The legislature is back in session. And while the economic fallout around the forced shutdown of the economy related to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent $1.25 billion from the federal government are the leading issues, legislators still have the opportunity to adopt reform-minded measures that will expand individual freedoms, while rolling back regulations.
With a June 9 deadline for committees to report on bills that passed the other chamber, here is a review of some of those bills still alive:
House Bill 1422 would create a pilot program to reduce state regulations at four agencies: Mississippi Departments of Health, Transportation, Agriculture and Commerce, and Information Technology Services. It passed on a largely party-line vote.
HB 1510 would require the state to recognize an occupational license from another state for military families who move to Mississippi. It passed the House unanimously.
Senate Bill 2790 and HB 1104 would give the Occupational Licensing Review Commission the ability to do a review of an existing regulation to determine whether it increases economic opportunities for citizens by promoting competition and uses the least restrictive regulation to protect consumers. Right now, the OLRC, which is comprised of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state, is limited to review only new regulations.
HB 1200, known as the Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act, would permit all forms of peaceful assembly, protests, speeches, guest speakers, distribution of literature, carrying signs, and circulating petitions on campuses of the state’s universities and community colleges. It passed in the House despite large-scale resistance from the state’s universities, particularly Ole Miss, on a largely party-line vote.
HB 4 would increase the number of liquor store permits one could own under present law from one to three. It is now in the hands of the Senate after a very narrow passage in the House.
SB 2552 would remove the prohibition on the amount of beer that can be sold directly to consumers at craft breweries. Right now, brewers are limited to selling either 10 percent of the beer produced there or 1,500 barrels, whichever is the lesser amount and this bill would eliminate this provision. The Senate approved the bill and sent it to the House.
HB 1398 is a small civil asset forfeiture reform bill that would end a practice where law enforcement or prosecutors could request a property owner to waive their rights to their property, often in exchange for charges to be dropped. The new language in the bill will also change the burden of proof for forfeiture to clear and convincing evidence.
SB 2725 and HB 1208, both known as the Hemp Cultivation Act, would allow the cultivation, processing, transportation and handling of hemp under strict guidelines. The Senate version passed with a 35-16 margin while the House passed its version by an overwhelming 104-10 margin.