Final deadline on House bill yields debate
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 6:00 PM
By Michael T. Evans
Dist. 45 Representative
Last week’s action consisted mainly of floor debate as we considered bills that had passed out of committee by the Jan. 31 deadline. We had until last Thursday, Feb. 9, to vote to send bills to the Senate for their consideration. A number of bills died on the calendar when the House adjourned early on deadline day.
We had quite a battle over House Bill 974, which will remove almost all state employees from the protections of civil service through the State Personnel Board. These employees will become “at will” employees. Their supervisors can then fire, demote, or transfer them without cause.
Some people have wondered what all the fuss is about with this because people in regular jobs don’t have any “protections.” Here is the difference: The rank and file people who work in state government are the ones that keep services going, no matter who gets elected. We need the best qualified people possible holding down those important jobs. The State Personnel Board protects both functions.
The folks who are supporting House Bill 974 want to “reduce” state government like this. That means they are anticipating massive layoffs of employees. This is terrifying news to the over 30,000 state employees who are working hard every day to help us.
State retirees should pay attention to this bill because if many state employees are fired, that means less money will be coming into the PERS system to keep it viable.
There is no way that this idea is good for Mississippi’s economy. It only passed by a couple of votes, and then we held it on a motion which almost stopped it from proceeding to the Senate. I opposed it.
House Bill 480, or the “Internet Sales Tax Bill,” was another measure that passed and then was held on a motion to reconsider. I voted against this bill because I don’t think that adding another requirement for a tax that is already on the books is necessary. I felt more money raised by the tax should go to cities and counties.
One of the measures we passed that I did support is the Rivers McGraw Bill, HB 1089. This bill requires that arresting officers notify the parents of a minor who has been arrested for DUI before releasing the minor (under 21 years old). They must hold the offender for eight hours.
Rivers McGraw, took his own life, rather than face the consequences of another DUI. He was a bright and promising student who had been battling substance abuse for a number of years. His friends bailed him out, and he was gone before his mother could get to him. We hope that this measure will help prevent another young person from taking a desperate step in the heat of a crisis. This bill passed unanimously with Rivers’ parents watching.
I was proud to support House Bill 509 that mandates instruction during Drivers Education courses that will help students learn the proper way to respond to an officer in the event of a traffic stop. We all know that traffic stops can be one of the most dangerous situations for drivers and officers. We believe that this training for students. coupled with de-escalation training being implemented for officers, will help make deadly traffic stops a most rare occurrence.
I believe that the more open we are in discussing these issues and working together to save lives, the stronger and safer we will be. This bill passed unanimously.
Please let me know if you’re planning to join us at the Capitol. I would be honored to introduce you to my colleagues. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any concerns or call my Capitol office at 601-359-3311 or my cell at (601) 416-7495. Follow our actions at www.legislature.ms.gov by clicking on the Live Webcast when we are on the floor of the House. It can get pretty entertaining.