N’side lawmakers have mixed results in 2018 sessionBy ANTHONY WARREN,
Northside lawmakers will likely be going back to the drawing board next year, after failing to push through some of their top priorities.
The lawmakers failed to get bills passed this year that would allow for community improvement districts (CIDs), amend voting laws, give tax breaks to homeowners and change the state flag.
District 29 Sen. David Blount and District 64 Rep. Bill Denny both authored bills to allow for no-cause early voting and online voter registration. And measures by both lawmakers failed to make it out of committee.
“I will continue to push for those items and will introduce them again next year,” Blount said.
The measures would have allowed voters to register online and to cast ballots up to two weeks before a scheduled election, no questions asked.
Now, state statute allows voters to cast absentee ballots prior to an election, as long as they meet certain requirements, such as expecting to be out of town on Election Day.
Denny also is disappointed, but said several of his bills addressing voting made it to the governor’s desk. One revises terms for election commissioners and increases their per diem for expenses related to performing their duties.
However a bill Blount co-authored allowing the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) to begin projects sooner in the “capital complex improvement district,” or CCID was successful.
The CCID takes in a large section of central Jackson. In 2017, lawmakers approved a bill creating the district, and setting aside funding to make infrastructure improvements within it.
Under the terms of the bill, DFA would be able to issue up to $7 million in bonds to pay for projects, and could pay for the
work with future funds coming into the district.
The move could jump-start improvements in the CCID, especially in the first year. This year, the CCID will receive $3 million in allocations, an amount that will increase to $7 million next year and $11 million a year after that.
District 70 Rep. Kathy Sykes had hoped to pass legislation to create a “liveable home tax credit,” and a measure to change the state flag to the design known as the “Stennis Flag.”
HB 19 would have provided up to $5,000 in tax credits for individuals who purchase new homes with “universal access” or retrofit existing homes to make them more handicapped-accessible. Another Sykes bill, HB 316, would have replaced the current state flag with the flag designed by Lauren Stennis.
Both measures failed. “Absolutely I’m going try again next year,” she said, adding that the Stennis flag is a design all Mississippians can unite behind.
District 58 Rep. Joel Bomgar told the Sun he wanted to make it easier for some former criminals to get jobs.
While several of his proposals didn’t pass, he was pleased with the passage of HB 387.
“One big fix ensures that people on parole or probation aren’t sent back to prison for minor infractions like showing up late to a meeting.
He said it will increase the chances the individuals will gain and maintain employment, because it gives them the “flexibility to meet with parole officers using FaceTime instead of taking time out of their workday to (meet).”
District 73 Rep. Cory Wilson’s priorities last session included re-writing the state education formula, reducing the size of the Legislature and reducing the occurrence of regular sessions to once every two years.
HB 348 would have reduced the Senate from 52 to 42 members and the House from 122 to 99 members beginning with the 2023 statewide election.
Another bill, HB 347, would have reduced regular sessions to every other year. Both measures died in a House committee.
Wilson said that even though HB 347 died, discussions on it continue. He and other supporters are looking into other ideas, such as amending the Legislature’s operating rules to take up general bills every other year.
Finally, in the Senate, SB 3045 which would have allowed neighborhoods to form CIDs also failed.
The bill had been introduced four times previously, and was killed at the direction of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. That measure was authored by District 25. Walter Michel.