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Rep. Dana Criswell - At Your Capitol, Week of March 21
This past week was another busy week at the capitol. Looming deadlines seem to propel the House into action and this weeks deadline was for committees to report general bills and constitutional amendments originating in the Senate to the House floor. On Wednesday the House began debating the senate bills that survived the committee process. As usual more bills die in committee than survive.
While the House was busy debating Senate bills the Senate was debating bills originating in the House. I am sorry to say that House Bill 938 which protects children from vaccinations deemed dangerous to them by their pediatrician, died in the Senate committee. Apparently a majority of our senators are more concerned with protecting the buracratic maze of our Department of Health than they are children. There is simply no rational reason to demand a child receive a vaccination when that child's doctor advises otherwise.
Some of the Senate bills that survived the House Committees were;
Senate Bill 2438, requires that all local school superintendents be appointed after January 1, 2019. If a superintendent was elected after the last general election, that superintendent would be permitted to maintain his or her position until the next qualifying date. The bill passed by a vote of 80-36.
This bill is a step in the right direction toward strengthening our schools by removing our school superintendent from the political arena. Superintendents can now focus on making our schools better without the added burden of politics. Citizens still have a voice in the administration of their local schools through their elected school boards. School boards are non-partisan elected positions.
Senate Bill 2162 expands the makeup of the board of the Jackson Airport Authority to now include members appointed not only by the City of Jackson, but also Rankin and Madison counties, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. Currently, board members are appointed by the Mayor of Jackson and are confirmed by the Board of Alderman. A House amendment was adopted to provide that the majority of the members be made up of citizens from Jackson. The two appointments made by the Governor and the one made by the Lieutenant Governor must now be residents of Jackson. This change gives the City of Jackson five members on the board of nine. The airport’s realm of service extends well beyond the City of Jackson. I believe that a more representative group from the immediate areas serviced will be better suited to operate the board than one comprised of members solely from Jackson. The bill passed by a vote of 74-46.
SB 2388, allows the State Department of Education to take a pilot program that teaches school administrators and teachers how to better interpret data from a pilot program to a fully implemented program across the state. This program has been in use at 7 schools across the state for the past two years with excellent results. As an education sub-committee chairman I handled this bill during the committee process and presented the bill on the House floor. During my research of the pilot program I found many, including those in the Department of Education and the local schools who spoke very highly of its success. I believe this is a good program that will help school districts better prepare students.
But, I voted against the bill. Representative Omeria Scott (D), District 80 proposed an amendment that the House accepted. Her amendment was something I could not support and I believe once others discover exactly what her amendment says they will wish they had voted against the bill also.
Rep. Scott's Amendment;
MANDATED nightly homework
MANDATED weekend homework
MANDATED book reports (one per subject, per month)
MANDATED SERVICE TO THE SCHOOL for parents
MANDATED parent teacher conferences
MANDATED Attitude Adjustment Day AND
If your child exhibits a "behavioral episode" they shall be given a Basic Needs Assessment. This is given to some juvenile delinquents upon entrance to the JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER. The purpose of this assessment is to "label" the child. Determine if they are a threat to themselves or others, if they need MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT, if they need state intervention.
This has NO PLACE in the public school setting. Not only that but behavioral episode is not defined. There is no legal definition. It is completely and totally subjective so it could range from a routine meltdown from a special needs student to a child who won't stop talking in class. Further, the assessment shall be referred to the appropriate STATE AGENCY (Dept. of Health, DHS, Mental Health,etc.) The agency then has 72 hours to take action.
Rep. Steve Hopkins,(R - Southaven) held this bill on a Motion to Reconsider so legislators have an opportunity to change their mind. Monday the House will bring this bill back to the floor to reconsider the vote. Hopefully we can have the amendment removed and let the rest of the bill survive.
Our next deadline is Wednesday, March 30, the deadline for ORIGINAL FLOOR ACTION on GENERAL BILLS and CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS originating in OTHER House.