What Happened the Week of March 9th
The House met as a whole throughout the week to discuss general bills that made it out of committee
and onto the calendar.
Thursday, March 12 was the deadline for representatives to discuss these general bills. Any bills not discussed in session by this deadline died on the calendar. The bills listed
below are just some of the many bills that were passed by the House this week.
One greatly debated item in the House was House Concurrent Resolution 39. The concurrent resolution would provide an alternative to Initiative 65 on the ballot in November. Initiative 65 would amend the Constitution to allow Mississippians with a debilitating medical condition to obtain a medical marijuana
prescription. Proponents of HC 39 claimed that the language in Initiative 65 was misleading and could potentially lead to a recreational marijuana environment in the state. Opponents of HC 39 argued that the resolution was a tactic to make it more difficult for Initiative 65 to pass in November. HC 39 passed
with a vote of 72-49.
Another concurrent resolution that would propose an amendment to the Constitution was House Concurrent Resolution 47. Currently, if no gubernatorial candidate receives a majority of votes, the election is decided by the House of Representatives. The proposed amendment would remove the
electoral requirement for governor and allow the governor to be elected by a majority. If no candidate receives a majority, then a runoff election would be held. HC 47 passed with a bipartisan vote of 114-2 and has been sent to the Senate.
Two items passed this week that would bring changes to the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees. House Bill 870 would require that appointments to the IHL Board be made by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House. Currently, the governor has the sole power to appoint all twelve members of the board with Senate confirmation. HB 870 passed by a vote of 78-41.
House Concurrent Resolution 51 would propose an amendment that would revise the authority of the IHL Board to choose university presidents. HC 51 passed by a vote of 86-35.
House Bill 1407 would raise the state’s minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 and would
group alternative nicotine products, like vaping and e-cigarettes, with other forms of smokeless tobacco
so that these products can be taxed. The bill passed by a vote of 99-13 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
Similar to last week, several bills on the floor covered the topic of alcohol sale across the state. House Bill 1086 would create the Mississippi Liquor Distribution Corporation. The corporation would be similar to the one created by the Legislature to run the state lottery system, and it would function as the state’s
wholesale distributor and seller of alcoholic beverages in the state. HB 1086 passed with a vote of 78-35 and has been sent to the Senate.
House Bill 1096 would in turn remove the Mississippi Department of Revenue from being the wholesale distributor of wine. HB 1096 passed with a vote of 67-43 and has
been sent to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 1091, or the Mississippi Educational Talent Recruitment Act, would work to prevent “brain drain” in the state caused by recent college graduates leaving the state in pursuit of more lucrative employment opportunities. The bill is similar to one that was passed last year by the House but died in a Senate committee. HB 1091 passed the House with a vote of 111-8.
House Bill 1295, or the Life Equality Act of 2020, would prohibit abortions being performed because of race, sex or genetic abnormality except in a medical emergency. The bill passed the House by a vote of 79-33.
Despite how busy legislators were with the general bill deadline, most thoughts this week were centered around COVID-19, or the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
On Wednesday evening, the first case of the illness in Mississippi was reported in Forrest County, and by the end of the week, several more cases had been announced. Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White and Public Health Chairman Sam Mims attended a press conference Thursday morning led by Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the State Health Officer of the Mississippi State Department of Health.
Speaker Gunn later addressed the House to update members on the global pandemic’s status. At the present time, there are no plans to suspend business in the Legislature. However, all tours at the Capitol have been suspended until further notice.
On Thursday morning, the House passed House Bill 499, which will designate part of U.S. Highway 45 in Alcorn and Prentiss Counties as “Speaker William J. ‘Billy’ McCoy Memorial Highway.” The House was joined by the late Speaker McCoy’s family and former Representative Steve Holland. Speaker McCoy was first elected to the House in 1980 and served as Speaker of the House from 2004 to 2012. He also served as chairman of the Education Committee and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee prior to being elected speaker.
The House was also visited by Jackson native and current Super Bowl Champion Breeland Speaks. He was joined by family and friends as he was presented with House Concurrent Resolution 44, which commended him on his efforts as a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs.