Gov. Bryant considering several bills

Gov. Bryant is carefully considering whether to sign Senate Bill 2161, an “anti-Common Core” bill. He is concerned that it doesn’t have any teeth but just makes recommendations that could be rejected by the Department of Education in favor of existing Common Core standards. Tea Party conservatives like Senators Chris McDaniel and Melanie Sojourner are pushing for a veto and a special legislative session to create a true alternative solution to Common Core.

The Governor has been more positive about a pair of pro-2nd Amendment bills, Senate Bills 2394 and 2619, which reduce concealed carry permit fees and allow weapons to be carried in fully enclosed cases (such as purses and briefcases) without a permit. Gov. Bryant has indicated that he will sign both bills.

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Legislature wraps-up 2015 session

The Senate ended their 2015 session on April 1st. After considering 2 remaining measures, the House adjourned the following day.

In its final session, the House approved Senate Bill 2258, which, if signed by Gov. Bryant, requires school principles to certify results of standardized tests and provides criminal penalties if cheating is detected. The House also approved Senate Bill 2804 which removes Department of Corrections employees from the state Personnel Board civil service protection to enable the DoC leadership to reorganize the troubled agency.

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“Permit-less” concealed carry for purses passes House

[UPDATE: Post title originally indicated that the Senate passed the bill; the Senate has not yet passed the bill as of the time of publishing.]

Senate Bill 2394 was passed by the House on March 27th to allow concealed carry of a gun in “a purse, bag, handbag, satchel or other similar bag or briefcase or fully enclosed case” without a concealed carry permit.  The Senate is expected to approve the bill and Gov. Bryant has already said he would sign it into law.

Rep. Andy Gipson, who helped kill a bill earlier in the session misleadingly advertised as “constitutional carry” (SB 2618), reiterated his commitment to meaningful 2nd Amendment legislation and added the language to SB 2394. Originally intended to reduce the fees for concealed carry permits, SB 2394 would also exempt active-duty military and service-disabled veterans from concealed carry permit fees. A concealed carry permit would still be required for reciprocity with other states.

Senate Bill 2619 also passed the House and would exempt active military, veterans, and retired law enforcement from the training requirements to obtain enhanced carry permits. It also seeks to nullify any federal ammunition bans like the recent bans considered by the BATFE.

Both SB 2394 and 2619 must be approved by the Senate before going to the Governor.

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Gov. Bryant to sign special needs education voucher bill into law

In an effort to meet special needs students’ educational requirements and increase graduation rates (currently 22.5% compared to 74.5% for all others), the House and Senate have concurred on Senate Bill 2695 sending it to Gov. Bryant for signing into law.

The bill will provide $6,500 scholarships, sometimes called “vouchers,” to participating students to be used by parents to acquire education that is oriented to the specific needs of their special needs student. The program will be open to 500 students in the 2015-2016 school year; 250 vouchers will be given on a first-come, first-served basis and 250 vouchers will be awarded by lottery.

A similar bill failed to pass the House in 2014. Rep. Carolyn Crawford of Pass Christian vowed to bring the bill back for the 2015 legislative session and, working with Sen. Nancy Collins, pushed the bill to the governor.

Arizona and Florida are the only other two states that have similar programs which are called Educational Savings Accounts.

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Gov. Bryant signs Compact for a Balanced Budget, texting ban

Gov. Bryant signed several bills into law recently including the Compact for a Balanced Budget and a bill prohibiting texting while driving.

Senate Bill 2389, the Compact for a Balanced Budget, enters Mississippi into the interstate compact that calls for a Constitutional Convention to ratify a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Governor outlawed texting while driving by signing House Bill 389 which specifically states, “An operator of a moving motor vehicle is prohibited from writing, sending, or reading a text message and from accessing, reading or posting to a social networking site using a hand-held mobile telephone [or other portable electronic communication device] while driving said motor vehicle.” Mississippi already had a law prohibiting those 16 and under from texting while driving but this law expands the ban to all drivers. Phone calls are not impacted.

