This was the third week of the 2020 Legislative Session. Speaker of the House Philip Gunn made the much anticipated announcement of committee assignments on Thursday of this week. With this announcement, legislators will now begin meeting in their respective committees.
I was assigned the following committees:
Ports, Harbors & Airports (Vice Chairman)
Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks
Criminal Justice Reform NOW!!!
Because of the recent outbreak of prison violence across the state, Mississippi legislators have begun to focus more on our corrections system. The 12 deaths in 28 days at the Mississippi Department of Corrections have prompted much unwanted attention to the state. (Nine of them were inmates at Parchman.) However, much of the reason for the attention, in my opinion, is because of your external voices. Thanks to everyone who is making sure this is not an issue that will be swept under the rug.
I attended two criminal justice reform events last week. The first was the Prayers for Prisoners Rally on Thursday. The second was the Roc Nation Rally on Friday. Also, the Mississippi LegislativeBlack Caucus Criminal Justice Reform Task Force held a meeting last week to discuss different policy solutions with front line advocacy groups. I was inspired by the concern for those behind bars. Never forget that your participation at events like these truly make a difference. I wanted to hear the perspective of those impacted and lend my voice to the cause. I came away with more awareness that we must act NOW or we will regret this when we look back on the history of Mississippi. Mississippi needs no more setbacks, but more solutions to push us forward.
Sales Tax Diversion
During the 2018 Special Session, the legislature voted to send funds to counties for road and bridge repair. The municipalities can use the funds they receive for road, bridge, sewer, and water repairs. The disbursements were due to be paid on January 15th (initial 50% of total amount) and July 15th (remaining 50% of total amount). Unfortunately, it didn’t post to the accounts of municipalities and counties on the 15th because there was a glitch in the technology system at the Department of Finance & Administration. I called on behalf of a few of my municipalities. I was told that it was fixed and it should have been dispersed last week.
Bolivar County and Sunflower County will respectively receive $720,000 and $626,000 from use tax (internet sales tax) diversion in two payments. Below are the anticipated diversion dollars from use tax (internet sales tax) for the municipalities in Bolivar and Sunflower Counties where I serve:
Alligator - $13,612
Benoit - $19,510
Beulah - $15,749
Duncan - $17,058
Cleveland - $410,117
Gunnison - $17,727
Merigold - $21,689
Mound Bayou - $36,810
Pace - $14,710
Renova - $21,956
Rosedale - $46,630
Shelby - $51,656
Winstonville - $13,227
Drew - $45,544 (closest Sunflower County town/city)
***CLICK HERE to get full Policy Explanation from House Bill 1 of the Extraordinary Session.
Brief Description: House Bill 1 further expanded the funds from use taxes. Mississippi was estimated to receive $338 million in use taxes in the 2018 fiscal year. The legislation proposed using 35% of the $338 million for infrastructure. 15% of the $338 million (approximately $50 million) will be divided among every city and town in the state. The first $3 million will be divided equally among the 300 cities and towns; the remaining $47 million will be distributed based on sales tax diversion and population. The next 15% of the $338 million (approximately $50 million) will be distributed to all 82 counties based on a formula: one-third of the funds will distributed evenly among all counties, one-third of the funds will be based on population and one-third of the funds will be based on rural road miles. The final 5% of the $338 million (approximately $10-20 million) will goes into the Local System Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program.
Thanks to Photographer Ken Gordonfor sending this photo of my colleagues and I supporting criminal justice reform in Mississippi at the rally on Friday.
Mississippi Autism Advisory Committee
The Mississippi Autism Advisory Committee (MAAC) was created by House Bill 1125 (2011 Regular Session) as the Legislature Recognized an urgent need for strategies on how to best identify treat, educate, accommodate and employ people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and assist their families. The Committee is required to produce an annual report.
