The weather finally subsided for the House of Representatives to formally reconvene. Last week, the House met in session and committees via teleconference, similar to what occurred earlier in the session. Wednesday, February 24th marked the deadline for House appropriations and revenue bills to be introduced and passed.
With general House bills out of the way, my colleagues and I began working on House appropriations Bills, which will determine how much money is given to various state agencies. The House was responsible for looking at the preliminary budgets of about 50 state agencies. The agencies include the Departments of Insurance, Health, Transportation, and Education. These bills represent half of the state’s budget; the other half is currently being considered by the Senate and will be sent to the House for consideration later in the legislative session.
Budgets include reverse repealers, a clause which ensures that a bill cannot become law before going to a conference committee for further revisions. With reverse repealers in place, many appropriations bills were voted on en bloc to help speed up the process.
The House Ways and Means committee also took up several bills on the floor this week. House Bill 1439, or the Mississippi Tax Freedom Act of 2021, would make several changes to current Mississippi tax laws including immediately eliminating the state income tax on $50,000 of individual income and $100,000 for married couples’ income; phasing out the state income tax entirely over a ten-year period; cutting the grocery tax from 7% to 4.5% immediately, then to 3.5% by FY 2027; and increasing the sales tax from 7% to 9.5%. After much debate, House Bill 1439 passed the House by a vote of 85-34. While I liked some of the benefits, I voted no because I am concerned about the long term impacts it will have on the least among us in Mississippi.
The next deadline for House members is Tuesday, March 2, when all general bills originating in the Senate must be passed from committee to begin work before the House as a whole. The work on Senate bills will continue until Wednesday, March 10th. After this deadline, both houses will have to concur on a bill or go to conference committee to finish working on a bill.