A lesson in do nothing —The 2017 Legislative Session
The 2017 regular legislative session is officially in the books, yet unfinished. If you paid close attention, you probably noticed that nothing really happened to improve the quality of life or employment of you and your family. We certainly didn’t bring jobs to your community. We also failed to give any money to the Department of Transportation and Attorney General’s office. As a result, we will now spend your precious tax dollars for a “Special Session” to finish the job we were already paid to do.
To understand a “Do Nothing Session” is to simply look at which bills passed and which bills died.
What passed? Firing squads were added to the death penalty (just in case we cant find the drugs for lethal injection, the gas chamber is out of gas, and Old Sparky won’t work). Everyone in the car will now have to wear seat belts. Campaign finance reform finally passed, although the law is weaker than a wet Kleenex. Domestic violence is finally ground for divorce (the old law required proof the abuse was a “habit,” instead of only every now and then).
Special interests finally gave away enough wine, food and cash contributions to get a bunch of special laws passed. For example, we will now pay one lucky, private company, which will be paid millions of dollars to hunt down the few people who shouldn’t be on Medicaid.
Our “Economic Plan” of corporate handouts meant major cuts this year to the Health Department, Mental Health, public libraries, wildlife and fisheries, colleges and universities and our 490,000 kids in public schools.
While good bills were passed to allow improvements in Jackson, and allow the UM Medical Center to partner with private companies, the award for “Good Ole Boy Bill” goes to HB1092. This changes the qualifications for the Director of Medicaid. Instead of being a medical doctor with administrative experience, the Governor can now appoint someone who only has a college degree, like a politician who was on a Medicaid Committee for one term in the House of Representatives. Sound fishy?
Now let’s look at what bills died (for secret reasons known only to the wizard behind the curtain): Mississippians line up to buy lottery tickets in neighboring states. Looks like that will stay the same.
A lot of the money our local governments use to provide basic services, like fire and police protection, are funded by local sales tax dollars. This revenue is down because we are buying more over the Internet. Unfortunately, our Lt. Governor killed the Internet sales tax bill, which would have helped replace this lost funding.
He also apparently thinks it was a bad idea to allow good people and companies to donate dollars directly to public schools for designated purposes, like we already do for universities and churches. This would have made a huge difference in classrooms across the state. The bill passed the house unanimously, and then killed by a single man.
Finally, the most frustrating example of the grip special interests have on our government was the killing of Noah’s Law, which unanimously passed the House. Noah was a 17-year-old who was studying for exams when he died of cardiac arrest. His autopsy revealed that he had in his blood stream the caffeine equivalency of 82 cups of coffee. The bill would have merely prevented people under 18 from buying pure caffeine — that’s it. One elected official was convinced (with the right donation), that it would be a gateway to banning energy drinks. He ordered the bill killed. Shame.
I fail to see how this session paints anything close to an agenda of helping people, jobs, industry or education. As you sit and wait for the Governor to call a special session so we can waste more of your tax dollars, do yourself a favor and find the name and number of your State Representative and Senator. Now more than ever, they need to know how you feel.
Jay Hughes is a state representative from Oxford.
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