OPINION: Mississippi’s 2024 legislative session was disappointing, but not surprising

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For all intents and purposes, the Mississippi 2024 legislative session is over. The lawmakers are on a break since they completed their work on the bills before them. At the same time, however, they passed a resolution enabling them to return in session in case the governor vetoes a piece of legislation the majority favors. If that occurs, they can re-convene by May 14th. For the time being, however, the lawmakers are out, with time on their hands.

While the legislature was in session, the lawmakers considered hundreds of bills, although most not carefully, since the majority died in committee. Of the few receiving the greatest attention, the majority had disappointing outcomes for most Democrats and working people. To those, we turn our attention.


Of the Medicaid Expansion bills that did make it out of committee, the last one died last week. Both the Senate and the House had passed Medicaid Expansion bills, but different versions of the matter. 

The Senate version would have covered people earning up to 99% of the national poverty level and had a monthly work requirement. The House version had no work requirement and would have covered people earning up to 138% of the poverty level. There was no meeting of the minds in the conference committee nor on the floor. 

Meanwhile, Governor Tate Reeves continued to threaten a veto of any Medicaid Expansion Bill. Efforts were made to have the matter submitted to a referendum or to set-up the state’s own network. But both failed, leaving the bill to die for this session.


The Senate preferred to revise the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). The House supported a bill that it called the INSPIRE Education Bill. For quite a bit of time, there was no meeting of the two. In the last week of the session, however, a compromise was reached. 

The new bill ditched MAEP and replaced it with the Mississippi Student Funding Formula. That formula provides a $6,695 per pupil allocation for each district, with added money for students with special education needs, English as a second language students, students whose families are poverty-stricken, and districts that are low-income areas. In the bill there is also more money for classroom teaching than was the case under MAEP.

Rather than think that the problem of funding for education is permanently solved, however, at least two realities must be considered. One is that, just as was the case with MAEP, there is no guarantee that the new formula will be fully-funded after the initial year. After all, the leaders are the same people who have long refused to adequately fund public education. There is also the reality that there are still ways and means whereby tax-payers can divert the state taxes which they owe to private schools, thereby lessening the amount of money going into the state treasury.


Among the high-profile issues was the proposal to re-constitute the board of the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS). In the end, the legislature diverted a political take-over of the board by the governor. In return, for retaining a citizens-elected board, they stripped the board of its ability to determine its budget.


Among the other issues considered are the closure of state universities. The college board was able to escape having to study and subsequently close three of the state universities. 

Voting procedures were discussed. Voters who vote by mail can still have their votes counted if they arrive after the day of the election, so long as they are post-marked by the day of the election. 

On the other hand, attacks on the power of Jackson are still intact and the ballot initiative bill died.


Having monitored the 2024 session through the Human Services Coalition, headed by Rims and Judy Barber and Robert Pugh, and knowing that the state Senate and House have 2/3 Republican majorities, we realize greater success can be had with a few major changes. 

(1) It is important that the Legislative Black Caucus takes itself more seriously. By this, we mean that it should realize the increased following that it can easily have through frequent, close-up communication between the sessions and as crucial issues emerge during the sessions. 

(2) Community and civil rights groups should establish and maintain deliberate agendas that align with, if not mirror, those of other groups claiming to have the same goals. They should then work together preparing their followers for the legislative sessions and lobbying during the sessions. 

(3) Individuals must become informed and vocal advocates of matters that are important to the community and groups, not just personal interests. 

(4) Activists must organize their communities so that law-makers will think twice before taking stands on issues to which they are opposed. In other words, they should flex their muscles not just during the sessions nor just during campaign season, but all the time through newsletters, traditional and social media, and in conversation.

There are enough Black people and enough liberal and progressive white people in the state to form a majority on virtually any human issue that arises. Even when they are not a majority, they can have enough influence to change the outcomes in many debates and votes. 

Organizing and verbalizing are the things in short supply. If these are ramped up in the areas that are marginal and in the areas that are heavily African American, we can have the state, even through the state legislature, to speak for the working class and freedom-loving people of the state. 

The writer, for one, is tired of being disappointed and would like to be surprised for a change as the legislative sessions end.

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OPINION: Mississippi’s 2024 legislative session was disappointing, but not surprising

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
May 13, 2024