Mississippi legislators had a light workload the first two weeks of their three-month Session, but they are about to get busy debating proposals that could affect health care, voting rights and other issues.
Monday was the deadline to file general bills. House and Senate committees face a Jan. 31 deadline to consider bills filed in their own chamber. Bills that survive will then face a Feb. 9 deadline for consideration in the full House or Senate. Then the two chambers will exchange bills for more work.
Legislators face deadlines later in the Session for bills dealing with budgets, taxes and borrowing.
Here’s a look at some of the general bills:
Hospitals — Multiple bills seek to help financially struggling hospitals by creating grant programs or tax credits.
Medicaid — Multiple bills seek expansion of Medicaid to people who work low-wage jobs that don’t provide private health insurance. A 2010 federal health care law allowed expansion, and Mississippi is among 11 states that have not taken the option. Other bills — including House Bill 426, which has bipartisan support — would allow extension of Medicaid coverage from 60 days to one year after a woman has given birth.
Initiatives — Multiple resolutions would revive a process for people to circulate petitions to put issues on the statewide ballot. Mississippi had an initiative process for decades, but the state Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the process was invalid because it required an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts and the state had dropped to four districts after the 2000 Census.
Early voting — Multiple bills would allow people to cast ballots before Election Day. Mississippi currently allows early voting for people who will be out of town on Election Day and for those who have a disability or are 65 or older.
Restoration of voting rights — House Bill 342, by Democratic Rep. Jeffery Harness of Fayette, would automatically restore voting rights to any person who has completed a sentence for conviction on a disenfranchising crime. The current process for restoration of voting rights is for a person to seek permission of legislators and the Governor, and only a few people have received this permission in recent years.
Pregnancy center tax credits — House Bill 468 would expand tax credits for people or businesses that donate money to crisis pregnancy centers, which try to dissuade women from having abortions and provide supplies such as diapers and baby clothing. A law enacted in 2022 allowed up to $3.5 million in these tax credits. House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican, sponsored this year’s bill, which would allow up to $10 million in credits statewide.
Pregnant workers — Senate Bill 2114, by Democratic Sen. Angela Turner Ford of West Point, would require employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who are pregnant or recovering from childbirth, such as more frequent breaks, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position or non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk.
Gender reassignment — House Bill 456, by Republican Rep. Steve Massengill of Hickory Flat, would authorize child abuse charges against any parent who consents to or helps a child take puberty suppressing drugs or who allows a child to undergo medical procedures for gender reassignment; an exception would be allowed for drugs or surgery for an intersex child born without clear male or female physical characteristics.
U.S. Capitol statues — Senate Bill 2005, by Sen. John Horhn of Jackson, would create a commission to consider which two historical figures Mississippi should honor with statues inside the U.S. Capitol. Since 1931, the state’s statues have been Confederate president Jefferson Davis and James Zachariah George, a slave owner who signed the Mississippi declaration of secession before the Civil War and who later pushed to disenfranchise Black people as part of the state’s 1890 constitutional convention and then served in the U.S. Senate. House Concurrent Resolution 12, by Democratic Rep. Robert Johnson of Natchez, would replace the existing statues with figures of Hiram Revels, who in 1870 became the first Black person to serve in the U.S. Senate; and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. House Concurrent Resolution 13, by Democratic Rep. Earle Banks of Jackson, would replace the Davis statue with one of either B.B. King or Elvis Presley.
Republished with permission from The Associated Press.