Medicaid expansion plans and school funding changes still alive in Mississippi Legislature

Bills to expand Medicaid and rewrite the funding formula for public schools are among measures still alive in the Mississippi Legislature.

Tuesday was the deadline for House and Senate committees to consider general bills and constitutional amendments originating in the other chamber. Surviving legislation moves to the full House and Senate for more debate. Budget and revenue bills have later deadlines.

The Legislature’s four-month session is scheduled to end in early May.

A look at the status of some general bills:

Medicaid expansion: Alive

Mississippi lawmakers will try to reach a compromise on expanding Medicaid in one of the poorest states in the U.S. after the Senate voted for a vastly different plan than one proposed by the House. The Senate proposal would insure fewer people and bring less federal money to the state than the version approved by the House. The Senate’s approach also includes a tougher work requirement and measures to prevent a wider expansion of Medicaid benefits in the future.

Senate leaders want to alter the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which is designed to give districts enough money to meet midlevel academic standards but has been fully funded only two years since becoming law in 1997. House leaders are pushing for a new formula called INSPIRE — Investing in the Needs of Students to Prioritize, Impact and Reform Education. It would be based on a per-student cost determined by 13 educators. Senate Bill 2332 was amended to add the House proposal, while the House bill died. Leaders are expected to try to negotiate a final version.

Judicial redistricting: Alive

House Bill 722 would update the boundaries of circuit court and chancery court districts. A version of the bill has passed the House. The Senate Judiciary A Committee made changes, and the revised bill awaits consideration in the full Senate. Democratic Sen. Derrick Simmons of Greenville criticized the proposal, saying it would combine two circuit court districts in part of the Delta and reduce the seven current judgeships in the area to three. Judiciary A Committee Chairman Brice Wiggins, a Republican from Pascagoula, said areas losing population are likely to lose judges.

Mobile sports betting: Alive

House Bill 774 would legalize mobile sports betting. Thirty other states already allow the practice. Republican Rep. Casey Eure of Saucier, the bill’s prime sponsor, said Mississippi could bring in $25 million to $35 million a year in tax revenue. Sports wagering has been legal in the state for years, but online betting has remained illegal amid fears it could financially harm Mississippi casinos.

Senate Bill 2753 and House Bill 1607 would require public buildings to have single-sex restrooms and changing areas, or unisex spaces designated for one person. The bills create a binary definition of sex, and would prohibit people from entering spaces designated for the “opposite sex.” They would block transgender people, including those who have transitioned, from using restrooms that match their gender identity. A person caught entering the wrong area could be sued.

For the second year, a bill to create a state-appointed regional board to govern the water system in the capital city of Jackson has died. Under Senate Bill 2628, the board would have taken over after a federally appointed independent administrator leaves Jackson. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the bill was an example of the majority-white and Republican-led Legislature trying to seize control from a majority-Black city. Republican Sen. David Parker of Olive Branch said the bill would help address issues that have disrupted the utility and left residents without consistent access to running water.
Restoration of some felons voting rights: Dead

House Bill 1609 would have created a simpler process for restoration of voting rights for people convicted of some felonies. The House passed the bill, but Senate Constitution Committee Chairwoman Angela Hill, a Republican from Picayune, killed it by not bringing it up for a vote in her committee.

Early voting 15 days before an election: Dead

Senate Bill 2580 would have allowed in-person voting beginning 15 days before Election Day. The bill passed the Senate but died when House Apportionment and Elections Committee Chairman Noah Sanford, a Republican from Collins, did not bring it up for a vote in his committee. Mississippi allows absentee voting before elections for people who are at least 65 years old or have a physical impairment or who will be out of town on Election Day. It is one of four states without so-called no-excuse early voting.

House Bill 1989 would have allowed a casino in downtown Jackson. Mississippi only allows state-regulated casinos along the waters of the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Trey Lamar, a Republican from Senatobia, sponsored the bill but did not bring it up for a vote in his own committee because House Republicans said there were not enough votes for the bill to pass.

Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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