 residents in “dry” counties can vote to become a “wet” city. HB 777 would allow these smaller municipalities to opt back into being dry if they place a referendum on their local ballot. The bill passed by a vote of 93-21 and has been sent to the Senate.

House Bill 331 would authorize counties and municipalities to choose not to require construction permits. Proponents of the bill said this would cut down on red tape and give more freedom to residents. Opponents argued that these permits are safeguards that guarantee that the construction work is done correctly. The bill passed 82-29 and will now go to the Senate.

House Bill 970 would extend the date of repealers on the services and managed care provisions of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid. This bill is usually referred to as the “Medicaid Tech” bill, and it outlines the framework for the Division of Medicaid. HB 970 passed by a unanimous vote of 119-0 and has been sent to the Senate.

The House also adopted House Concurrent Resolution 26, which is the Joint Rules for the Legislature. These rules are updated every four years at the start of a new term contain the procedures the Legislature must follow. After adopting Amendment 2, HCR 26 passed 118-0.

Two Representatives presented bills for the first time before the House. Representative Elliot Burch (R – Leakesville) presented House Bill 295, which would authorize the use of electronic search warrant applications and signatures. The bill passed 83-35 before being held on a motion to reconsider. Representative Celeste Hurst (R – Sandhill) presented House Bill 634, which would allow an employing agency to determine the amount to be paid for a sidearm of a retired or deceased law enforcement officer. HB 295 passed 117-1 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

With the Dixie National Rodeo in the Jackson area next week, Miss Rodeo America 2024 Emma Cameron and Miss Dixie National 2024 Emma Watts were recognized by the House for their accomplishments.

Visitors this week included the Mississippi Arts Commission, Leadership Jones County, the Mississippi Court Reporters Association, Mississippi 4-H Officers and Ambassadors, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians.

 

Week of January 29, 2024

This was the fifth week of the 2024 Legislative Session. Because it is early in the session, committees are just starting to meet as bills are still being drafted, so floor action has been light. Bills must be passed out of committee before they are considered by the entire House. The deadline for bill introduction is Monday, February 19, and the deadline for bills to be out of committee is Tuesday, March 5. Despite most work still happening in committees, two bills reached the House floor.

House Bill 539 would allow presumptive eligibility for prenatal care under Medicaid for pregnant women whose household incomes are 194% below the federal poverty line. These women could receive care for 60 days while the Mississippi Division of Medicaid is reviewing their applications. A qualified provider (e.g., the Health Department, a doctor trained in the process, etc.) would have to deem the woman eligible to receive the benefits by confirming the pregnancy and determining her income level. The bill passed the House by a vote of 117-5.

Online sports betting would become legal in Mississippi under House Bill 774, or the Mississippi Mobile Sports Wagering Act. The bill would require online sportsbooks like BetMGM, FanDuel or DraftKings to partner with an existing casino in Mississippi. This would ensure that money is staying at brick-and-mortar locations. In-person sports betting at physical casinos is currently legal. Gaming Chairman Casey Eure (R – Saucier) introduced Amendment 1, which added that the revenue collected by the state would go towards the Emergency Road and Bridge Repair Fund, and the amendment passed on a voice vote. Representative Robert L. Johnson, III introduced Amendment 2, which would have given the gross revenue from a wager to the casino within a 40-mile radius from the placed bet instead of the casino with which the platform has partnered. Amendment 2 was tabled by a vote of 77-35. The bill passed the House by a vote of 98-14.

Visitors this week included Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Mississippi Occupational Therapy Association, Hancock Youth Leadership, Miss Capital City Becky Williams and the Mississippi Podiatric Medical Association.

 

Week of January 22, 2024

2024 Second Extraordinary Session

This was the fourth week of the 2024 Legislative Session.

On Wednesday, January 24, Governor Tate Reeves called an extraordinary session of the Legislature on Thursday. This was his second special session in seven days, and it was dedicated to another major economic development project.

