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2018 Legislative Update (Feb. 24)

Jan 31, 2018 by AFP

Below is our updated bill review following the revenue bill deadline.  We presently support bills marked in green, presently oppose bills marked in red and presently are monitoring bills marked in orange.  (“Support,” “Oppose,” or “Monitoring” also contained in parenthesis for each bill).  The status of the bills as ALIVE or DEAD has also been marked.

To help in your review, bills have been divided into categories starting with immediate Priorities, then Spending, Regulation, Taxes, Education and Criminal Justice Reform. The positions expressed are based on current form and are subject to change depending on changes to the bills.

Legislative Priorities

  1. Education Scholarship Accounts – SB 2623 – DEAD: Senate Bill 2623 would have expanded eligibility for Education Scholarship Accounts to provide additional education opportunities to most Mississippi children.  We believe that families should have more freedom over how and where their children are educated. SB 2623 was one of Americans for Prosperity’s top priority for the 2018 session. It passed out of Senate Education Committee, but unfortunately died in Senate without being brought to vote.  (Supported)
  2. Not 1 More Cent – For three years, Americans for Prosperity has worked to prevent tax increases that will take money out of taxpayers’ pocket and expand government.  Much of this fight has centered around discussions of Mississippi’s transportation system.  No gas tax increase bills survived the revenue bill deadline.  However, there are bills alive that could be used to raise taxes in other areas, such as the cigarette tax code in SB 3048 and a new tax on alcohol contained in HB 1566.  We will continue to monitor this area and will negatively score any vote that raises taxes on Mississippians. (Monitoring) 
  3. Student-Centered Funding Formula – HB 957 – ALIVE: reforms education funding formula to make our current complicated “hybrid” model into a true student-centered model that treats students who are similarly situated the same in terms of funding no matter where they live. AFP supports move to student-centered formula.  We do hope that the Legislature will continue to vet the fiscal impact of the proposed changes, however.  (Support)
  4. Labor Protection – HB 1241 – ALIVE: preempts any local regulation of private employment relationships that would establish wage mandates on businesses, thereby protecting the private right of employers and employees to contract and ensuring that jobs remain in our communities.  Bill was amended in House to create a new state cause of action that could negatively impact business in Mississippi.  Without the new state cause of action, AFP is supportive of the  legislation.  (Monitoring)
  5. Free Market Alcohol Policy Every year, the Legislature takes up a number of “alcohol freedom” bills that expand consumer, production, and retail options. This year is no different with bills to allow direct shipment of wine to retailers and restaurants (SB 2278, HB 1344), bills to create new qualified resort areas (SB 2618, HB 415, HB 1077), bills to create new leisure and recreation districts (SB 2588, HB 534), and bills effecting the transport of alcohol through “dry” areas (HB 192) and even on a ferry boat (HB 840).  While AFP is supportive of these bills that expand consumer choice and allow businesses to operate in a freer environment, the fact that the Legislature has to routinely handle dozens of alcohol bills to carve out special exceptions is a sign of a woefully antiquated system.  In 1933 Prohibition ended in the United States.  No one told Mississippi.  In fact, our prohibition law remains on the books, as do laws that give the state government a monopoly over alcohol distribution. This creates a disparate and sometimes comical environment.  Take for instance the distillery retail bill (SB 2601, HB 995), which will allow Mississippi distillers to sell their own product onsite, but only after they package their product, ship it to the state warehouse, and then buy it back from the state.  Committing to comprehensive reform could free the Legislature to focus on more pressing concerns.  As an update, the Senate version was amended to fix this absurdity.  (Support)
  6. Liquor Warehouse – HB 1556 – ALIVE: HB 1556 would borrow $35 million and create a new tax to finance the debt, in order to build a larger state-owned liquor warehouse.  The state of Mississippi should not be in the liquor business, much less operate a monopoly on liquor distribution.  
  7. Debt – At present, there are 22 bond bills alive.  There is a fair amount of duplication between the bills.  While there are occasions that might justify the use of debt (e.g. a core state government function that will outlive the repayment of the debt), these instances should be rare, particularly where revenue collection, spending, and debt have all grown.  Bonds should not be used to benefit private enterprises or for pet projects. (Monitoring)
  8. Occupational Licensing Reform Last year, Mississippi led the nation by passing legislation that creates regulatory oversight of occupational licensing boards. The move was heralded in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, National Review and other prominent publications. That legislation specifically expressed a preference for free market competition and laid out a standard of review for occupational licensing which included identifying a significant and substantiated threat to public safety prior to regulating a profession, as well as a requirement that the least restrictive regulation be used to address that public threat.  Despite this positive movement toward a free market environment, many occupational licensing boards continue to push the envelope for additional regulations and laws that protect established interests and limit competition. There are a number of occupational licensing bills in this category addressed individually in the Regulation section below. (Monitoring)
  9. Handouts to Hollywood – HB 1132 ALIVE– House Bill 1132 attempts to bring back a corporate welfare program for movie producers that the Legislature refused to authorize last year. It was not the job of government to help make movies last year, and it is not the job of government to help make movies this year.  What’s more, these programs are proven financial losers across the country. (Oppose)

