State Legislature debating guns in churches

House Bill 786 was approved by state Representatives and would accomplish three things:   (1) allows church authorities to develop security programs that designate enhanced carry permit holders or those with military or law enforcement backgrounds to protect places of worship, (2) ensures that these participants receive the benefits of existing protections under the state’s Castle Doctrine law; and (3) clarifies current permitless carry options for law-abiding citizens while maintaining the existing enhanced and regular concealed carry permitting systems.

The Mississippi Senate now takes up the bill for consideration.

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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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AP: Mississippi House passes bill to phase out state income tax

From the Associated Press, “Mississippi House passes bill to phase out state income tax” by Emily Wagster Pettus

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – The Mississippi House argued two hours Wednesday before passing an election-year proposal that could become one of the biggest tax cuts in state history if it becomes law – a plan to phase out the state’s personal income tax over the next 15 years if the economy grows.

The bill passed the Republican-led House 82-32, with several Democrats voting for the bill after they criticized it and tried to change it.

However, it’s unclear whether the bill, with a price tag of $1.7 billion, will survive the Senate.

Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Senate’s presiding officer, is pushing a separate bill that would phase out the business franchise tax and give a more modest reduction in the income tax. It’s projected to cost $382 million.

Supporters of House Bill 1629 say eliminating Mississippi’s income tax would stimulate economic growth. Mississippi has long been one of the poorest states in the nation, and opponents of the bill say it would further weaken the state’s ability to pay for education, transportation, health care and other government services.

“It would devastate our budget,” said Rep. Jim Evans, D-Jackson, who voted against the bill.

Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, said eliminating the income tax over several years would reward people who work and pay for government.

“It’s not an overly aggressive plan at all,” Formby said.

The Senate on Tuesday passed Senate Bill 2839, Reeves’ proposal to phase out Mississippi’s business franchise tax over 10 years and reduce some income taxes.

The two chambers will exchange bills for more work. Legislators have until late March to set a budget and pass or kill tax proposals.

The House bill was filed Monday, just two days before the deadline for the House and Senate to act on the first round of tax and budget proposals during this three-month legislative session.

During Wednesday’s debate, Democratic Rep. Cecil Brown of Jackson peppered the Ways and Means Committee chairman, Republican Jeff Smith of Columbus, about whether Smith had held public hearings or consulted economic experts about the potential impact of eliminating the personal income tax. Smith said he had done neither. But Smith said letting people keep more of the money they earn could stimulate spending and boost the economy.

“Your numbers don’t work,” Brown told him.

Smith responded: “Gentleman, I told you I have not talked to economists.”

The personal income tax is one of the largest sources of revenue to pay for schools, prisons, mental health care and other state services, generating about a quarter of state tax revenue.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said the House plan would trim nearly $1.4 billion in taxes in steps through 2028, pausing in any year when state revenue doesn’t grow by at least 3 percent. However, that total is based on partial collections from the 2012 calendar year, according to the state Department of Revenue. The state is projected to collect more than $1.7 billion in personal income taxes this year.

Democrats on Wednesday offered 10 amendments that were all defeated, including one that would have reduced the 7 percent tax on groceries.

Tax bills require a three-fifths majority to pass, so at least 69 votes were needed Wednesday.

Sixty-five Republicans and 18 Democrats voted for the bill, and 32 Democrats 32 voted against it.

Two Democrats voted “present,” which did not count for or against the bill. Three Democrats did not vote. One Republican and one Democrat were absent.

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House Bill introduced to end state personal income tax

In a bold proposal, Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn introduced a $1.38 billion plan to eliminate personal  income tax in Mississippi with House Bill 1629. Speaker Gun stated, “If we are going to do a tax cut, we want it to be real, substantial and make significant impact on the lives of those who are paying the tax.”

The press release provided the following key points of the bill that the House Ways and Means Committee passed February 24th:

  • 15 Year – $1,380,360,533 individual income tax elimination
  • 3% bracket eliminated by 2019
  • 4% bracket eliminated by 2022
  • 5% bracket eliminated by 2030
  • 3% revenue growth required
  • Mississippi family that makes $30,000 a year – $1,350 Raise
  • Mississippi family that makes $50,000 a year – $2,350 Raise
  • Mississippi family that makes $70,000 a year – $3,350 Raise

The Senate has approved Senate Bill 2839, a $382 million tax-cut proposal that phases out the business franchise tax and the personal income tax on the first $5,000 of taxable income.

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Special Election for House District 1 Announced

Gov. Bryant announced a special election will take place May 12th to fill the 1st Congressional District seat that has been open since Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s death on February 6th. The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of the 2-year term which will end in 2017.

State Rep. Chris Brown has said he will run. Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, businessman Quentin Whitwell, and attorney Chip Mills have expressed interest. Travis Childers, who formerly held the seat from 2008-2011, has yet to make an announcement. March 27th is the qualifying deadline.

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Speaker Gunn seeking to phase-out personal income tax

The Sun Herald posted AP Newsbreak: Gunn to seek phaseout of personal income tax by Jeff Amy:

JACKSON, MISS. — In a game of escalating tax-cut proposals, House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, will propose the biggest so far: a $1.7 billion phaseout of Mississippi’s state personal income tax over more than a decade, a top legislator said late Monday.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, confirmed Monday that he plans to bring forward the proposal in his committee Tuesday. Continue reading

Rep. Gipson: Unapolgetically conservative

Rep. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton) is an attorney and Baptist pastor.  And in her report in the Clarion-Ledger, Analysis: Gipson wields influence, Emily Wagster Pettus says he is one of the most influential lawmakers in the state.

As the chairman of the House Judiciary B Committee, he was influential in a number of bills including House Bill 585 (improve efficiency and costs of the state’s criminal justice system) and House Bill 1400 (banned abortion at 20 weeks).  He helped push through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Senate Bill 2681) in spite of all the opposition.

Gipson is a notably vocal opponent of gay rights since President Obama changed his stance on gay marriage in 2012.  He has remained a staunch opponent of gay rights even with calls for his resignation and the other pressures associated with taking a Biblical stand on a range of issues.

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