Other recently signed bills:

  • House Bill 215 allows temporary medical licenses to be issued to out-of-state doctors in state for military, National Guard, or Reserve duty.
  • House Bill 257 requires/allows HIV testing of adults accused of sexual assault on a child prior to any conviction.
  • Senate Bill 2127 provides in-state tuition rates for non-residents eligible for veterans education assistance.

The new laws become effective July 1st.

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Vehicle inspection stickers about to go away

The House voted 112-7 in favor of eliminating the vehicle inspection sticker. Those favoring some type of inspection say that, since there is no support for a more thorough and expensive inspection process, it makes sense to eliminate the sticker. Gov. Phil Bryant must sign the repeal to become law.

The Sun Herald asks, “Will Phil Bryant sign bill to eliminate inspection stickers?

State Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula says, “Yes:”

The bill repeals the annual inspection (MS Code § 63-13-1 through 63-13-29) but leaves in place MS Code § 63-7-59 which prohibits mirror tinting and requires light transmittance of 28% or more on the windshield and front two side windows.

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Lt. Gov. proposes alternative tax cut plan

The House and the Senate have passed competing tax cut proposals:

  • The Senate passed  SB 2839 that would eliminate the corporate franchise tax over 10 years and provide breaks for small businesses and eliminate the 3% bracket on personal income taxes.
  • The House passed HB 1629 bill eliminating the personal income tax altogether within 15 years conditioned upon a 3% or better “growth trigger.”

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has offered a compromise: implement the Senate plan over 10 years and then eliminate the state’s 4 percent income tax bracket over the next 5 years for individuals and businesses with no growth triggers.

The Senate Finance Committee has passed the compromise but the Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has not yet considered it.

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Legislature sends record education budget to Governor

If the bill passed by the House and Senate is signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, Mississippi public education will receive a record $2.52 billion in 2016. Over 4 years, education funding will increase by $285 million.

On February 18th with virtually no debate, the House unanimously passed a bill to increase the Mississippi Adequate Education Program by $109.9 million. Since both chambers’ priorities were very similar, the Senate simply passed House Bill 1536 on March 17th with a 49-2 vote.

Those promoting Initiative 42, a proposed constitution amendment to require fully funding the MAEP formula, remain unsatisfied despite the record amount.

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House kills so-called “Constitutional Carry” bill

Senate Bill 2618, the so-called “Constitutional Carry” bill, was killed in the house this week. Rep. Andy Gipson argued that the bill was not fundamentally sound and did not strengthen gun rights in Mississippi where open carry, unlicensed vehicle carry, and concealed carry are already legal. Gipson stated the House “remains committed to passing good legislation that further supports and restores the Second Amendment rights of Mississippians. But [the House of Representatives] will do so independently of questionable organizations, in a manner that retains integrity and in a way that will not risk sacrificing the many gains we have made the last four years.”

Gipson has been a staunch gun rights proponent. Under his leadership in 2013, the House passed and the Governor later signed House Bill 2 which, Gipson stated, reflects what the Mississippi State Constitution Article 3, Section 12 already guarantees.  Specifically, House Bill 2 clarified the definition of concealed carry in Sections 45-9-101, 97-37-1, 97-37-15, and 97-37-19 of Mississippi state law.

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House passes several Senate bills

With March 11th being the deadline for the House to take action on bills and constitutional amendments originating in the Senate, several significant issues were settled.  From the House of Representatives Weekly Summary, the following issues were approved:

Senate Bill 2389 is an Article V vehicle to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and limit the ability of Congress to raise the debt limit without states’ approval. The bill was passed by the House but not without some contention between Democrats and Republicans.

Senate Bill 2695, the “Special Needs Bill,” was passed to set-up a pilot program to give parents of special needs students allotments (or vouchers up to $6,500) to can seek the educational opportunities appropriate and best suited for their children’s specific situation.

Senate Bill 2161 establishes a commission to study Common Core State Standards, determine suitability for Mississippi school children, and present recommendations to the State Board of Education.

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