Representative Abe M. Hudson, Jr.
2017 Special Session Report

On Monday, June 5th, other legislators and I convened at 10am for a special legislative session. Later that day, we finished up sometime after 11pm. The special session was necessary after appropriations for the Attorney General's office, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) and State Aid Roads were not agreed upon during the regular session. In addition to deciding on budgets for these entities, the Governor also called for legislators to vote on the creation of the Financial and Operational Responses that Invigorate Future Years (FORTIFY) Act and make clarifications to the Budget Transparency and Simplification Act.

The House voted first on House Bill 2, which detailed appropriations for MDOT.  The House also passed a budget for the Attorney General's office, in the form of House Bill 1 .  Also, $175 million was allocated to State Aid Road Construction in the form of Senate Bill 2003 . I voted yes for all three of these pieces of legislation that daily impact the lives of Mississippians.

Discussion ensued when the FORTIFY Act, Senate Bill 2002, was introduced to the House floor. From what I understood, the Governor included this in the special session in order to help bolster Mississippi's credit rating. The act claims to increase the cap on the Rainy Day Fund from 7.5 percent to 10 percent. It also suggest that more unencumbered cash be directed to the Rainy Day Fund and the Capital Expense Fund. Also, it is said to stop projected cash balances from being added to the estimate used to formulate the budget. There is also a section that requires the Legislative Budget Office to prepare a multi-year financial plan. The FORTIFY Act passed the House by a vote of 73-41. Because I was not comfortable with so much ambiguous legislation being put into one bill, I voted against this bill.

Another split occurred at the introduction of Senate Bill 2001, which deposits state agency special funds into the state general fund. This bill addresses approximately $9.7 million that is located in accounts that agencies do not have the authority to spend.The bill passed the House by a vote of 73-43. I voted NO for this particular piece of legislation because I did not want to set precedent for us taking state agency special funds to use for general fund purposes. I believe instead of taking money from established line items, we should focus on creating new streams of revenue.

Finally, Governor Bryant added two items to the special session agenda on Monday that passed without much discussion. House Bill 5 authorized the Secretary of State to make payments due to the Point Cadet Leasing Fund, providing Biloxi with its share of the revenue from leases in the Point Cadet commercial development. House Bill 6 appropriated money to the Secretary of State for distribution to local governments where back taxes are owed. I voted YES for both these bills to pass out of the House chamber.

The legislature avoided using additional taxpayer dollars by completing the special session in one day. I was glad we quickly got the work done in an efficient manner for the people of Mississippi. Each of these measures will now be signed into law. The legislature is not scheduled to convene again until January 2018. 

Now that my first legislative session is officially over, I plan to go back and work in District 29 with county officials, municipal leaders, educators, and business people to help improve "My Mississippi Delta". As we turn 200 years old later this year, I am excited about what the future holds for our state. As I have previously stated, I know we have some challenges, but I want to spend more time focusing on solutions to elevate our precious state.

Mississippi Growing Up...

After all business was conducted, several members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC) rose to communicate their feeling of disrespect. Recently, a legislative colleague made a statement and referenced the word "lynch" in a comment on his Facebook page. The word conjures up bad and not too distant memories for most Black Mississippians. The legislator who made the comments sat through eleven members of the MLBC caucus expressing their concerns about the comment after normal business of the day.

Too make matters worse, this has been a tough session to endure. Almost none of the bills MLBC members authored came out of committee. At intervals during the 2017 session, it appeared they had no influence on bills when they hit the floor because of the supermajority Republican legislature. This repetitive marginalization of people and their concerns hurts Mississippi worse than any other state due to our history.
However, despite a difficult situation, everyone involved handled the moment in a way that I will forever remember. I am optimistic that we can all take that occurrence, and use it as an opportunity to grow.
I will personally admit, it is tough to see major legislation passed that negatively impacts your constituents, rural Mississippi Deltans. However, I am eager to go back and fight for the people who elected me. I will not give up, and I encourage others who believe in helping the masses to remain encouraged. We have a outlet to create a new direction, and it is called A VOTE. 
As a legislative body, I am hopeful that polarizing issues like racism, the state flag, and poverty can be openly discussed instead of hiding in the darkness. Once we, despite differences in ethnicity, party, or socioeconomic status, begin to do that, Mississippi can create a new narrative capable of fostering job creation, encouraging people to visit, and supporting quality education for our youth. And please know, I am not trying to change Mississippi. As she prepares to turn 200 years old, I just want to see her continue to Grow Up....

Here a few photos from Friday's Annual Delta Council ( Meeting on the Delta State University campus in Cleveland, Mississippi.  

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    Representative Abe M. Hudson, Jr. |