As the legislature enters the month of March, the House and Senate faced one of the last major deadlines of the year. March 2 was the deadline for each chamber to pass the other’s general bills. The budget started taking shape on February 24, which was the deadline for original floor action on revenue and appropriations bills.

The entire session changed last week when House Bill 1439, the Mississippi Tax Freedom Act of 2021, was filed and passed through the House Ways & Means Committee on Monday, February 22nd and subsequently passed the full House on Tuesday, February 23rd. The legislation is an attempt to eliminate Mississippi’s income tax and cut the grocery tax in half.

This reduction in revenue accounts for approximately one-third of the state budget. To recoup this deficit, the bill raises sales tax on consumer goods by 2.5% and increases taxes on several business entities by 2.5%, including farm equipment, implements, parts, labor, and repair.

At their board meeting late last week, the MFBF Board of Directors voted to oppose the legislation in its current form based on existing policy. This bill is presently awaiting a committee assignment in the Senate, meaning it is presently a work in progress. Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation leadership and staff have been in daily communication with House and Senate leadership, as well as the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce and Governor’s office to ensure the voices of farmers, ranchers, rural Mississippians, and Farm Bureau members are heard in this process and their bests interests are considered.

“We are continuing to monitor the legislation in the Senate and voice the concerns of our members to state leadership,” MFBF President Mike McCormick said.

In other news:

  • HB 1364 – Authored by Rep. Trey Lamar, HB 1364 places a referendum on the ballot to raise the gas tax to pay for specific infrastructure projects throughout the state. The bill died on the calendar last week, meaning it was not brought up on the floor for consideration.
  • HB 505 & SB 2798 – The Broadband Accessibility Act, authored by Rep. Scott Bounds, and SB 2798, authored by Sen. Joel Carter, are both geared at allowing investor owned utilities in Mississippi (Entergy and Mississippi Power) to sell fiber internet to customers along its existing infrastructure. The income would go toward reducing power costs of the consumer. SB 2798 remains alive. 
  • HB 556 – This bill, authored by Rep. Bill Pigott, allows for longer leases of 16th section land used for agricultural purposes. This bill was not brought out of the Senate Education Committee this year.
  • SB 2072 – This bill, authored by Sen. Mike Seymour, increases the penalties for pecan theft. The House Agriculture Committee passed this bill with amendments to create a study committee.
  • SB 2825 – The Mississippi Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2021, authored by Sen. Jenifer Branning, does the following:
    • Moves enforcement from MDOT to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety
    • Increases weights for harvest permitted vehicles
    • Increases fines for excessively overweight harvest permit vehicles
    • Moves $80 million in lottery revenue from MDOT to the ERBRF
    • The House Transportation Committee passed this bill with an amendment to remove the portion of the bill that moves lottery revenue from MDOT to the ERBRF.
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