Did you know?
o ASD now affects 1 in 59 children and 1 in 38 boys. In 2012, 1 in 68 children were affected.
o Boys are nearly four times more likely than girls to have ASD.
o ASD-related costs in the U.S.: $175-196 billion for adult services and $61-66 billion for children.
o ASD costs a family %69,000 a year on average.
o ASD is the fourth most prevalent diagnosis in children ages three (3) to seventeen (17) years.
o 70% of children with ASD have one comorbid developmental or psychiatric condition.
o 2011- HB 1125– Mississippi Autism Advisory Committee (MAAC)
o 2014- HB 542– State and School Employees Health Insurance Management Board Task Force
o 2015- HB 885– Autism Insurance Coverage Requirement
Mississippi Association of Educators 2020 Legislative Priorities
• Fully Fund Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP)
• Acquire Teacher and Support Staff Salary Increases
• Ensure Contract Security for Certified and Non-Certified Classroom Personnel
• Offer Community College Instructors Salaries that are Suitable for their Positions
• Secure Compulsory Kindergarten
• Expand Statewide Pre-K Program
• Establish Community Schools
• Revamp Mississippi Statewide Accountability System
• Address Teacher Shortage Crisis by Expanding Program Entry Requirements
Community College System Is Valuable
Mississippi community college system is undervalued. Historically, stakeholders have had little confirmation on the value provided by the Mississippi community college system to students, the Mississippi economy, the Mississippi taxpayers, business and industry, and the Mississippi Legislature. A report highlighted the overwhelming evidence of value added by the state’s 15 community colleges.
At a recent Martin Luther King Jr. program in Clarksdale, Mississippi, two community college leaders were honored and recognized. Tyrone Jackson is the ninth President of the Mississippi Delta Community College. Dr. Valmadge Towner is the fifth President at Coahoma Community College. They are invested in transforming the Mississippi community college system. I look forward to continuing to have important discussions that create more support for our community colleges.
Bill Deadline Dates
The deadline for the introduction of general bills and constitutional amendments is later in the session. After this deadline passes, committees will meet more often. Until then, I’ll work to craft and submit legislation that will benefit House District 29 (Bolivar and Sunflower Counties). I’ll also be searching to co-author legislation with my colleagues (Democrats, Republicans, and Independents) from around the state that will ensure Mississippi moves in a new, progressive direction for 2020. Education Policy, Criminal Justice Reform, and Economic Development are three areas that are near and dear to the folks that sent me to serve.
Governor's State of the State Address
On Monday, Governor Tate Reeves will deliver his first State of the State address before a joint session of the House and the Senate. It will be held outside on the south steps of the Capitol. In the event there is bad weather, the event will be held in the House Chamber. I look forward to hearing more about how the Governor will address some of the pressing issues that face Mississippi.
Mississippi Counseling Association at the Capitol
In Mississippi, we talk a lot about mental health. Well, the Mississippi Counseling Association (MCA) is on the front line trying to help people. It was great to see them fill the halls of the Capitol dressed in red. Best of all, they brought a big Delta State University constituency. Always good to see the OKRA in the House!!!
Here, I am photographed with Brian McCoy of ACLU Mississippi. The organization focuses on defending individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.
In this photo, I am pictured with Felicia Brown-Williams, the Mississippi State Director at Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. Yearly, they have partnership receptions. I appreciate and value the work she and others put into protecting and educating on reproductive rights.
On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending a musical performance featuring “Kingfish”. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is a talented Grammy nominated blues singer from Clarksdale, Mississippi.” I have heard him countless times in the Mississippi Delta. It was great to see him jamming out at the Visit Mississippi reception and watching the looks on the faces of those who were hearing him for the first time. Though he didn’t win the Grammy Award last night, we are EXTREMELY PROUD!!!
The Mississippi Manufacturers Association serves Mississippi by supporting and fostering programs and policies that aid in the development of present and future manufacturers. Check out some of the employment data they shared at a recent event.
In this photo, I got the chance to meet with Representative Horan who serves as the Chairman of the Corrections Committee. Considering everything going on at Parchman, I am eager to work with him to provide a resolution to inmates and their loved ones.
I don’t know what year the old school Lincoln Continental was that Representative Fred Shanks was driving, but I do know that it was clean. He represents Rankin County.
First-term Representative Troy Smith and I are pictured outside the Capitol at the end of the day. He represents Jasper, Clarke, and Newton Counties.
I formally met Margo Bernard at the Capitol. She was in the building with a teachers cohort that advocates on behalf of educators. She teaches at West Bolivar Elementary School in Rosedale, Mississippi. Thanks to her and all the other educators who daily fight to make the world a better place for our kids.
Happy Birthday to my constituent Ryan Robinson. To celebrate his birthday, he had a couple blues acts perform in Mound Bayou at Scooter’s Place this past Saturday night.
I love this piece of art painted during a rally at the Capitol. It is a painting that exhibits the importance of criminal justice reform in our nation and especially here in Mississippi. We have an obligation to our communities to provide ideas and solutions for reform in our criminal justice system.