The House Medicaid Committee meeting draws a large number of health care and human services lobbyists and other lawmakers who witnessed the committee passing legislation that would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to a year, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis - Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
On Tuesday, the Legislature faced its first deadline handling the opposite chamber’s bills. See what survived.
The Mississippi Legislature is just weeks away from the 2023 session winding down. This week, another deadline day came and went. Tuesday’s deadline was for bills from the opposite chamber to be moved out of committee.
Here is a rundown of some of the legislation that survived this week.
The House Constitution Committee passed SCR 533, the only vehicle left alive to reinstate a ballot initiative process for the state since the State Supreme Court’s decision on Initiative 65 being certified incorrectly. The new proposal would only allow for statutory initiatives, not constitutional ones. Also, as amended, would not allow abortion-related initiatives.
READ MORE: Initiatives related to abortion would not be considered under new House proposal
One of the most talked about bills of the session came from the Senate, that being the effort to extend postpartum care for women on Medicaid up to 12 months (SB 2212). After a round of support came out from the Governor and the Division of Medicaid, the bill was referred to the Medicaid Committee in the House and it passed on a voice vote. If it makes it to the floor, Senator Kevin Blackwell (R), who authored the bill, said he believes there are enough votes to pass it.
READ MORE: Postpartum Medicaid extension moves through Mississippi House
Capital City Crime
Another controversial bill made it through the Senate with major changes in the form of a strike all. HB 1020, which originally would have expanded the Capitol Complex Improvement District and created a separate inferior court system with appointed judges, did not die upon arrival in the opposite chamber. Senator Brice Wiggins (R), Chair of Judiciary A, offered a strike all to remove language pertaining to the CCID and allow for Hinds County Courts to have up to five special temporary judges. It also gives the Capitol Police jurisdiction throughout the City of Jackson. With these changes it is expected that the bill go to conference, if it passes the Senate chamber.
READ MORE: Senate amends CCID bill; provides for additional temporary judges in Hinds County court system
Capital City Water
Another bill that could directly impact the Capitol City is SB 2889, The Capitol Region Utility Act. Under the new proposal, the utility authority would be an appointed board to oversee the city’s water system. The House added a strike all which would change the board as having ownership of the city’s water to a lease holder. The board would be subject to the Open Meetings Act. All funding obtained in excess of expenses would have to be returned to the city. The House companion bill, HB 698, also included a strike all from the Senate.
Education bills made a big move in the Senate prior to the deadline.
The Senate Education committee took up several pieces of legislation to address funding for general education and early learning collaborative, but the most impactful was HB 1369, which would increase funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) and change the way that funding is calculated. The legislation would ultimately attempt to fully fund MAEP, which estimates show to be over $2 billion. Chairman Senator Dennis DeBar (R) said these changes would potentially make fully funding the program more sustainable. The changes include determining the cost of using the Average Daily Membership (ADM) in lieu of the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) model with a 90 percent threshold attendance trigger.
Early Learning Funding
The Senate Education Committee went on to address HB 817, a piece of legislation that would increase funding for full-day programs to $2,500 and half-day programs to $1,250 as part of the Early Learning Collaborative. According to conversations in the Committee, these amounts have been in place for the last two years. The bill would merely codify those amounts.
When it comes to higher education, the Legislature has been considering a major change to the Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant and the HELP Grant program. HB 771 passed through both committees it was double referred to on Tuesday. The bill would allow all Federal Pell Grant recipients to receive MTAG but does put a cap on income at the median average in the state. It would also decrease the amount freshmen and sophomores receive through the HELP Grant. The legislation was passed as amended in the Senate Appropriations and Senate Universities and Colleges committees.
Early Childhood Interventions
A task force geared at looking at early childhood interventions made it through the deadline. Authored by Senator Nicole Boyd (R), SB 2167 centers around determining if the state’s current approach to early intervention is effective. If it is not, Senator Boyd says the Legislature aims to fix it.
“We know we should be serving at least 10 to 15 percent of children. This is an incredibly important program in the state that we can do a much better job with,” said Boyd. “The good news is we can do a better job.”
The task force will report back to the Legislature before the end of the year, if the bill becomes law.