While it seems like the 2020 Mississippi Legislative Session just ended, the 2021 session is already upon us with lawmakers set to gavel in on Tuesday, January 5th at the capitol in Jackson. Ahead of that date, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann hosted a zoom briefing this afternoon to lay out his agenda.
The first order of business will be getting the session underway. Despite the set start date, the Lt. Governor has suggested that, with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surging in Mississippi, lawmakers could gavel in but quickly adjourn until March 1st to allow the vaccine distraction to curb the rising figures across the state. This would have to be agreed upon by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, but Hosemann said House leadership has been “less receptive” to the idea.
Once that gets settled, the agenda item that Hosemann placed the highest priority on was a teacher pay raise. Such a raise passed earlier this year before the pandemic caused it to fall by the wayside. He explained they will likely start with a $1,000 proposal which would raise the starting salary for new teachers in Mississippi to $37,000 a year.
Next, the first-term Lt. Governor discussed the possibility of reorganizing the state’s business incentives through the simplification of the calculation of benefits for companies coming to or expanding their business in Mississippi. A new program, called “M-Flex,” would also present businesses with another option. Hosemann hopes this will target and attract small and medium businesses to Mississippi – increasing the labor participation rate.
The continued buildout of Mississippi’s broadband network is also a priority after a large portion of CARES Act funding was used for that same purpose. The state recently received another form of assistance in that area with a sizable FCC allocation of over $400 million.
Along with the potential creation of a new agency for tourism, one of the state’s largest industries, Hosemann expressed that the Senate will focus on a “rebrand” for the state of Mississippi with the recent adoption of the new state flag as a catalyst.
Hosemann also mentioned the importance of delivering better healthcare to the state, including a package aimed at improving mental health services.
A criminal justice reform bill was vetoed by the governor earlier this year, but Hosemann said that bill has been reworked. The goal of the bill is to reduce the recidivism rate through continued inmate education and workforce training. Increasing the salary of corrections officers was also mentioned.
Whenever the session does begin, Hosemann, one of the legislators who contracted COVID-19 back in the summer, reiterated that enhanced safety measures will be in place at the capitol to reduce the risk of transmission.
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