Spending

  1. SB 2775 ALIVE/HB 1058 DEAD would establish an office of shared services to reduce overhead of smaller agencies and boards.(Support)
  2. SB 2776 ALIVE – creates additional transparency around state agency budgets, which in turn should increase accountability for how tax dollars are being spent.(Support)
  3. SB 2777 ALIVE continues a moratorium on purchase of state agency vehicles with limited exceptions.(Support)
  4. SB 2690 ALIVE authorizing Department of Finance & Administration as central leasing agent for all state agencies to ensure uniform stewardship of resources.(Support)
  5. SB 2180 ALIVE – creates additional transparency around counties, municipalities and school districts by requiring their budgets to be published online. This should, in turn, increase accountability for how tax dollars are being spent.(Support)
  6. SB 2482 ALIVE  prohibits incumbent candidates from appearing in taxpayer funded ads during statewide general election years. To the extent these ads serve a necessary public function they can still be run without doubling as a tool to bolster incumbent name identification.  This is a good government measure that should reduce spending on unnecessary advertisements and result in fairer elections.(Support)
  7. SB 2535 DEAD creates additional protections against dividing government contracts to avoid procurement requirements, thereby helping to ensure that agencies are good stewards of taxpayer dollars.(Support)
  8. SB 2674 ALIVE/HB 1325 ALIVE consistent with procurement reform passed last year, clarifies methodology of payment for reverse auctions to ensure that agencies contract with the lowest qualified bidder as a protection of taxpayer dollars.(Support)
  9. HB 359 DEAD prohibits MDOT from engaging in new construction with broad exception. While a moratorium on new construction would help focus spending on maintenance, the breadth of the exceptions contained might limit the effectiveness of this legislation.(Support)
  10. HB 355 ALIVE removes certain agencies, including MDOT and Child Protective Services, from under the State Personnel Board.  This should provide these agencies with flexibility to ensure workforce matches the scope and need of the agency.  Ideally, this removal would come with performance metrics that reflect intent of increasing agency efficiency.(Support)
  11. HB 392 ALIVE would allow municipalities with populations smaller than 10,000, under certain circumstances and with built-in protections, to elect five aldermen instead of seven. This would provide a path to reduce the size of municipal government and lead to more efficient operation in smaller communities.(Support)
  12. HB 767 ALIVE authorizes the Department of Mental Health to sell state-owned property located in Hancock County, allowing for better allocation of resources.(Support)
  13. HB 1131 ALIVE allows local governments to publish legal notices on a free, publicly accessible website to increase transparency and reduce present cost associated with publication.(Support)
  14. HB 956 DEAD creates additional transparency around public meetings by requiring minutes to be posted on publicly available website within a certain time period. This should increase accountability for how tax dollars are being spent.(Support)
  15. HB 1184 DEAD requires PEER to periodically examine all state agencies and make recommendations on their operations. This should increase accountability and help to ensure that tax dollars are being spent efficiently and on appropriate core government functions.(Support)
  16. SB 2912 ALIVE/HB 1242 ALIVE would reauthorize provision which allows for Medicaid assessments on health care facilities. AFP is presently monitoring Medicaid legislation and anticipates additional position statements on this issue.  There is cause for severe concern as Mississippi’s Medicaid budget has skyrocketed in recent years. (Monitoring)
  17. SB 2836 ALIVE/HB 898 ALIVE would reauthorize a number of Medicaid programs. AFP is presently monitoring Medicaid legislation and anticipates additional position statements on this issue.  There is cause for severe concern as Mississippi’s Medicaid budget has skyrocketed in recent years. (Monitoring)
  18. HB 358 DEAD would direct a certain sum, up to $250 million, of use tax “voluntarily” collected from out-of-state sellers with no physical presence in Mississippi to the maintenance and “reconstruction” of roads. Maintenance of roads and bridges is a core function of government.  While this is not technically premised on a tax increase, it does anticipate an increase in tax revenue paid by Mississippians and collected by a source not presently required to collect taxes.  It seems speculative at best.  There is also a legitimate question of whether instead of dedicating a speculative stream of revenue, there are either better sources actually tied to use of roads and bridges (e.g. automobile sales tax already collected) and if it would be better to simply adjust appropriations from year to year according to actual need, versus creating a dedicated stream that is inflexible. (Monitoring)
  19. HB 722 ALIVE – would direct portions of the use tax collected to assist with maintenance of local roads and bridges. Unlike HB 358, this bill does not seek to distinguish between use taxes collected in-state from tax payers, use taxes collected involuntarily from out-of-state sellers with no physical presence, or use taxes collected voluntarily from out-of-state sellers with no physical presence.  This failure to distinguish is significant for two reasons.  The Department of Revenue has recently enacted a rule that mandates out-of-state sellers with no physical presence collect and remit taxes.  The U.S. Supreme Court has said this is unconstitutional.  The U.S. Supreme Court has also recently agreed to hear another case on this issue.  If DOR is collecting use taxes under its new rule, those funds were unconstitutionally collected and represent a dangerous funding source.  Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, that source could be further impacted.  Setting aside the constitutionality question, there is also a legitimate question of whether instead of dedicating a speculative stream of revenue, there are either better sources actually tied to use of roads and bridges (e.g. automobile sales tax already collected) and if it would be better to simply adjust appropriations from year to year according to actual need, versus creating a dedicated stream that is inflexible. (Monitoring)
  20. SB 3046 – ALIVE – SB 3046 attempts to increase infrastructure spending by use of debt, general fund reallocation and use of 2% set aside.  SB 3046 also incorporates an increased sales tax diversion to cities.  Both the use of the set aside and the sales tax diversion are predicated on certain economic triggers.  Many of the programs that these “new” funds would go to also require local matches.  SB 3046 presents a platform to try and address infrastructure concerns comprehensively, without raising taxes.  For that reason, AFP supported advancing the bill.  However, it is not perfect.  We are specifically concerned with the bonding portion of the proposal and with ensuring the state maintains adequate reserves.  We will watch the bill as it progresses.  (Monitoring)

