The Mississippi Legislature has suspended the 2020 Legislative Session until April 17, 2020, at the recommendation of State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs as of March 31. The decision was made to suspend the session on March 18, after medical professionals suggested avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the session’s suspension, a resolution was passed by the legislature extending the session for 30 days into June 2020.
On March 14, Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency for the state of Mississippi. The declaration contained several provisions, including:
- Directing all state entities to determine core functions and essential personal, and try to allow as many people to work from home as possible
- Recommending schools allow children to work from home toward essential grade-level instruction for the 2019-2020 school year
- Recommending school districts continuing providing staff and transportation to supply meals for school aged children
- Ordering all state employees continue being paid while at home for specified reasons
On March 17, the Mississippi House passed a bill allowing municipalities, counties and school districts to pay their employees that are home during the state of emergency, similar to the Reeves’ declaration related to state employees. The Mississippi Senate passed the same bill on March 18, before suspending the session.
“I want to speak clearly as to the future,” Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said. “We will continue to plant and harvest the food which feeds us and the world. We will build the cars which transport us. We will build ships which defend us. Our schools will continue to educate our children. We will again join our friends, families, and our neighbors at our sporting events, restaurants, and churches. In short, our lives will return to normal. These challenges are temporary, but our resolve is permanent.”
Despite suspending the session in the middle of the month, the legislature passed several key pieces of legislation. The deadline for bills to pass out of committee was March 3 and the deadline for bills to pass the floor of their original body was March 12.
Originally, the House had 1,590 bills and the Senate had 907 bills. The House now has 465 live bills and the Senate has 327 live bills. Among those live bills are the following:
SB 2118 – This bill, also known as the Pecan Harvesting Law, would strengthen penalties for stealing pecans.
SB 2272 – The full Senate passed SB 2272, which serves as a repealer extending a portion of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation program.
SB 2328 – The full Senate passed SB 2328, which would increase the amount of funding issued by the Mississippi Development Authority’s Emerging Crop Loans.
SB 2513 – This Farm Bureau supported bill would conform Mississippi’s Livestock Liability Law to the remainder of the state’s tort law and other southern state’s livestock liability laws. Currently, livestock owners have the burden of proof in a negligence lawsuit as a defendant. This legislation places the burden on the plaintiff suing.
SB 2553 – This Farm Bureau supported bill, also known as the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, passed the full senate with a reverse repealer. It would provide protections for owners of family land and allow more Mississippians to participate in farm bill programs.
SB 2725 – This Farm Bureau supported bill would legalize the cultivation of Industrial Hemp.
SB 2727 – This Farm Bureau supported bill would prohibit the transport of live wild hogs in Mississippi. MFBF is hopeful this is a step in the right direction toward eradicating wild hogs in the state. Under the bill, if someone is caught transporting a live wild hog, they would receive a Class I violation.
HB 721 – This bill would authorize an additional round of funds for the rural firetruck program.
HB 1081 – This bill would revise the formula that determines which bridges in the state qualify for Local System Bridge Program (LSBP) Funds. LSBP funds are state funds that go to local entities to repair bridges not supported by the Mississippi Department of Transportation or the state aid system. This bill would make more bridges eligible for funds. This bill unanimously passed the House floor.
HB 576 – This Farm Bureau supported bill would conform Mississippi’s Livestock Liability Law to the remainder of the state’s tort law and other southern state’s livestock liability laws. Currently, livestock owners have the burden of proof in a negligence lawsuit as a defendant. This legislation places the burden on the plaintiff suing. This bill passed the House with only seven “no” votes. Judiciary A Chairwoman Angela Cockerham brought the bill to the House floor for a vote.
HB 1027 – The full House of Representatives passed HB 1027, which would increase the amount of funding issued by the Mississippi Development Authority’s Emerging Crop Loans.
HB 1091 – Rep. Trey Lamar authored this Farm Bureau supported bill, also known as the Mississippi Educational Talent Recruitment Act, in an attempt to help with Mississippi’s “Brain Drain” problem.
HB 1208 – The House Drug Policy Committee passed HB 1208, also known as the Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Act, on Tuesday. The full House of Representatives passed this bill.