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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2015 Gulf Coast Candidates for State House of Representatives

The following have qualified for candidacy in the 2015 election for the Mississippi House of Representatives. Only the Gulf Coast region is represented below. For a complete list see Empower Mississippi‘s tabulation for the entire state.

District 93 (Hancock/Pearl River):

  • Incumbent Timmy Ladner (R)
  • Billy Joe Ladner (D)

District 95 (Hancock/Harrison): Incumbent Patricia Willis (R) of Diamondhead is unopposed.

District 105 (Greene):

  • Dennis Cochran (D)
  • Roun McNeal (R)

District 106 (Pearl River): Incumbent Herb Frierson (R) of Poplarville is running unopposed.

District 107 (George):

  • Incumbent Doug McLeod (R)
  • Austin Howell (D)

District 108 (Pearl River):

  • Incumbent Mark S. Formby (R)
  • Leaven Guy (D)

District 109 (Jackson): Incumbent Manly Barton (R) of Moss Point is running unopposed.

District 110 (Jackson):

  • Incumbent Jeramey D. Anderson (D)
  • Mitch Ellerby (D)

District 111 (Jackson):

  • Incumbent Charles Busby (R)
  • Kay Sims (D)

District 112 (Jackson):

  • Incumbent John O. Read (R)
  • Amanda Magee (R)

District 113 (Jackson): Incumbent Hank Zuber (R) of Ocean Springs is running unopposed.

District 114 (Jackson):

  • Incumbent Jeffrey S. “Jeff” Guice (R)
  • Dr. Barney W. O’Neal (R)

District 115 (Harrison):

  • Incumbent Randall H. Patterson (R)
  • Patrick K. Williams (R)

District 116 (Harrison): Incumbent Casey Eure (R) of Biloxi is running unopposed.

District 117 (Harrison): Incumbent Scott DeLano (R) of Biloxi is running unopposed.

District 118 (Harrison):

  • Incumbent Greg Haney (R)
  • John McCay, III (R)

District 119 (Harrison): Incumbent Sonya Williams-Barnes (D) of Gulfport is running unopposed.

District 120 (Harrison): Incumbent Richard Bennett (R) of Long Beach is running unopposed.

District 121 (Harrison):

  • Incumbent Carolyn Crawford (R)
  • Jeff Wallace (R)
  • Hunter Dawkins (D)
  • Brian Pearse (D)

District 122 (Hancock)

  • Incumbent David Baria (D)
  • Mickey Lagasse (R)

Mississippi House summary for the week of February 16th

Budget matters consumed the Mississippi House this past week. The February 16th Mississippi House of Representatives Weekly Summary is posted below in its entirety:

This week, members of the House turned their focus toward budget matters, with both the Appropriations and Ways and Means committees very active. The Appropriations committee deals with spending the state’s money and is charged with designing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 State Budget, which begins July 1. The Ways and Means Committee focuses on sources of state revenue. This committee crafts bills used as vehicles to fund the government. Early projections suggest the budget for FY2016 will be close to $6 billion.

The Ways and Means Committee passed several bills out of committee and onto the House floor, including:

House Bill 38 (HB38) authorizes the issuance of bonds to provide funds for the Small Municipalities and Limited Population Counties Fund. This allows counties under populations of 30,000 and cities under populations of 10,000 to apply for grants with the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) of up to $250,000 a piece.

House Bill 155 (HB155) increases the historic property income tax credit from $60,000 to $100,000 and extends the time taxpayers may be eligible to receive it through 2030.

House Bill 216 (HB216) freezes the assessed valuation of a person’s home (ages 65 or older or totally disabled) as long as they live in that house and do not increase the value of the home through renovations.

On the House floor Wednesday and Thursday, House members first addressed Special Funds Appropriations bills and then moved to tackle General Funds Appropriations bills. Special Funds are amounts set aside in separate accounts in the State Treasury for specific spending purposes. This money is typically generated from fees and licensing expenses collected by agencies, and also includes federal funds available to agencies. General Funds are state revenues that are not restricted to specific spending purposes. General fund money is, for the most part, collected through taxation of individuals and businesses.

The amounts appropriated to each agency were determined based on agency needs, not what the agency already had in its coffers. The deadline to address these bills is February 25 at midnight.

During the presentation of the first Special Funds bill, an amendment was adopted to authorize a pay raise for employees of state agencies who have not had a pay raise since 2011. This amendment, which was also adopted for each additional appropriation bill, allows agencies to provide the raises, within their authorized budgets, up to five percent. Adoption of this amendment does not increase expenditures from the General Fund, and it will apply to all state agencies, not just those funded through Special Funds.

General Fund budget bills were taken up next. A few agency appropriations are noted:

House Bill 1536 (HB1536), the budget for the Mississippi Department of Education, passed unanimously. Included in the$2.5 billion budget is $106 million more for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). The MAEP money covers the second year of the teacher pay raise and assistant teacher raise, along with about $50 million going toward school districts.

House Bill 1538 (HB1538) provides the Mississippi Library Commission with an additional $1.3 million to go toward improving fiber optics and technology.

House Bill 1541 (HB1541), the budget for the Division of Medicaid: $882.4 million.

House Bill 1530 (HB1530), the budget for the Attorney General: $8.7 million.

House Bill 1555 (HB1555), the budget for the Department of Health: $62.4 million.

House Bill 1556 (HB1556), the budget for the Department of Human Services: $159.2 million.

See all weekly summaries from the Mississippi House of Representatives 2015 Regular Session website.

MS House still trying to get balanced budget amendment on ballot

If passed, House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 22 would give place a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced state budget on the 2015 ballot.  However, the bill authored by Rep. Mark Formby (Pearl River) failed to receive the necessary two-thirds of the House vote. A motion to reconsider has been made and the House may be vote on the measure again.

While the state has routinely balanced budgets, Republican members want to mandate the practice. But the HCR 22 must first be passed by the House and then approved by a majority of voters.  The bill does provide, with a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate, relief from the provisions of the amendment in times of war, natural disasters, and economic emergencies.

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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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Miss. Legislature adjourns with Senate & House Civil War

Geoff Pender’s article “Legislature has adjourned sine die” is an interesting look at the politics between the Mississippi House and Senate.  The House rejected the MDOT budget bill due to it being loaded with pork projects voting 121-1 on Monday, March 31st which all but killed funding for MDOT.

However, Gov. Bryant called a special session during the regular legislative session that allowed the Senate pass the bill last night and then adjourn for the legislative session.  This left the House no alternative but to pass the bill if they were to fund MDOT at all.

The $927 Million MDOT budget included $22 Million of pet projects the House did not like.  One of those projects is the $10 Million Mississippi-25/Lakeland Drive project which happens to be in Rankin County and near the home county of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

While much of the House was up in arms, the project had its defenders.  Rep. Mark Baker (R-Brandon) said the project has been planned for years to relieve congestion northeast of Jackson.

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Clarion-Ledger | Bill to ban texting while driving dies as session ends

House Bill 484, a ban on texting while driving, died on the Miss. House floor last night after Speaker Philip Gunn adjourned the 2014 session.

Rep. Bill Denny (R-64) made a move to reconsider the bill late last night which apparently prevented the bill from being voted upon before the session ended.  Rep. Tom Miles (D-75) blamed Denny for single-handedly killing the bill at the last hour.

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