Regulation

  1. SB 2483 ALIVE/HB 1355 ALIVE – defines “investment quality” to preserve current requirements regarding bonds used to secure public deposits. Should prevent increased bonding cost to local governments. (Support)
  2. SB 2457 ALIVE/HB 666 ALIVE – reduces regulatory burden by changing reporting requirements surrounding soil and plant amendments to annual reporting from a current quarterly reporting requirement. (Support)
  3. SB 2311 ALIVE – reduces regulatory burden by changing notification requirements on insurers when policies are non-renewed and there is additional communication from insurer of placement of new policy. (Support)
  4. SB 2540 DEAD/HB 811 ALIVE – extends repealer on legislation that permitted certain finance companies to offer a new product to customers. (Support)
  5. SB 2592 ALIVE/HB 1338 ALIVE – reduces regulatory burden on banks to bring merger procedure in line with the Mississippi Business Corporation Act. (Support)
  6. SB 2563 ALIVE – ensures that there is parity for local banks by allowing them to conduct business at the same rates as foreign banks operating within Mississippi. (Support)
  7. SB 2564 DEAD – creates additional private property protections by requiring an affidavit from the victim of an alleged theft prior to police confiscation of items possessed by a pawn store. (Support)
  8. SB 2091 ALIVE – authorizes licensed EMTs to transport police dogs injured in the line of duty. While this marginally increases freedom under the occupational licensing regime for EMTs, it is a telling indicator of how pervasive these licensing regimes are that the Legislature has to give statutory permission for a private business to carry a dog if it wants. (Support)
  9. SB 2526 ALIVE/HB 1175 ALIVE  requires occupational licensing boards controlled by active market participants to conduct a review of their rules every three years and to report findings to Occupational Licensing Review Commission. (Support)
  10. HB 1418 ALIVE – would require review of agencies by PEER every 3 to 5 years to assure that agencies are performing core functions and would repeal all agency rules once every 5 years and require re-adoption of rules. (Support)
  11. SB 2610 DEAD/HB 1122 ALIVE – provides that local land use ordinances on farming operations do not supersede regulations from MDEQ, the Department of Agriculture or the Mississippi Forestry Commission.  This serves to provide more certainty for farming operations. (Support)
  12. SB 2492 DEAD  allows insurers to have more freedom over how they voluntarily contract with consumers, including application of depreciation in claims for property damage. (Support)
  13. SB 2929 ALIVE – allows for sale of guaranteed asset protection waivers and exempts them from insurance regulations. (Support)
  14. SB 2557 DEAD – would change age of majority in Mississippi from 21 to 18, which would expand legal rights for those over 18 and reduce a number of legal hurdles presently applicable to young adults between 18 and 20. (Support)
  15. SB 2508 ALIVE/HB 1169 ALIVE – expands the legal definition of personal property to include tangible and intangible property including cash, deposit accounts and promissory notes. Will have a legal impact in a number of industries, but more so, is an appropriate recognition by the state of the importance of personal property and that personal property includes money earned. (Support)
  16. SB 2473 ALIVE – protects private property rights of landlords by giving more efficient path to evict tenants who are not complying with terms of rental agreement. (Support)
  17. HB 827 ALIVE – would allow for registration of a manufactured home as real or personal property. This will increase the number of financing options available to consumers and should lower cost associated with owning a manufactured home. (Support)
  18. HB 1115 ALIVE– reduces regulatory burden on hospice providers by exempting them from in-person consultation requirement for the prescription of controlled substances. This will ensure that patients in their last days have timely supply of medicine that maintains their comfort and will reduce costs associated with care. (Support)
  19. HB 955 ALIVE/HB 1096 ALIVE – would abolish inactive boards and commissions. (Support)
  20. HB 1500 ALIVE – would preempt local regulation and taxing of certain containers, such as plastic bags and cups. (Support)
  21. SB 2465 ALIVE/HB 323 ALIVE – would impose a new insurance mandate further disrupting the right of private citizens from voluntarily contracting. (Oppose)
