House focused on redistricting work
House members this week began consideration of more than 200 general bills that we must take action on by Feb. 10, as the 2011 legislative session entered week five.
Feb. 1 was the deadline for committee consideration of those same bills that originated in the House of Representatives. The Senate was studying bills that began life in that chamber. Once the Feb. 10 deadline is reached, we will begin the task of preparing a budget for FY 2012. Then, the House will consider the Senate’s general bills, all of this leading to sine die on April 2.
Also within the next few days there will be discussions about realigning the legislative districts according to the 2010 U.S. Census data. The goal is to complete the redistricting of the House and Senate district seats (and to receive federal government approval) in time for this year’s general election in November.
Among the dozens of bills approved by the full House this week and sent on to the Senate for its consideration were: HB 1201 mandating that state aircraft are limited to official business of the state, and before any state aircraft may be used, the user must sign a statement specifying the use of the aircraft; HB 944 giving $25 of the fine for disobeying a train signal to Operation Life Saver; HB 1209 allowing state troopers to work until 63, and longer at the public safety commissioner’s discretion. The mandatory retirement age is 65; HB 577 allowing school districts to voluntarily implement financial literacy courses in grades 9-12; and
HB 1195 to regulate the sale and re-sell of precious metals such as gold. The amended bill says that if a gold ring or other item is inscribed with personal information, it must be reported immediately to a law agency; HB 1067 mandating a groundwater supply, use and management report not later than Jan. 1, 2012; and HB 777 directing Medicaid, when it denies eligibility for benefits or reduces a recipient’s benefits, to provide in writing the specific reasons for its action. It also must provide the recipient with information about consumer assistance programs for Medicaid benefits.
Failing originally was HB 1388 which would have mandated that nursing homes carry minimum liability insurance of $500,000. Returned to committee for further work was HB 1212 regulating the sale of cats and dogs on public roads.
Also failing was HB 1054 moving funds from several sources into position for use in crafting the FY 2012 budget. Death also came to HB 1286 which would have given a board governing the state employees’ health insurance plan the authority to impose a higher premium based on the use of tobacco. The amount of any premium differential would have been paid by the participant. Some of these bills were to be reconsidered.
As inclement weather moved toward the Capitol Thursday, House members were preparing to consider dozens more bills that included: HB 792 increasing fines for not reporting abuse or neglect of patients in care facilities; HB 1340 creating the offense of attempted murder; HB 203 directing insurance companies, when denying a claim for “all perils” coverage, to show that one of its policy exclusions apply; HB 1359 allowing recertification for Medicaid eligibility by mail and prohibiting the face-to-face requirement; HB 1163 to study the creation of “early college high schools” blending courses from each level; HB 382 directing a study on the impact of immigrants on poverty in Mississippi; and HB 1275 allow the termination of residential leases in cases of the lessee’s death.
Gov. Barbour reported that our tax collections for January were slightly higher than projected. The state collected $326 million, which was 1.42 percent above the sine die estimate for the month. Revenues barely have met expectations over the past four months.
“We should remain cautious in our spending, especially in light of the slow economic recovery expected nationally. As negotiations begin on crafting a budget for the next fiscal year, legislators need to keep the overall economic picture in mind. Slow revenue growth coupled with the loss of hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars means state government must continue to tighten its belt and leaders must make difficult decisions to ensure state services remain effective within a balanced budget,” the governor said.
Gov. Barbour also presented an advisory council’s report on planning the state’s early care and education system. The group received a $1.68 million grant to continue work to develop a comprehensive early childhood system that will create a seamless delivery of services to children in Mississippi.
Recommendations in the report include: a career ladder for early care and education teachers; alignment of early learning standards for children from birth to 4 years with K-12 education; a voluntary registry of family child care providers; and information packets to parents of newborns to assist them as their children’s first teachers.
Rep. Robert Johnson is a Democrat from Natchez representing Southwest Mississippi in the state House of Representatives.