Report from the Mississippi Senate
As the end of the 2017 Legislative Session draws closer by the day, the Senate is in the process of considering and debating House measures. If we don’t move on a measure, it dies. If we amend a measure, then it goes back to the House where they could concur or invite conference. If we accept the measure as it was sent, then it goes to the governor for his signature. We hope that few bills will meet their deaths on the calendar when the deadline comes.
Youth-related issues have been brought up often during the session. We passed House Bill 1213, which authorizes youth courts to use volunteer court-appointed special advocates in abuse and neglect cases. We also passed House Bill 652, which allows the Department of Public Safety to use federal background checks in matters involving youth court custody. House Bill 240 creates laws specifically designed to convict gang members and those who intentionally involve youth in organized criminal behavior – it’s a step above the old “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” idea.
We passed House Bill 996 that would allow the over-the-counter purchase of opioid antagonist drugs like Naloxone that counter the effects of a drug overdose on opioid substances such as heroin, which have increased in recent months throughout the country. It would allow first responders immediate access to these life-saving drugs. It could possibly allow family members of persons who have addictions to obtain it. Mississippi, like the rest of the nation, is having a serious drug addiction/overdose problem, and many could die without this help.
We passed House Bill 1089, “The Rivers McGraw Act,” so that the State would use mental health courts in combination with drug courts to direct individuals to treatment or counseling rather than keep them in jail. It also provides notification of parents when individuals younger than 21 have been arrested for an alcohol or drug-related crime.
We also revisited Domestic Violence divorce issue, and we believe it is a better product than before. Unfortunately, the way the current law is written has allowed for numerous instances where victims of domestic violence could not divorce on those grounds because there was no eyewitness to the violence. A victim’s testimony wasn’t enough.
This effort has seen wide support throughout the State, and we are hopeful that it, or something like it, will become law this year.
House Bill 492 revises provisions of the Long-Term Care Facilities Ombudsman Act to comply with new federal regulations. This is an important program for residents and their families to make sure that all safety and care regulations are followed.
There is a bill under consideration in the Senate that provides level funding of the MAEP, based on the current formula and with last year’s appropriation. This central piece is necessary to produce the state’s budget, and it was necessary to include at least this much so that the final budget amounts could be timely set. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the level-funding amendment to the bill passed by the House Bill 1502 which passed the House of Representatives without any provision for MAEP funding, presumably due to the expectation that the leadership will try to advance a replacement funding formula during a Special Session at some point. In the final three weeks of the session, we will become more and more focused on finalizing the state budget and on revenue producing measures including bond bills.
During the week, I had several visitors including Rev. Jerome Blackburn, pastor of Zion Hill MB Church in Coldwater and his family. Rev. Blackburn led our invocation on Monday. Our local delegations also visited with the seventh grade Mississippi history class from Marshall Academy, students representing community colleges around the state, the Magnolia Heights baseball team, a group of my former constituents from Chalybeate in Tippah County and many friends in town for the State Basketball Tournament.
All Senate Floor sessions are streamed live online on the legislative website: www.legislature.ms.gov. The site also offers access to review the daily actions of the chambers under Legislation/Daily Action Reports and Senate and House Schedules to see when we convene and have committee meetings. Additionally, you can click on the Live Web Cast to watch us in action during floor debate. The Mississippi College School of Law has archived video of floor debates on specific bills. Go to their website at www.law.mc.edu and click on Library/Legislative History Project to view the videos.
You may also email all of the senators at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most effective tool you have at your disposal is your voice. Please let it be heard. The Senate mailing address is P.O. Box 1018, Jackson, MS 39215.