Criminal justice reform at the top of lawmakers’ priority list for 2019 legislative session
House District 58 Rep. Joel Bomgar is proud of the work he was able to accomplish this past year and is hoping to carry that momentum into the upcoming year.
“This year’s regular session was a great success and I will carry that momentum forward into 2019,” he said.
Last year, his focus was on government transparency, the state’s economy, employment and changing recourse for those who have been through the criminal justice system.
His goals are similar for the upcoming year. He also hopes to address the opioid crisis.
“Across the country, the overdose rate has increased dramatically,” Bomgar said. “There are policy solutions we can implement to help save lives and connect more people with treatment. This is an issue that is important to the people of our state, and I’m hopeful that we will be able to implement some of these solutions this session.”
Bomgar said he will be introducing a bill to address the opioid crisis that will help those affected receive treatment. He believes this will curtail the crisis that is affecting Mississippi.
Two bills he is proud of from the past legislative session are HB387 and SB2578.
HB387 aims to reduce barriers to employment for people leaving the corrections system.
“The bill limits the use of debtor’s prisons to collect fees, creates a new path to reentry for individuals seeking to reenter the workforce and allows individuals who are currently working to meet with their parole officer using technology like FaceTime to minimize disruption to their employment,” Bomgar said.
The bill includes a number of reforms, which he believes will help improve the state’s workforce and economy.
SB2578 freezes the value of a homestead property for anyone over 65 years of age for tax purposes.
This went into effect on July 1 and will apply to the value of homes beginning January 1, or when an individual turns 65.
“In other words, when a person turns 65, the value of his or her property is frozen for the rest of his or her life for tax purposes,” Bomgar said. “This especially will help our retirees, many who are on fixed income.”
Bomgar said this is an issue that is particularly important to the residents of Madison and Ridgeland.
“I’ve had a number of constituents reach out about this problem and I was so happy that we could help them,” he said.
Transparency has always been Bomgar’s goal, as it is one of the major commitments he made while running for office.
“I’ve been proud to help bring transparency to the legislative process,” Bomgar said. “I post all of my votes online with weekly updates during the session with an explanation for each one. I send emails to keep my district updated on how things are going in the legislature and every year I have made it a point to go out into the district and give a survey to my constituents asking if I can do anything for them.”
He will be sending out an email update this week, just in time for the holidays and as the 2019 session is approaching.
Along with transparency, Bomgar said he works to remain accessible to his constituents.
“My cell phone and email are on every piece of mail and email I send as well as on my website, joelbomgar.com,” he said. “The absolute best way to reach me is either through the website or my email.”
For comments, concerns or questions, Bomgar said his constituents can reach him via email at Joel@JoelBomgar.com or by phone at 601-207-0813.
With the 2019 session approaching, House District 73 Rep. Cory Wilson’s focus is on education, human trafficking, mental health funding and criminal justice reforms.
He considers education a top priority, specifically consideration of a teacher pay raise and reducing burdensome standardized tests.
Wilson’s other priorities for 2019 include strengthening laws related to human trafficking, targeted funding for mental health, particularly mental health courts and building on criminal justice reforms.
“I will also keep working to limit government, make it more efficient and reduce regulatory burdens on our economy and our citizens,” Wilson said.
He said they were able to hold the line on a fiscally conservative budget last year that he said keeps the state living within its means.
“The budget picture for 2019 is positive so far, as the state’s economy continues to gain steam,” Wilson said. “We will continue to take a conservative approach to spending tax dollars, though we may have additional resources for some priorities, like education, public safety and mental health.”
One of his major priorities, updating and improving the way schools are funded, did not pass during the 2018 session.
“I continue to believe that our current formula is outdated and could be improved. Education – improving funding, accountability, and flexibility and reducing testing – will remain a top priority,” he said.
Last year, Wilson had similar goals, such as education funding, student testing, more effective legislature and more efficient Medicaid. Infrastructure was also high on the list.
“One key priority has been improving our roads and bridges,” he said. “We enacted three significant measures during the August Special Session that will direct hundreds of millions of dollars to state and local infrastructure in the coming years.”
According to Wilson, the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act, when fully phased in, will direct 35 percent of use tax collected annually by the state to cities and counties for local infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, water and sewer, putting over $100 million a year toward local priorities.
“The bill also dedicates revenue from sports betting to roads and bridges for 10 years and approves $300 million in revenue bonds for bridge repairs and projects around the state,” Wilson said.
Wilson added that the law directs significant funding to local roads and bridges, based on local priorities.
“Madison County could see almost $1 million more in annual funding; Ridgeland, $1.1 million; Madison, $850,000; and Flora, $60,000,” he said. “We also enacted a state lottery, which directs up to $80 million annually to roads and bridges, for use in matching additional federal funds.”
Funds brought in by the lottery above $80 million will be directed to education.
“Finally, we passed a bill allocating BP settlement funds as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” Wilson said.
This bill includes the $8 million to fund the Reunion Parkway in Madison County.
“I was very pleased to work with Speaker Philip Gunn and the Senate to ensure this project received funding,” he said.
During the 2018 regular session, Senate Bill 2836 passed. This is the Medicaid “Technical Bill.”
“The law sets many of the technical provisions governing the state’s Medicaid program,” Wilson said. “We reauthorized the law to incentivize cost savings while preserving access to care.”
According to Wilson, the bill deleted the annual limit on physician visits, home health service visits and the monthly prescription limit.
“It also included reimbursement eligibility for treatment for opioid dependency, and for OB/GYNs and psychiatrists,” Wilson said.