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Session ends but job is not done

Session ends but job is not done

By: Magnolia Tribune - April 19, 2008

Session ends but job is not done

Gov. Haley Barbour says he will call a special session before June 30 so lawmakers can consider a hospital tax to cover part of the Medicaid budget.

He also wants them to authorize the Mississippi Department of Employment Security to stay in business when the fiscal year starts July 1.

During the 3 1/2-month regular session, lawmakers plugged holes in the current state budget and approved a $5 billion spending plan for the coming year.

They also enacted several new laws, including strict requirements that employers check their workers’ immigration status.

A plan to authorize several new regional jails died late in the session, as did two gaming bills – one that would’ve restricted where new casinos can locate and another that would’ve made casino companies eligible for tax incentives for theme parks or other developments not directly tied to gambling.

State agencies periodically come up for review, and a bill to reauthorize the Mississippi Department of Employment Security died amid a dispute over all state agencies’ advertising practices. Some lawmakers are upset that the state spends thousands of dollars to run ads on conservative talk radio stations.

MDES handles job training and placement programs and distributes unemployment payments.

Many lawmakers believe that dispute over the employment agency killed a separate bill that would increase the weekly payments to people who are unemployed; a bill passed the House but died in the Senate.

Mississippi’s unemployment payment has been $210 a week since 2002. The bill would’ve increased that to $225 this July 1 and to $235 a year later.

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, said Friday “there are legitimate people who lose their jobs and need” unemployment benefits, but he has not supported increasing the weekly benefit.

Emily Wagster Pettus
Hattiesburg American

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Magnolia Tribune

This article was produced by Magnolia Tribune staff.