The past two weeks of the legislative session have been full of committee meetings. The first two weeks of the session are usually full of ceremonies and bill introductions. In light of several members testing positive for the COVID-19 virus, the Senate and the House of Representatives took steps to avoid personal contact as much as they possibly could. Both Speaker Philip Gunn (R – Clinton) and Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann announced committees would have virtual meetings for the two weeks leading up to today’s committee deadline. These meetings were conducted via Zoom, with a live stream capability for the public.
In the House, the Speaker provided a schedule of committee meetings and they were held in two large House committee rooms with only the chairmen and support staff present. The Senate followed a similar procedure. Legislators did not come to their respective chambers and there was no floor action the last two weeks. Following today’s deadline for committees to act on bills, legislative leadership anticipates being able to return to the Capitol to debate bills that have moved through the process and onto the calendar.
The first committee deadline of the session is today, and by tomorrow morning, the number of “live” bills will drop drastically. If a committee does not act on a bill by midnight, the bill is dead for the 2021 regular session. The Mississippi legislature is already working through a reduced number of bills. During the 2020 session, there were 2,877 bills filled, this year there are 2,210.
Last Tuesday, Governor Tate Reeves delivered his 2021 State of the State address on the front steps of the Mississippi Capitol to a crowd of legislators, members of the press and other interested parties. In his speech, Gov. Reeves focused on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year and emphasized our resiliency and endurance while now continuing moving forward with the state’s vaccination rollout plan.
“2020 was a difficult year for Mississippi Farm Bureau members,” Reeves said. “From natural disasters to COVID-19, farmers and ranchers saw constant disasters impact their way of life. I am proud to support Farm Bureau members, especially during these difficult years. This past year, I instructed MEMA to provide new data for the US Army Corp of Engineers Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Yazoo Pumps. This data was instrumental in receiving a favorable SEIS and moving us one step closer to installing the Pumps. In addition to that, my administration is working with the state legislature, our congressional delegation, and private companies to expand broadband access to rural communities. This upcoming year is an important one for taking the next steps for broadband internet access. I remain committed to investing in new coverage maps to ensure we get maximum federal support in expanding rural internet access. Thank you to all the great members of Mississippi Farm Bureau for the work you do and services you provide to our state. You play an integral role in making Mississippi the wonderful state that it is.”
The Governor hopes to have 100,000 vaccinations administered per week starting in the month of February. He mentioned that the state’s economy has grown and ranks third in the country in job recovery. Additionally, he stressed the importance of eliminating our state’s income tax for economic development potential, and he indicated his support for a teacher pay raise.
The next two weeks will be spent on floor action with the House and Senate debating general bills that made it out of committee. Then both chambers will debate appropriations and revenue bills.