  22. SB 2468 ALIVE/HB 1479 ALIVE – removes repealer from bail bondsmen licensing statute. Occupational licensing represents a natural barrier to entry for workers, depriving many of the fundamental freedom to work.  To the extent the state endorses licensing, it should be consistent with HB 1425 passed last year. That legislation specifically expressed a preference for free market competition and laid out a standard of review for occupational licensing which included identifying a significant and substantiated threat to public safety prior to regulating a profession and a requirement that the least restrictive regulation be used to address that public threat.  The Legislature should periodically reconsider existing licenses to ensure compliance with our State’s expressed public policy. (Oppose)
  23. SB 2922 DEAD/HB 1390 ALIVE – places additional burdens with potential criminal liability on deer and turkey hunters to report their activity back to the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. This additional requirement will also implicate the bandwidth of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. (Oppose)
  24. SB 2921 DEAD/HB 1389 ALIVE – presents a restraint to private property rights that requires anyone who erects a game fence to first receive permission from Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Does not address circumstances in which a fence has already been erected.  Continues a system that requires admission of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks on private property absent probable cause or warrant and further subjects private property owners to criminal liability. (Oppose)
  25. SB 2678 DEAD – creates a license for freshwater fishing guides and prescribes additional fees and potential criminal liability for those without a license. (Oppose)
  26. SB 2041 ALIVE/HB 1476 ALIVE – occupational licensing represents a natural barrier to entry for workers, depriving many of the fundamental freedom to work. To the extent the state endorses licensing, it should be consistent with HB 1425 passed last year. That legislation specifically expressed a preference for free market competition and laid out a standard of review for occupational licensing which included identifying a significant and substantiated threat to public safety prior to regulating a profession and a requirement that the least restrictive regulation be used to address that public threat.  SB 2041/HB 1476 would significantly increase the experience requirement for a realtor to become a broker, in addition to other new requirements.  Before such an action is undertaken to make it more difficult for realtors to become brokers, clear evidence of a significant and substantiated public threat should be presented and clear evidence that this is the least restrictive regulation to address any such perceived threat should also be presented. (Oppose)
  27. SB 2572 ALIVE – expands the license for residential builders and remodelers. As with other licenses the Legislature is considering expanding, there should be a showing consistent with the requirements of HB 1425. (Oppose)
  28. SB 2685 DEAD – interferes with private contract rights of medical practices and physicians by prohibiting non-compete clauses.  Mississippi law already recognizes limitations of non-competes where they yield an unconscionable result. (Oppose)
  29. HB 837 DEAD – prohibits Mississippi from investing with any companies that boycott Israel. While it is unclear if any such investments presently exist, this could present considerable disruption to the operation of PERS, and if the state is required to extricate itself from investments, could have a negative financial impact on retirees. (Oppose)
  30. HB 905 ALIVE – extends the repealer for massage therapists. Prior to doing so, the license should be judged against the standard set in HB 1425. (Oppose)
  31. HB 988 ALIVE – deletes the repealer on the occupational license for marriage and family therapist and social workers. Even if the Legislature determines this license meets the standard set in HB 1425, the repealer should not be deleted so that the Legislature can periodically review the license. (Oppose)
  32. HB 1198 ALIVE – creates a mandate for health insurance contracts to provide for infertility coverage. While the desire to have this coverage is certainly understandable, a government mandate requiring it further interferes with the private right to contract and will increase the cost of insurance for all consumers. (Oppose)

