Rep. Dana Criswell - From Your Capitol, Week of March 5, 2018
The Mississippi House of Representatives adjourned for the week on Thursday March 8 in an effort to save taxpayers over $30,000 by not meeting on Friday. By meeting for fewer days, the House and Senate can save the state money and also offset any costs incurred by special sessions that may need to be called later in the year.
This week, the House worked to vote on all bills passed by the state Senate. Bills had to be adopted by Wednesday’s deadline to stay alive for consideration.
A handful of bills died after not meeting this deadline. You can scroll through a list of the bills that are still active here.
Protecting the unborn
HB 1510: This bill protects the right to life by preventing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Senate amended and passed the bill this week, and the House voted today to concur. The bill now goes to Governor Bryant, who has indicated he supports the measure. I was happy to support this bill, which will make Mississippi the safest place in the country for unborn children.
Protecting Second Amendment Rights
HB 1083: This bill originated as a mechanism for individuals to challenge public bodies for denying their Second Amendment rights to carry firearms. The senate added several amendments that make this a bad bill.
First, it takes away a right from conceal carry permit holder who have the enhanced endorsement. Under current law an enhanced permit holder has the right to carry their concealed firearm into any school athletic event as long as the venue is publicly owned. The senate amendment gives that right away.
Second, the School Protection Act was amended to require recurrent training. In itself this is not a bad idea, but the recurrent training was not defined so it would require a school employee go through the entire training every year. This would be so onerous that very few school employees could afford to participate.
Lastly, the entire school protection program must be approved by each school board and I seriously doubt any would approve. Under current law it is already possible for school boards to design a program and allow employees to carry a firearm.
The current form of HB1083 requires gun owners to give up a right without any gain that would provide additional safety in our schools. For these reasons I’m against passing HB1083 in its current form.
Roads and Bridges
The House passed the Senate’s infrastructure bill in the form of Senate Bill 3046, otherwise known as the Building Roads, Improving Development and Growing the Economy (BRIDGE) Act. The House made some changes to the original Senate bill to provide additional funding for specific infrastructure projects throughout the state, utilize use-tax revenue and designate $200 million worth of revenue bonds for the purpose of providing money for the Strategic Infrastructure Investment Fund (SIIF). The bill would also give the Mississippi Department of Transportation power to oversee SIIF. The bill passed by a vote of 104-5.
I voted for the infrastructure bill because I believe it is a step in the right direction. This bill provides additional funding for repair of roads and bridges without a significant tax increase. But, in its current form there is a new tax added to hybrid and electric cars. It is my hope that this tax increase can be removed from the final version of this bill.
I was disappointed in the vast number of bonds added to this bill. In typical political fashion leadership garnered support for the bill by giving legislators free reign to add local projects and have the state borrow money to fund. This is done to buy the support of various legislators. So while we are told this bill exist because we care about fixing our infrastructure the reality is it is passed so legislators can be heroes to their local governments by bringing home some "free" money. But as we all know, "free" doesn't exist, you and I will foot the bill by increased taxes down the road.
This was not our last vote on the BRIDGE Act. It now goes back to the Senate for consideration and will end up in conference where both the House and the Senate will get another vote before this bill goes to the governor.
Criminal Justice Reform
I joined Americans for Prosperity Foundation this week for an event they held discussing criminal justice reform that puts people back to work, protects our communities, and saves tax dollars. We heard from John Koufus, who has been a national leader working with the White House on these efforts. He congratulated Mississippi for our work in this area and encouraged us to continue in efforts to protect taxpayers.
It is an honor to serve the people of Olive Branch and District 6 in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Please contact me with any questions or concerns. Listening to your opinion helps me make better decisions about your government.