Every session has its share of infighting and ups and downs.
The 2021 session was no exception, as we saw two major issues gum up the process. (Stay Calm: Democracy is supposed to work this way.) Led by Speaker Philip Gunn, the House passed a major income tax reform bill. When the Senate declined to seriously consider this initiative, the House found itself less than enthusiastic about the Senate bills that had crossed over for the House’s deliberation. In turn, the Senate soon found itself feeling the same way about anything the House was working on.
For its part, Senate leadership was pushing a bill to provide a statutory substitute for the recently passed medical marijuana constitutional amendment, in the off chance the initiative should be struck down by the Mississippi Supreme Court. This bill passed the Senate, but failed in spectacular fashion on the House floor. With Initiative 65, indeed, having been struck down by the court, the Senate’s efforts seem prescient, to say the least.
In the end, the two chambers agreed on enough good (and bad) ideas to keep the wheels of democratic government turning. These are our own personal highlights of the 2021 session:
Protecting Women’s Sports and Title IX. … MCPP led the way in getting the Fairness Act (SB 2536) passed. We initiated this effort last year, working with Senator Angela Hill, and were gratified to see it signed by Gov. Tate Reeves. Mississippi is the second state in the country to enact such protections for female athletes, in spite of stiff opposition from the radical left and woke corporate oligarchs.
Making Mississippi a Destination State for New Residents … MCPP also led the way in getting passed a law (HB 1263) that makes it easier for new residents to obtain a Mississippi occupational license. This legislation builds on the best-in-the-nation Military Family Freedom Act we worked on last year. That law makes it easier for military spouses and dependents to work in Mississippi. The 2021 law, sponsored by Rep. Becky Currie, expands similar opportunities to all new Mississippi residents. We are the eighth state in the country to pass this innovative reform.
Holding off Medicaid Expansion … Mississippi is one of the last states to resist Obamacare by not expanding Medicaid. In spite of strong financial incentives out of Washington, D.C., state leaders, especially the Governor and Speaker Gunn, are standing firm. Medicaid is an expensive, horrible insurance program, as I detail here and here. As an aside, it’s also not much of an option for the “working poor” because it serves as an incentive not to work at all. According to the Foundation for Government Accountability, the majority of able-bodied adults on Medicaid, the population targeted for expansion, are not working at all.
Blocking Welfare Expansion … The HOPE Act, championed by MCPP in 2017, is still the best welfare-to-work law in the country. The Biden administration, however, is encouraging states to pursue policies aimed at expanding welfare participation as much as possible. (For instance, see here.) After one such bill that would have weakened the HOPE Act passed out of committee in the Senate, we got to work and made sure this bad policy died.
Securing Economic Liberty for Mississippi Entrepreneurs (HB 1312) … This law allows individuals in select fields of cosmetology to practice their profession without acquiring thousands of hours of training. Lawsuits filed by the Mississippi Justice Institute were the catalyst for this reform.
Encouraging States to Balance the Federal Budget … In 2015, thanks to the leadership of House Pro Temp Rep. Greg Snowden and Senator Joey Fillingane, Mississippi became a founding member of the Compact for a Balanced Budget. The Article V compact would force the federal government, not only to craft a budget, but to actually balance it. The compact was scheduled to sunset in 2021, but Mississippi renewed it with the passage of HB 1326. MCPP was the force behind getting the compact passed into law several years ago.
(Almost) Expanding Healthcare Access via Telemedicine … Although a bill to advance telemedicine stumbled at the finish line, MCPP made significant strides in educating lawmakers about this issue. We have a good foundation to pass reforms in 2022.
(Stay Tuned for) Eliminating the State Income Tax … Speaker Philip Gunn’s bill to eliminate the income tax failed to pass in 2021, but the stage has been set for hearings and a study over the summer. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that we’ll see a major tax cut before the next statewide elections in 2023.