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.
Bobby Harrison of the Daily Journal runs down the significant events of the 2014 legislative session with a two-part series:
- Teacher pay, justice reform biggest achievements
- School districts still in budget hole
In his first story, Harrison provides a recap of the following issues that the legislature tackled during the session:
- Teacher Pay: Initially promoted by Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), the bill provides $2,500 pay raise over 2 years. The senate finalized the language which, under Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ leadership cut out performance requirements.
- Criminal Justice Reform: Sweeping reforms resulting from recommendations of judges, prosecutors, district attorneys, law enforcement and local officials. Estimated to save $266 Million over 10-years.
- Special Needs Payments: Promoted by Sen. Nancy Collins (R-Tupelo), the proposal failed largely due to objections over giving “education vouchers.”
- Religious Freedom: Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed even after firestorm in Arizona. Legislation changed to prevent the government from being able to force someone to take action against their religious beliefs.
- Bonds: $199.9 Million in new bonds were approved for Cooper Tire in Tupelo, a Tammy Wynette Museum in Tremont, the William Faulkner/Union Heritage Museum in New Albany, and renovations to Okolona College.
- Texting: After looking like ban on texting while driving would pass, Rep. Bill Denny (R-Jackson) entered a motion to reconsider which effectively killed the bill since efforts to table the motion were defeated.
- Medicaid Expansion: Republican leadership continues to oppose medicare expansion. Both the House and the Senate rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid as is allowed under Obamacare (to cover those earning 138% of the federal poverty level).
- Judges, Law Enforcement: Added 16 assistant district attorneys, 50 new Highway Patrol troopers, added funds for the state Crime Lab.
The second story focuses on the budget. According to Harrison, the $2.4 Billion public education budget was an increase of $85 Million over the previous year. The current education budget is $255 Million short of the funding formula based on the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).
In all, the 2014 $6 Billion general fund budget was an increase of about $200 Million over 2013.
For more information:
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.
For more information:
Is a ban on texting while driving coming to Mississippi? State Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney supports such a measure in the Claims Journal’s Mississippi Drivers Support Texting While Driving Ban: Allstate Survey.
According to an All State Insurance poll, 93% of Mississippi drivers support a complete ban on texting while driving.