“Project Atlas,” which was revealed to be Amazon Web Services, is a $10 billion corporate capital investment, the largest in state history, and is expected to bring 1,000 jobs to Mississippi. The project will include hyperscale data center complexes in two Madison County industrial parks, one near the Nissan plant and one near I-220 in Ridgeland.

The package from the state includes training grants, site development support, public infrastructure commitments and certain tax incentives.

Upon gaveling in at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee introduced two bills: House Bill 1 and House Bill 2. The bills create the Project Atlas Fund in the State Treasury and appropriate $44 million to the Mississippi Development Authority to fund the project. Both bills passed the House with bipartisan support and were sent to the Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee introduced Senate Bill 2001, which outlines the project and provides incentives to Amazon Web Services. Some of the state commitments include a 10-year, 100 percent corporate income tax exemption and 30-year rolling state tax exemptions. SB 2001 reached the House floor on Thursday afternoon to little debate. An amendment was introduced, but it was tabled. SB 2001 passed the House 120-2.

Governor Reeves is expected to sign the three bills into law in the next week. The House adjourned sine die from the special session on Thursday afternoon.

The House also took up House Concurrent Resolution 11, which would restore the ballot initiative process in Mississippi. The new process would require signatures of eight percent of registered voters for a measure to be placed on the ballot. Citizens would not be able to make changes to the state constitution, abortion laws, the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) or any local or special laws. The Legislature would also have the power to place an amended version of the initiative on the ballot. These exceptions were the source of debate on the House floor on Wednesday. Opponents argued that the stipulations were limiting citizens’ voices and their chance to participate in direct democracy, while proponents of the resolution said that this was still giving power back to the voters. After two amendments were tabled, HCR 11 passed by a vote of 80-40 and has been sent to the Senate. The previous ballot initiative was struck down in May 2021 by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

 

Week of January 15, 2024

2024 First Extraordinary Session

This was the third week of the 2024 Legislative Session. Despite winter weather across much of Mississippi, the Legislature met throughout the week.

On Wednesday, Governor Tate Reeves called an extraordinary, or special, session of the Legislature for Thursday, January 18. A special session is a meeting of the legislature outside the parameters of a normal session, and the governor decides the subject and matters that will be considered. Usually, a special session takes place when the Legislature is not already in session. This special session was dedicated to a major economic development project.

“Project Poppy” is a $1.9 billion corporate capital investment, the second largest in state history, bringing approximately 2,000 jobs to Marshall County. The average salary is expected to be $66,000. The total payroll for these jobs is expected to be the largest payroll commitment of a major project in state history.

The project is a joint venture of Accelera by Cummins, Inc., Daimler Trucks & Buses and PACCAR. Each of these companies will own 30 percent of the joint venture. The remaining ten percent is owned by EVE Energy, which will serve as the technology partner. The plant will build batteries for electric commercial vehicles, such as 18-wheelers, and it will be located north of Byhalia at the Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park on a 500-acre plot.

The package from the state includes infrastructure improvements, site preparation and certain tax incentives. If benchmarks are not met, the joint venture agrees to pay the state back in full.

Upon gaveling in at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee met to introduce House Bill 1, which outlines the project and provides certain incentives to the companies. HB 1 authorizes the issuance of state bonds of approximately $482 million for the project.

The Senate Appropriations Committee introduced two bills: Senate Bill 2001 and Senate Bill 2002. SB 2001 creates the Project Poppy Fund, a special fund in the State Treasury for this project, while SB 2002 appropriates $117.6 million to the Mississippi Development Authority to fund “Project Poppy.” Both bills passed the full Senate and were released to the House.

The House convened to discuss the three bills, which all passed by a bipartisan vote. House Minority Leader Robert L. Johnson, III, (D – Natchez) introduced two amendments to HB 1. Amendment 1 would require that at least 70 percent of the project’s workforce be Mississippi residents, while Amendment 2 would require the companies to make extra investments in the community surrounding the plant. Both amendments failed, and House Bill 1 was sent to the Senate without changes.

Governor Reeves is expected to sign the bills into law. The House adjourned sine die from the special session on Thursday afternoon.