Tax 

  1. HB 1004 DEAD– opens up possibility of state using toll roads for the future construction, which is a true user pay method for building infrastructure. (Support)
  2. SB 2536 DEAD – would increase number of Department of Revenue employees that may be designated as law enforcement officers, which is an expansion of both government generally and the police power designed to increase the level of intrusion into private taxpayers’ lives. (Oppose)
  3. SB 2746 ALIVE – gives the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue the power to deny a sales tax permit to an entity if any partner, member, principal officer or director of such entity has failed to satisfy all of the finally determined tax liabilities owed by that partner, member, principal officer or director. This would effectively have the impact of punishing an entity and/or individuals who have no tax liability merely because of their associations. (Oppose)
  4. SB 2608 DEAD – allows certain hospitals to collect debts by setoff against a debtor’s income tax refund. There is a process spelled out in existing law for the collection of debt through judiciary.  The concern in this instance is whether it creates an avenue for some creditors to gain an unfair advantage in the collection of debts over others. (Oppose)
  5. SB 2055 DEAD/HB 1029 ALIVE – allows counties and municipalities to collect debts by setoff against a debtor’s income tax refund. There is a process spelled out in existing law for the collection of debt through judiciary.  The concern in this instance is whether it creates an avenue for some creditors to gain an unfair advantage in the collection of debts over others. (Oppose)
  6. SB 2194 ALIVE/HB 963 ALIVE – allows community and junior colleges to collect debts by setoff against a debtor’s income tax refund. There is a process spelled out in existing law for the collection of debt through judiciary.  The concern in this instance is whether it creates an avenue for some creditors to gain an unfair advantage in the collection of debts over others. (Oppose)
  7. HB 1166 ALIVE – creates a sales tax diversion to support a particular tax increment financing (private) development project in Jackson County. (Oppose)

Education

  1. SB 2763 ALIVE/HB 1037 ALIVE expands the range of potential providers for the MS Virtual School Program giving both schools and students more choice. (Support)

Criminal Justice Reform

  1. SB 2848 DEAD/HB 387 ALIVE implements recommendations of Re-Entry Council to reduce punishment, in particular maximum incarceration, for non-payment of a fine, restitution or court costs. (Support)
  2. SB 2841 ALIVE – addresses a number of impediments to offenders’ re-entry and maintenance of employability, including limiting the circumstances under which a license can be suspended to those instances involving traffic violations and expanding the availability of drug court intervention. (Support)
  3. SB 2507 DEAD– provides that in instances where an officer’s actions result in the death of a civilian, the incident will be investigated by MBI, and the Attorney General’s office will appoint a special prosecutor to determine if charges should be filed. These procedures would ensure the integrity of the investigation by parties or government entities not directly involved. (Support)