By District 20 Rep. Chris Brown
We had a full week of committee work in anticipation of the approaching Feb. 5 deadline for reporting general bills originating in the House out of committee.
This week we addressed several bills focused on Second Amendment rights. House Bill 485 passed 101-18 and exempts the names and addresses of people who have concealed carry permits from being a matter of public record. The enactment of this measure will protect the rights and identities of those law-abiding citizens who have concealed carry permits.
We also voted 111-8 in support of House Bill 2 (HB2) that would clarify language affecting citizens licensed to carry concealed weapons in Mississippi. Enactment of this measure would protect people who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon even if the weapon is holstered and thus not totally hidden.
The House Education Committee passed several bills out of committee this week, as well. Gov. Bryant’s Mississippi Education Works Program comprises two of these bills. House Bill 890 (HB890) focuses on student literacy in reading and math, and on teacher performance. Many different elements compose this bill: requiring third-graders to meet specific standards in reading before advancing to the fourth grade; instilling intensive reading instruction for children who fall behind in grades K-3; allowing seventh graders to advance to the eighth grade if they meet certain goals in reading and math; requiring high schools with graduation rates below 80 percent to submit plans on how they propose to increase graduation rates; raising the requirements for students to get into schools of education by requiring them to have a 3.0 grade average and a 21 on the ACT; offering a certain number of scholarships to students who have a 3.5 GPA and a 28 ACT score to become teachers in Mississippi for at least five years.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering spoke to the House Appropriations Committee on the funding formula for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) on Tuesday morning. Auditor Pickering outlined why his office was unable to certify the formula in 2012. He addressed two key components of the formula: average daily attendance and at-risk students. Both of these components use numbers that are either not standard across the board, or not auditable. Additionally, Auditor Pickering expressed concerns with the transportation component of the formula, which also has no oversight or auditing. His office has found that most school districts are in non-compliance with the laws regarding textbooks for students. Auditor Pickering then offered various proposals for the issues he raised.
House Bill 560 (HB560) or the “Medicaid Technical” bill passed out of the House Medicaid Committee this week, but failed on the House floor by a vote of 62-52. It required a 3/5 vote to pass. Its passage would have continued many vital services for approximately 641,194 Mississippians. It also lifted the freeze on nursing home reimbursement rates, ensured payments to hospitals and doctors, and kept the healthcare of many Mississippians intact. As a result of its failing, the Medicaid department will lose many needed procedures in order to continue the program that provides healthcare to many Mississippians.
In the Transportation Committee meeting this week, we passed HB 499 that eliminated the Inspection Sticker that is currently required on personal vehicles. It was reported to the committee that is cost more to the Department of Public Safety more money than it brought in. It still has to pass the senate and have the governor sign it.
If passed it will start July 1. The Department of Public Safety actually reported to our committee that it cost $700,000 more to administer the state inspection stickers than the it actually collects so it will actually save money, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you and if you have any questions please contact me.
Chris Brown is the District 20 representative in the Mississippi House of Representatives. He can be reached in Jackson at (601) 359-2434.