Public school teachers in Mississippi are close to receiving a $1,000 pay hike with a bill headed to the governor’s desk for signature.
House Bill 852 was authored by state Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, the chair of the House Education Committee. First-year teachers who have the lowest certification level will receive a starting salary of $37,000, up from $35,980. Teachers with higher certifications and more experience will receive a base pay hike of $1,000. Gov. Tate Reeves has said repeatedly that he will sign any teacher pay hike that reaches his desk.
A raise passed by the legislature this year will be the fourth pay hike for teachers since 2000, with the most recent coming in 2019. In 2000, a $337 million plan was enacted over a six-year span. In 2014, a two-year, $100 million plan passed by the legislature increased teacher pay $1,500 in the first year and $1,000 in second. Lawmakers passed a $1,500 pay hike in 2019 that costs taxpayers $76.9 million annually.
The deadline is quickly moving to its sine die (adjourn without reconvening) date of April 4. The next deadline on the general bill calendar is March 29, when conference reports must be filed. According to legislative rules, conference reports can’t be amended and if the report isn’t passed by a majority, the bill can be recommitted for further conference.
As for the finance bill calendar, the next deadline is March 27, when conference reports for appropriations and revenue bills are due.
Here are some of the more interesting bills that are still alive:
Awaiting governor’s signature
House Bill 1263 would allow reciprocity for holders of occupational licenses from other states who move to Mississippi if they meet certain requirements and their license is valid and in good standing without any pending disciplinary action. It was sponsored by state Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven.
HB 633 would require the state Department of Education to create a computer science curriculum in public schools. It was authored by state Rep. Kevin Felsher, R-Biloxi.
Headed to conference
SB 2267 would allow a licensed teacher from another state to obtain a Mississippi license after moving to the state. The bill was authored by state Sen. Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville.
SB 2798 would allow rate-regulated utilities to lease their surplus fiber optic cable capacity to broadband providers for areas that are unserved or underserved. The bill was authored by state Sen. Joel Carter, R-Gulfport.
SB 2822, known as the Mississippi Flexible Tax Incentive Act or MFlex Act, would simplify the economic development incentive process and was authored by state Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch. It would use one easy-to-use calculation on initial investment, jobs, wages and benefits. If the bill becomes law, the minimum investment will be $2.5 million with a minimum of 10 jobs created.
HB 119 was originally intended to extend the expiration date (repealer) on Harper Grace’s Law which allowed the University of Mississippi Medical Center to continue to research and dispense cannabidiol (CBD) oil for medical purposes and sponsored by state Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn. The bill was amended in the Senate to add language similar to a medical marijuana program bill that died in the House earlier this session that would only be triggered if Initiative 65 is overturned by the state Supreme Court.
HB 997 is authored by state Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia. The original bill would’ve ended the practice of the state being the wholesale distributor for wine and spirits and govern the issuance of wholesaler permits. It passed the House 104-3 on February 3 and was amended with a strike-all in the Senate Finance Committee that keeps the state as the wholesale distributor of wine and spirits to resemble their bill, SB 2806.
SB 2806 originally was a placeholder bill that brings forward code sections related to the Alcohol Beverage Control division of the state Department of Revenue. The bill would’ve also allowed the DOR to contract for a vendor to take over management and operation of the state’s alcohol warehouse. Including code sections related to ABC gives lawmakers a vehicle to work on a compromise on the issue.
State Sen. Josh Harkins, R-Flowood authored the bill. The House Ways and Means Committee rewrote the bill with a strike-all to make it identical to HB 997 and the bill passed the House 107-9.
Another alcohol related bill is HB 1135, the lone remaining bill that would create a delivery service permit for alcoholic beverages for retail delivery of alcoholic beverages from a licensed retailer to a consumer . The bill is sponsored by Lamar and will be headed to conference after the bill amended to resemble the Senate’s version, which died on the calendar in the House.
SB 2971 is a bond bill for capital improvements at the state’s universities that was amended to resemble the House’s income tax phaseout bill. The Senate will likely insist on the language being removed from the bill at conference.
The Senate has passed a Concurrent Resolution that would create a State Taxation Study Committee that would include the DOR commissioner or their designee, four members apiece of the House and Senate appointed by House Speaker Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the chairmen of the Senate Finance, House Ways and Means, Senate Appropriations, House Appropriations committees and the state economist. The resolution has been sent to the House for approval.