Legislative session was full of potential

Published 8:48 am Tuesday, April 9, 2024

As a writer, I find the start of each legislative session to be exciting. New bills, new ideas and possible changes to our state laws fly into the Daily Action reports in a flurry. It is hard to keep up with bills of local interest, locally authored pieces of legislation and bills affecting the outdoors those first few weeks. 

What is not exciting is witnessing the slow death of legislation which had potential and for some reason or another did not make it past a specific deadline day. Oftentimes, these bills do not have any chance of recourse or revitalization this session and will have to wait an entire year to try again. 

I would like to preface what I am about to say with the fact that I’m not in Jackson and can not keep up with the inner workings of Mississippi’s legislative process each day. Instead, my knowledge of what is going on is relegated to YouTube broadcasts, Daily Action Reports and various calendars and schedules. It takes every bit of the AP government class I took in high school to grasp the nuances of the legislative process and even then I’m no expert. 

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I have not written about every single piece of legislation written, nor could I. My hope with legislative articles is to write about bills which might be of interest to people here locally and stories which would not be told otherwise. Mississippi Today and other outlets focused a lot on the state retirement system, education funding and healthcare reform this year. 

Don’t get me wrong, those pieces of legislation are important. I believe some of the simple legislation regarding Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, appropriations for our local governments and working to help a grieving mother are just as important though. 

Legislators have time to squabble over funding public schools, not that they are ever adequately funded as they should be, and argue about healthcare expansion.

The legislative session is a little more than halfway over and nearly every bill written by our local legislators has died in committee. I’m curious why appropriations bills for Bogue Chitto, Brookhaven, Lincoln, Lawrence and Copiah Counties never made it out of their initial committee. They were not the only appropriations bills which died in their originating committee.

News that House Bill 80, which would have created the Zeb Hughes Law, died in committee is probably the most disappointing of them all. Out of all the bills filled this session it seemed like a slam dunk. It was a bill which could help Mississippians and a bill which saw no opposition from the House. Yet it died in a senate committee thanks to a deadline as the chairman never called it up to a committee vote. 

I’m curious if the bill would have passed out of the senate if it had advanced. Maybe we will know next year or maybe not. Afterall, the legislature has yet to come up with a solution to restore the voter initiative process and it has been at least three years. 

People might argue the legislature had more important fish to fry this session and that the legislative process is designed to crawl forward at a snail’s pace. I would make the argument our legislature is supposed to serve the people and that includes working on the simple bills, not just arguing over big issues with little headway made. 

I can say without a doubt that Sen. Jason Barret, Rep. Becky Currie and Vince Mangold, worked hard this session and will continue to serve us proud in Jackson.