By Emanuel D. Williams
JA Government/Politics Writer
On January 3, 2023, the Mississippi Legislature began its work in session.
The first few weeks of each legislative session are largely ceremonial, passing resolutions that honor and commemorate community members, congratulate sports teams, and memorialize stalwarts of the community.
For example, HB 366 (bill that would designate the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Central Office as the Sam G. Polles State Office Building); HB 366 (Coach Tyrone Shorter and the Louisville High School Football Team team were honored with House Resolution 16, which commends them upon winning the 2022 MHSAA Class 4A State Championship).
Although most work is still happening in various Committees, several pieces of legislation reached the House floor this week. One of these bills addresses the current fentanyl crisis. The nation has seen an increase in fentanyl related deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 150 people die everyday from synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
Several other bills are not controversial. Among these are HB516 (a bill that would decrease the minimum number of years of law enforcement experience required to be a conservation officer) and HB 423 (a bill that would authorize the Department of Finance and Administration to purchase the old First Christian Church building in the Capitol Complex Improvement District).
Among the most hotly debated bills is House Bill 1125, or the Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures (REAP) Act. This bill would regulate transgender procedures and surgeries on children under 18. The bill does not apply to individuals born intersex. A lengthy debate took place on the House Floor with some legislators questioning the importance of this issue in comparison to the need for addressing the hospital closure crisis. The bill passed by a vote of 78-28 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
Hospitals reportedly are closing due to the financial strain experienced by large numbers of people receiving services who are unable to pay their bills via self-pay or insurance. Expanding Medicaid coverage is among the issues being considered to address this issue.
Expect to see much more activity during the coming weeks. The final day for new proposed legislation is January 31st.