State Rep. Chris Bell
State Rep. Chris Bell (D) will serve as the new MLBC Chair as Sen. Angela Turner-Ford (D) chose not to seek the post for another term.
The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC) will welcome a new Chair after State Senator Angela Turner-Ford (D) chose not to seek reelection to the position after serving two, two-year terms beginning in 2019.
State Representative Chris Bell, also a Democrat, will take the reins of the MLBC.
“I appreciate the support I have received as Chair of the Caucus for the past four years. I chose not to seek reelection because I understand our organization is filled with members who are capable and willing to bring a fresh perspective to the position,” said Turner-Ford on the announcement of Rep. Bell. “I’m looking forward to returning to the ranks of the membership, and supporting Rep. Bell and his administration in any way that I can.”
State Rep. Bell has served House District 65 in Hinds County since 2016. He was born in Chicago, Illinois before relocating to Jackson. Bell serves as Vice-Chair for the Executive Contingent Fund committee. He also sits on Banking and Financial Services, Energy, Insurance, Public Health and Human Services, and Tourism.
“I take this position very seriously from those who have gone before me. It is very important to represent not only the African Americans that live in Mississippi, but all people in the state. This state is a melting pot of various backgrounds and cultural heritages,” said Rep. Bell on his appointment as MLBC Chair.
Rep. Bell said the Caucus is expected to welcome a few new members this year. Several long serving lawmakers such as State Senator Ed Blackmon (D) and State Representative Barbara Blackmon (D) are not running for re-election.
Bell said he anticipates that the priorities for the caucus will continue to be in line with previous years.
“We still have hospitals in dire need of help and we still have a TANF situation where the majority of people who need it, still have not received it. We will be on a mission to make sure we sincerely and whole-heartedly represent people in Mississippi,” said Bell.
Rep. Bell says he is personally not satisfied with what the Legislature accomplished in 2023. He was particularly unhappy to see the Governor’s recent line-item vetoes that impacted projects for the capital city. Bell, a member of the Hinds County delegation, also disapproves of the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) bill signed into law last week that expands the CCID boundaries and allows the Capitol Police to supplement law enforcement efforts, among other priorities. The Caucus fought against that particular piece of legislation (HB 1020).
RELATED: Governor Reeves signs controversial HB 1020, saying, “We’re one step closer to a better Jackson”
The Caucus released an official statement during a press briefing in February, saying the bill was “demeaning and divisive.”
“The idea that local judicial power should be shifted from the voters of Hinds County is unjust and far too much like the separate but equal policies of the past,” read the statement. “Our fellow lawmakers should focus their efforts on passing legislation to improve our Capitol City, the state and her people.”
Rep. Bell said the Caucus plans to be aggressive and progressive moving into the next year. He hopes to further communicate with the public on their platform.
History of the MLBC
The MLBC began informally in 1976. The group formally established itself in 1980 after an increase of African American Legislators. State Representative Robert Clark served as the group’s first chair. The organization serves as a non-profit supported by the Political Education and Economic Development Foundation.
The Caucus consists of 13 State Senators and 38 State Representatives. They say they represent the interests of nearly 1.3 million African American Mississippians.
The organization’s mission statement says they are “dedicated to the advancement and, when necessary, the defeat of legislation impacting Mississippi’s African American population.” The MLBC takes a position on policy related to healthcare, education, criminal justice, finance and economic justice, and election reform.
For the 2023 session, the MLBC set out priorities to reform election laws, take a deeper dive into how the state handles TANF funds, fully funding MAEP and appropriate the remaining ARPA dollars.