The 2017 Mississippi legislative session began on January 3, and the Mississippi Center for Public Policy will keep you updated throughout the session.
We believe legislation should eliminate unnecessary barriers so that opportunities can be created that will benefit all Mississippians. We’re focused on four main principles - economic freedom, education freedom, individual responsibility, and government accountability.
We want Mississippi to be a place where entrepreneurs are free to pursue their dreams, which means we must have a competitive economic environment based on free-market principles. Unnecessarily burdensome laws and regulations that hinder economic opportunity should be removed, and we must improve the business community’s ability to create and promote opportunity.
We believe every child in Mississippi should have access to high-quality education. Parents should have the opportunity to choose the education that works best for their children. We need improved education content at all levels.
We want Mississippians to experience freedom from dependence on government for their daily needs. We support policies that promote personal responsibility and strong families.
Government should function according to the principles that enhance freedom and responsibility. We believe in restraining the growth of state government when it attempts to move beyond its proper role. We promote wise stewardship of tax dollars and a fair tax policy that collects only what is necessary.
Consistent with those principles, here are just a few of the many ideas we are promoting:
* legislation to significantly reduce welfare fraud by removing dead people and non-Mississippi residents from Medicaid and other programs;
* a bill to require the U.S. History test that is required for high school graduation to include questions on America’s Founding (it currently covers only 1870 to the present);
* bills to help us recover from the negative effects of Obamacare at the state level; and
* a variety of bills aimed at reducing the regulatory burden on employers so that more private sector jobs can be created.
In addition, we will be monitoring many other bills, and acting when necessary to encourage their passage or their defeat. All our decisions will be driven by the principles described above, and even more specifically, according to the principles we have written about in Governing by Principle.
Only a few bills have begun to make their way through the legislative process. About 1,200 bills have been introduced and assigned to committees. By the end of the session, more than 3,000 bills will have been introduced. Based on prior years’ experience, more than two-thirds of those bills will see no action at all. About 350 bills will be signed into law, including about 100 Appropriations bills and a good number of bills that do no more than give names to bridges or buildings.
The deadline for introducing most bills is this coming Monday, Jan. 16. (Bills that take your money and spend your money, known as Revenue and Appropriations bills, have a late February deadline.)
The House has approved a few bills so far, and the Senate has approved one of them. Here are a few that are significant:
School Superintendents HB 32, the first bill to make it through the legislature and to the governor’s desk, is a bill to clarify the law passed last year to require school district superintendents to be appointed rather than elected, beginning in 2019. This bill clarifies that if a currently-elected superintendent’s office becomes vacant before 2019, the school board is to go ahead and appoint a superintendent, not hold a special election. The governor is expected to sign the bill.
Campaign Finance HB 479, billed as campaign finance “reform,” defines and outlines usage guidelines for campaign contributions by any elected official or candidate. The bill prohibits the personal use of campaign contributions and provides acceptable options for how to use leftover money at the conclusion of an elected official or candidate’s service or campaign. Enforcement would be overseen by the Mississippi Ethics Commission. The bill passed by a vote of 102-13 and now goes to the Senate.
Auto Liability Insurance HB 319 would require drivers to show proof of auto liability insurance to renew their registration (which most people think of as renewing their car tag, or getting their annual car tag sticker). This bill passed the House 82-33 and now goes to the Senate.
Tax Liability HB 131 would authorize the Department of Revenue to compromise and settle a tax liability that is a doubtful claim. Our state constitution prohibits forgiving a tax debt to the state, no matter how unrealistic its full collection. Proponents of this bill say that if some type of compromise could be allowed, the state would get some money (instead of none), and the taxpayer could begin to rebuild financially. The bill passed without opposition and now goes to the Senate.