by Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press
During the three-month session that ended early Saturday, Mississippi lawmakers guaranteed a year of Medicaid coverage for women after birth but ignored broader Medicaid expansion for working people whose jobs don’t provide health insurance.
The majority-white and Republican-controlled Legislature voted for a larger state police presence in the capital city of Jackson starting in July 2024, despite objections from Black lawmakers who called it a power grab over the majority-Black city governed by Democrats.
Supporters of Capitol Police expansion said they are trying to reduce crime in the city of nearly 150,000 residents, which had more than 100 homicides each of the past three years.
Here’s a look other issues:
TAXES: Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn isn’t seeking reelection this year, and one of his main goals was to phase out the state income tax. He said doing so would make Mississippi more competitive with fast-growing Texas and Florida, which don’t tax income. Opponents of the tax elimination cautioned that Mississippi should not jeopardize its ability to pay for schools and other services. Although legislators enacted a the state’s largest-ever tax cut in 2022, Gunn’s proposal died with little discussion this year.
ELECTIONS: Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed a law setting tighter restrictions on absentee ballots. The law, starting July 1, sets a short list of people who can “collect and transmit” a ballot mailed to another person. That list includes employees of the U.S. Postal Service or other mail carriers, plus any “family member, household member or caregiver of the person to whom the ballot was mailed.” Reeves said this will prevent fraud by political operatives. Opponents said the new restrictions could hurt nursing home employees or others who make good-faith efforts to help people obtain and mail absentee ballots.
EDUCATION: Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and other Senate leaders sought to revise and fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, a budget formula designed to give schools enough money to meet midlevel academic standards. MAEP was put into law in 1997 but has been fully funded only two years. House leaders rejected the Senate proposal. Legislators voted to increase education spending by more than $100 million during the year that begins July 1, but they still left MAEP short of full funding.
INITIATIVES: Legislators did not revive an initiative process to let people petition to put issues on statewide ballots. Mississippi allowed initiatives for about 30 years, but the state Supreme Court ruled in May 2021 that the process was invalid because it required people to gather signatures from five outdated congressional districts rather than four districts the state has had since the early 2000s. The House voted this session to allow initiatives on many issues but not for proposing changes to abortion laws. That proposal died in the Senate, where Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee Chairman John Polk said he liked the abortion restriction but wanted to significantly increase the number of signatures over what the previous initiative process required.