Miss. legislative session gets underway
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 00:01
The 2013 Mississippi Legislature kicked into high gear last week as they prepared for the three-month long session that adjourns April 7.
As goes every session, the first day brought many handshakes and hugs as senators and representatives exchanged company for the first time in a year. At the sound of the gavel on opening day, it began the 90-day period of lively debates that will address legislative issues in Mississippi.
Leaders in Jackson, including Gov. Phil Bryant, say education will be a top issue this session, especially in the development of charter schools. Charter schools are independent public schools that are free of many regulations that traditional public schools face. They receive public funding but could be run by a non-profit company or board. Many Republican leaders consider charters a top priority this session, but state Democrats worry traditional public schools will receive less funding and little state aid.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said charter schools will add to the state’s education program, but it is ultimately “a decision parents should make.”
In lieu of the national gun control debate, gun control legislation is expected, but serious talks have yet to begin. Lt. Gov. Reeves has proposed legislation that would increase securities. For example, he wants to create a fund that would hire certified law enforcement officers and place them in public schools. Some in the legislature want to make courts report cases of mental illness to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to prevent people with a history of mental illness from purchasing guns.
Only a week into the session, many bills have already been introduced that are sure to spark lively debates. House Bill 163, introduced by Democratic Rep. Tom Miles, would require sex offenders to list their sex offender status on popular media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Legislation surrounding the recent Penn State scandal has even been brought to the table. Rep. John Hines of Washington County introduced House Bill 107, also known as the “Sandusky Rule.” It states that any principal, teacher or other school employee who fails to report the rape, sexual battery or fondling or touching a child shall be held equally criminally liable as the offender who committed the crime against the child.
Other bills that were voted down in past sessions are making comebacks, such as the prohibition of texting while driving, making homemade beer brewing legal and requiring mandatory drug testing for Medicaid recipients. It should be noted that these bills or legislative talks are in circulation and have not passed either house.