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Secretary Watson concerned with...

Secretary Watson concerned with exemptions to transparency, bid laws

By: Anne Summerhays - April 19, 2022

SB 2818 exempts MSDH and DOR from state laws regarding public purchasing, state contracts, and the development of regulations while implementing Medical Cannabis Act.

During the 2022 Mississippi Legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2818 which grants the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) and the Mississippi Department of Revenue (DOR) temporary exemptions to several state laws while implementing the Medical Cannabis Act.

The legislation, written by State Senator Rita Potts Parks, was approved by Governor Tate Reeves on March 30.

The law states that personnel employed by MSDH and DOR whose employment is solely in connection with either department’s responsibilities in implementing, administering, and enforcing provisions of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act shall be exempt from being considered as state service employees for purposes of the state personnel board and sets a date of repeal for June 30, 2023. 

It also provides that MSDH and DOR will be exempted from the Administrative Procedure Act between February 2, 2022 through June 30, 2023. 

Through June 30, 2023, the provisions of the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services (ITS) bid and contract requirements will not apply to the Department of Health and DOR. It provides that any personal or professional service contract entered into by the MSDH or DOR solely in connection with their respective responsibilities under the Medical Cannabis Act from February 2, 2022 through June 30, 2023 will be exempt from the Public Procurement Board. 

SB 2818 also requires certain purchases made by DOR and MSDH for the purpose of fulfilling their respective responsibilities under the Medical Cannabis Act to be exempt from certain bidding requirements. 

In a statement, Secretary of State Michael Watson said that S.B. 2818 exempts MSDH and the Mississippi DOR from crucial state laws regarding public purchasing, state contracts, and the development of regulations that are necessary to protect the public’s best interest, increase transparency, and prevent corruption.

“While I understand the intent to expedite compliance with the Medical Cannabis Act, I am still concerned with the precedent this sets and the potential for fraud and wasteful spending. Temporarily waiving these critical safeguards also undermines the checks and balances the legislature worked diligently to implement in recent years,” Secretary Watson said.

Watson clarified that his concerns are not a reflection of the staff or leadership at MSDH and DOR as staff within both agencies assured his office they would operate with the highest level of integrity and transparency.

“As they move forward with this program, I am only seeking the same public accountability I would expect if my office were exempt from such critical safeguards,” the Secretary of State said.

Watson encourages everyone to join him in monitoring the use of tax dollars until the exemptions expire on June 30, 2023.

You can read the full text of Senate Bill 2818 below.

Mississippi Senate Bill 2818 by yallpolitics on Scribd

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: