Legislative Update By District 35 Rep. Joey Hood
End of Session Summary
The 2014 Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature was a whirlwind 90-day session that even includedone Extraordinary Special Session. The House ended the 2014 Legislative session on Wednesday, April 2 – a full four days ahead of the scheduled April 6 deadline for Sine Die, saving the tax payers of Mississippi approximately $143,000.
Teacher Pay Raise
The issue of a teacher pay raise garnered quite a bit of attention this year in the form of House Bill 504 (HB504). Teachers last received a pay raise in FY 2008. Speaker Gunn and the House of Representatives led the charge and deemed this a top priority before the Session began. Nearly $60 million of the education budget goes toward this increase. Details of the plan include: A $1,500 salary increase starting July 1, 2014; A $1,000 salary increase starting July 1, 2015; A merit-based pay system for teachers in the third year for “A” and “B” schools or any school that improves one letter grade in a year; The legislature shall develop a pay plan for high-performing teachers in “C”, “D” and “F” schools by the third year; and Money must be spent on teacher salaries and cannot go toward equipment.
State Employee Pay Raise
With the slight uptick in the economy, many state agencies requested pay raises for their employees. Some of these agencies will see a portion of their funding increase set aside specifically for state employees who make under $30,000. These employees will receive a $1,000 raise if they had not received a raise in the last four years.
Second Amendment Rights
Due to the continued tightening of Second Amendment rights in states around the nation, House Republicans introduced and passed several bills focused on protecting those rights. Below are some the bills passed this year: SB2425 offers a sales tax exemption on the sale of firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies during the Second Amendment Weekend holiday, beginning the first Friday in September. HB764, which I authored, allows disabled veterans to acquire a gun permit at no cost. HB314 confirms that state law preempts local ordinances as it relates to possession of weapons.
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act
The Legislature also passed the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act which is designed to protect the religious freedoms of Mississippi citizens. The Bill also added the words “In God We Trust” to the state seal.
At the request of family members and citizens, I authored House Bill 615 to honor the memory of several individuals who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving to defend and protect our citizens and the well being of our children. The Memorial Designations which were placed into House Bill 615 are: A segment of Highway 82 in Webster County shall be designated as the “Keith Alan Crenshaw Memorial Highway.” Officer Crenshaw gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty to protect the citizens of Webster County. The segment of Highway 82 in Webster County beginning at its easternmost intersection with Mississippi Highway 182 and extending westerly to its westernmost intersection with Mississippi Highway 182 shall be designated as the “Keith Alan Crenshaw Memorial Highway.” A segment of Highway 9 in Choctaw County shall be designated as the “Phyllis A. Graham-Steven B. Moss Memorial Highway.” The memorial highway will be a part of Mississippi Highway 9 beginning at the Choctaw-Webster County line and extending southerly to the corporate limits of the Town of Ackerman. The student body requested this bill to honor the memory of Steven Moss and Phyllis Graham. A segment of Mississippi Highway 15 in Choctaw County near Reform shall be designated and known as the “Anthony Lucas Memorial Highway.”
During the 2013 Legislative Session, a 21-member Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force was formed to develop policies to improve public safety, reduce repeat offenders, restore certainty and clarity to the sentencing process, and control corrections costs. This year, the findings of the bipartisan, inter-branch task force included several different reforms in the form of HB585. The provisions institute true minimums for time served; give more authority to judges; provide standards for alternative sentencing, drug courts and veterans courts; and are anticipated to save Mississippi close to $266 million over 10 years. The Legislature also appropriated $6.9 million towards the funding of a new Trooper school. The last trooper school was funded in 2011.
House Republicans have focused their efforts on eliminating the dependency on one-time monies for recurring expenses. Since 2012, House Republicans have diligently worked to reduce this dependency, and the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) General Fund 2015 budget reflects that. The Legislature also filled the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to the statutory maximum of $410 million and paid off more bond indebtedness than it borrowed. House and Senate members were able to reach an agreement on a General Fund budget of approximately $6 billion. Some key agencies receiving a funding increase include: K-12 Education—$2.4 billion, up 3.7 percent, with the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) component alone totaling $2.1 billion, up by $74.6 million, or 3.6 percent; Universities—$746 Million, up 4.6 percent; Community and Junior Colleges—$258 million, up 4.5 percent; Mental Health—$244.6 million, up 2.9 percent; Corrections—$346 million, up 2.4 percent; Public Safety—$88 million, up 21 percent, including $6.9 million for a Trooper School; and State Aid Roads-Bridge Program-$52 million, up 160 percent. I would like to thank the people of District 35 for allowing me the opportunity to serve. If you have any questions or need any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time. You can contact me at the Capitol at P. O. Box 1018, Jackson, Mississippi 39215 or call (601) 359-3339. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit my website at www.joeyhoodmississippi.com.