Criminal justice reform, donor privacy, Fresh Start Act among bills that survived deadline

By Steve Wilson
March 14, 2019

Wednesday was the fourth big deadline in the Mississippi legislature for general, non-revenue, bills to be approved by the entire opposite chamber.

The next deadline for legislation is Tuesday, the final day for floor action on appropriations and revenue bills from the other chamber.

Here are the some of the bills that survived and others that died:

Still alive

House Bill 1352 is sponsored by state Rep. Jason White (R-West) and is known as the Criminal Justice Reform Act. The bill would clear obstacles for the formerly incarcerated to find work, prevents driver’s license suspensions for controlled substance violations and unpaid legal fees and fines, and updates drug court laws to allow for additional types of what are known as problem solving courts.

The bill passed the Senate by a 49-2 margin. The bill will have to go to conference with the House to iron out the differences between the original and the altered version that passed the Senate.

House Bill 1205 would prohibit state agencies from requesting or releasing donor information on charitable groups organized under section 501 of federal tax law. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jerry Turner (R-Baldwyn), was passed by a 32 to 18 margin in the Senate margin after being amended to include all organizations covered by section 501 of federal tax law.

SB 2781, known as Mississippi Fresh Start Act, is sponsored by state Sen. John Polk (R-Hattiesburg). This bill would eliminate the practice of “good character” or “moral turpitude” clauses from occupational licensing regulations, which prohibit ex-felons from receiving an occupational license and starting a new post-incarceration career.

The bill was amended with a strike-all that made it identical to the original House bill. The bill was passed by the House by a 114-2 margin and was amended twice more on the floor, meaning the differences between the present guise of the bill and the original will have to be settled in a conference committee later in the session.

SB 2901, known as the Landowner Protection Act, would exempt property owners and their employees from civil liability if a third party injures someone else on their property.

The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Josh Harkins (R-Flowood). The bill has been returned to the Senate for concurrence. If the Senate doesn’t agree with the changes by the House, the two sides will have to settle their differences with the bill in a conference committee.

SB 2603 would reauthorize motion picture and television production incentives for out-of-state firms that expired in 2017.

The bill sponsored by state Sen. Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall). The bill was passed by the House on March 7 by a 101- 16 margin and has been returned to the Senate for concurrence.

HB 1612 would authorize municipalities to create special improvement assessment districts that would be authorized to levy up to 6 mills of property tax (the amount per $1,000 of assessed value of the property) to fund parks, sidewalks, streets, planting, lighting, fountains, security enhancements and even private security services. The tax would require the approval of 60 percent of property owners in the district.

The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Mark Baker (R-Brandon) and passed the House 93-22 Thursday after failing to get a two-thirds majority on its first pass on the floor. It’s been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

HB 1204 would allow a municipality or county to execute the winning bid in a sealed bidding process if a judge hasn’t ruled on a protection request for bids within 90 days. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Turner and was passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

More dead than fanny packs

HB 702 would’ve allowed cottage food operators to increase their maximum sales to $35,000 and advertise their products on the web. The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Casey Eure (R-Saucier) and didn’t get a vote in the Senate despite passing the House by a 117-0 margin.

HB 1268 would’ve clarified state law regarding constitutional challenges to local ordinances. With local circuit courts acting as both the appellate body for appeals on specific decisions (such as bid disputes) and the court of original jurisdiction, there’s been confusion among judges regarding the law that governs challenges of local decisions, which are required within 10 days.

City and county attorneys have used this 10-day requirement on decisions to get new constitutional challenges — which are new lawsuits and not appeals of decisions — thrown out of circuit courts. This law would’ve added language that would prevent application of the 10-day requirement to constitutional challenges.

The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Dana Criswell (R-Southaven).


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