Speaker Jason White announced on Friday that committee assignments of Appropriations B, C, D and E will be completed next week. These committees are new standing House committees that are comprised of members of the full Appropriations Committee (Appropriations A).

 

Week of January 8, 2024

This was the second week of the 2024 Legislative Session. On Friday, Speaker Jason White made the much-anticipated announcement of committee assignments. With this announcement, legislators will now begin meeting in their respective committees. The deadline for general bill introductions is not until Monday, February 19, and committees will meet more frequently after this deadline.

On Thursday, January 11, former Speaker Philip Gunn, along with dozens of lawmakers, colleagues, friends and family, gathered on the southwest side of the State Capitol grounds for a tree dedication ceremony. During the ceremony, remarks were delivered by former Chief of Staff Nathan Wells and Gunn’s successor, Speaker Jason White. An invocation was given by Dr. Greg Belser, Gunn’s pastor at Morrison Heights Baptist Church. Gunn also delivered what he deemed his “tree speech” where he thanked his family, colleagues and staff for their support and guidance. Planting a tree at the Capitol upon leaving office is a tradition that dates back many years, and it is open only to speakers and lieutenant governors, except in very rare circumstances. The tree chosen by the 61st Speaker was a 15-foot red oak. Capitol curator Brenda Davis and Schoggen Scapes, Inc. worked to secure the tree, which came from a farm in south Mississippi.

The House passed House Resolution 6 congratulating Randy C. Ginn upon his retirement as Colonel/Director of the Mississippi Highway Patrol and Assistant Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Colonel Ginn was joined by family and friends on Thursday as the House presented him with HR 6. He served with the Mississippi Highway Patrol for 36 years.

The second Inauguration of Governor Tate Reeves was held Tuesday morning before a joint session of the House and Senate on the south steps of the Capitol. In his inaugural address, Governor Reeves spoke of progress in education, tax cuts and economic development, while also highlighting areas in need of improvement such as college graduates leaving the state to pursue careers.

Visitors to the Capitol this week included Mississippi Municipal League, Lowndes Young Leaders and Leadership Vicksburg.

Week of January 1, 2024

On January 2, 2024, 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 to accommodate inaugurations, new committee assignments 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 positions and the House Clerk are elected by the members and are sworn into office on the first day of session. Representative Jason White (R – West) was elected Speaker of the House after previously serving as Speaker Pro Tempore. Former Local and Private Chairman Manly Barton (R – Moss Point) was chosen as Speaker Pro Tempore. Andrew Ketchings was re-elected as House Clerk for his fourth term.

Members also had to elect fellow representatives to serve on 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 congressional districts, as well as the Speaker and the Pro Tempore.

Speaker Jason White announced several new House committees, including a major change to Appropriations. There will be four new standing committees within Appropriations (Appropriations B, Appropriations C, Appropriations D and Appropriations E), and these will each be comprised of eight members from the main Appropriations Committee. The Chairman of Appropriations will also serve as an ex officio voting member of the four committees. Each committee will be tasked with a portion of the state budget. Other new committees include Business and Commerce, Housing and State Affairs.

Six statewide elected officials were sworn into office by Chief Justice Michael Randolph before a joint session of the House and Senate on Thursday, January 4. The joint session also re-elected Steven Parks as state librarian.

The inauguration ceremony of Governor Tate Reeves is scheduled for next Tuesday, January 9 at 10:30 a.m. before a joint session of the House and Senate.

Early Wednesday morning, officials received a bomb threat to the Capitol, and the building was evacuated. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety conducted a thorough sweep of the premises and gave the all-clear around 11 a.m. A similar threat was made on Thursday morning to the Capitol, Mississippi Supreme Court and some Hinds County buildings. Mississippi was one of several states that received a bomb threat, and the FBI announced these were all hoaxes.

The Capitol was overflowing with guests this week due to inaugurations. Visitors to the Capitol are always welcome to meet with their legislators and witness the legislative process.

 

Being Sworn in January 2, 2024