By Emanuel D. Williams
JA Government/Politics Writer
This past week marked the sixth week of the legislative session with four deadlines, five counting the deadline for general bills to be considered in their own legislative chamber. Although only six weeks into the legislative session, heated debates are already ripe with various bills centered around the Capital City of Jackson. The most contentious bill of the week was HB 1020 which concerns the Capitol Complex Improvement District that creates a new court system with prosecutors, a chief of police, and judges to match. Proponents of the bill say the purpose of the bill is to get a handle on the crime in Jackson. Opponents of the bill suggest that the bill does not help the city but rather hurts the city.
“HB 1168 is another attempt by the Republicans to control the city of Jackson’s purse strings and weaken the voice and voting strength of our citizens,” asserted Rep. Zakiya Summers. “The intent of these funds for streets, roads, bridges, and water/sewer were voted by referendum by Jackson voters. The state placed oversight via a state-appointed commission that is responsible for selecting and prioritizing projects, appropriating funds, and submitting reporting. This bill is indeed another piece to a punitive puzzle to paralyze our city.”
During the debate of SB 2889, the Capitol Utility District Bill passed. This bill creates a utility district to manage the water system in Jackson. Proponents of the bill suggest it is the help that the city has been looking for.
House Bill 370 would have authorized a removal of municipal elected officials using the same process of county elected officials. The bill failed by a vote of 54-60. With all the recent controversy surrounding the water and political battles, opponents of this bill saw the mayor of Jackson as the target of this bill. Others opposed suggested the voting box was the ultimate choice for unhappy citizens.
House Bill 1276 would allow for a runoff election for state officials if no candidate receives a majority of the votes. The runoff would be held three weeks after the general election. HB 1276 passed with a vote of 75-39.
House Bill 698 would require billing for municipal water, wastewater, and sewer services to be based on water usage. The bill comes after the new third party manager in Jackson proposed that the city of Jackson change to a billing system based on property values instead of water usage. The bill passed by a vote of 83-26 and will now be considered by the Senate.
House Bill 402 would increase the penalties for fleeing law enforcement. House Bill 723, authored by Rep. Chris Bell, would establish the Mississippi Transit Corporation and establish a study committee to make recommendations for bus, rail, and light rail services in Mississippi. The bill passed with bipartisan support with a vote of 109-7.
House Bill 264 would extend the repealer requiring certain buildings to meet energy efficiency standards. The bill was introduced by Rep. Andy Boyd. This was his first time presenting a bill from the well. HB 264 passed by a vote of 117-2. Several bills that passed with little debate included the House Bill 368 which Department of Public Safety would have authorizing power to issue state identification cards to homeless individuals.
House Bill 995 updates language in the Mississippi Code regarding rape, and spousal exception of rape would be removed. House Bill 170 would establish a domestic abuse court. House Bill 49 gives Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks permission to issue a hunting license to a person whose parents were born in Mississippi and on active duty military service at the time of the applicant’s birth.
The next few weeks will consist of floor debate of House appropriations and revenue bills. The deadline for these bills to be sent to the Senate is Wednesday, Feb. 22. The House will then begin work on general legislation originating in the Senate.