United States House of Representative Alyce G. Clarke has provided a summary of the 2013 Legislative Session.
The 2013 Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature was a whirlwind 90-day sessions. Deadlines were pushed up and it proceeded at a much faster pace than the 125-day session last year. Despite a shorter session, the House ended the 2013 Legislative session on Thursday, April 4- three full days ahead of the scheduled April 7 deadline.
Here are a few important bullets that you should be aware of!
• “The Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013” declares that a charter school is a non-profit, public school that is designed to foster innovation and increase community involvement in the education of community children.
• The “Third Grade Reading Gate” passed on the floor aims to require children to be able to read on a third grade reading level before being promoted to the fourth grade, thus ending social promotion. Passing of this measure ensures that children in grades K-3 will receive intense reading instruction, while being tested at every level. Additionally, K-3 teachers and administrators will receive special training on the most effective methods to improve literacy among our children.
• Governor Phil Bryant’s Education Works Program was passed and is comprised of many elements like: requiring high schools with graduation rates below 80 percent to submit plans on how they propose to increase graduation rates to the Mississippi Department of Education, offering 200 scholarships to high-performing students to become teachers in Mississippi for at least five years and creating a pilot program in four Mississippi school districts to implement the performance-based compensation program for teachers.
• “Early Learning Act of 2013” authorizes the Department of Education to implement a voluntary pre-K program on a phased-in basis beginning with the 2013-2014 achool year.
• “Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act of 2013” provides protection for children to express their religious views in school covering class assignments, organization of religious groups and activities, and establishment of a public forum for student speakers at non-graduation and graduation events.
• Medicaid was neither expanded nor funded during the Regular Session, and the existing program will terminate July 1 unless Governor Bryant calls the Legislature back into Special Session to handle the issue. Today the House approved $840 million dollar Medicaid Bill.
Second Amendment Rights
• House Bill 485 exempts the names and addresses of people who have concealed carry permits from being a matter of public record.
• House Bill 2 clarifies language affecting citizens licensed to carry concealed weapons in Mississippi. This law protects people who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon even if the weapon is holstered and not totally hidden.
• House Bill 1139 allows hunters to use a weapon of choice for deer hunting on private land after November 30, 2014.
• House and Senate members were able to reach an agreement on a General Fund budget of approximately $5.772 billion. Some key agencies receiving a funding increase include: K-12 Education, Universities, Community and Junior Colleges, Mental Health, Corrections, Human Services, Military, Police and Veterans’’ Affairs and Public Safety.
Pro-Business, Pro-Economic Growth
• Creating jobs and incentives for new companies remains a focus of the House and Senate legislative leadership. Many pro-business bills passed included tax exemptions for various industries.
• House Bill 844 exempts members of certain industrial manufacturers, farming entities and the fish/shrimp industries from paying sales tax on electricity and fuel required to keep those industries running.
• House Bill 591 offers a sales tax exemption and an income tax credit to companies moving their headquarters to Mississippi.\
• House Bill 722 revises the zoning of health care industry facilities under the Mississippi Health Care Industry Zone Act. It authorizes the Mississippi Development Authority to certify Health Care Industry Zones in areas where a health care industry facility is located within a five-mile radius of certain accredited colleges and universities.
• Senate Bill 2462 extends the Mississippi Motion Picture incentive Act to include computer or video game businesses that wish to locate in Mississippi.
• House Bill 1009 will give the Department of Human Services the authority to contract certain services with outside vendors.
• “Lenora’s Law” amends the sex offender registry law. Upon release from prison, a sex offender must register his/her place of residence.
• House Bill 481 revises the use of an ignition-interlock device for DUI offenders. Its aim is to strengthen laws against drunk driving. Should a person be a convicted of a DUI, the judge has the option to require the person convicted to install an ignition-interlock device in their car for six months or suspend their license for 90 days.