Mississippi legislature comes to an end

Published 6:59 am Friday, April 4, 2014

The 2014 Mississippi Legislative session came to a close on Wednesday night after three months of work.

Pearl River County’s four legislatures, Senators Angela Hill and Tony Smith and Representatives Mark Formby and Herb Frierson thought it was an overall constructive session, but stated some things could have been better.

“It was one of the toughest sessions I been through,” Frierson said.

Frierson, Appropriations chair, said he thought the legislators accomplished a lot of what they set out to do.

“I think the positive highlights were that for the first time in probably 10 years we have a structurally balanced budget,” Frierson said.

Formby also agreed that one of the biggest accomplishments was balancing the budget.

“We were able to balance the budget, restore the rainy day fund, fund every agency and give state employees and teachers a pay raise for first time in seven years,” Formby said. “It just shows that if you do it right, you can fund what is needed and stay out of debt.”

He said besides the budget, the highlights of this legislative session included the passing of four bills that he championed.

Formby said for 21 years he has filed a bill that would do away with paying sales tax on every expense when purchasing a product.

He explained, previous to House Bill 620, if someone purchased an item and then had it delivered to their home, they would’ve paid sales tax on the item and on the delivery.

House Bill 620 states, “Gross proceeds of sales does not include finance charges, carrying charges or any other addition to the selling price as a result of deferred payments by the purchaser.”

The other three bills he was pleased that passed were bills about drug screening for TANF recipients, collection of DNA samples from suspected violent offenders and a resolution that would add “In God We Trust” to the state seal.

“I think they’re big for the legislature, but they were also big personal victories,” Formby said.

Smith said some of the positive results of the legislative session were the passing of the Religious Freedom Act, the ban on abortions after 20 weeks and providing funding for the state trooper school.

Hill said her highlights included passing a bill that established a sportsman’s sales tax holiday weekend in September, the bill that banned abortions after 20 weeks, the religious freedom bill and an increase in MAEP funding.

Frierson said the legislature was able to increase MAEP funding by $75 million, which includes teacher pay raises.

All four representatives said they were pleased the legislature was able to pass a bill that would give teachers and some state employees a raise for the first time in seven years.

Both Smith and Hill were unsatisfied with parts of the bond bill to fund the Mississippi History and Civil Rights Museums, that was passed, but Smith said to make sure important parts of the bill, like state aid road construction funds were passed, the legislation had to be passed.

Hill said the bond bill had “too much lagniappe” that shouldn’t be funded through the State Treasury.

Despite the negative aspects of the session, all four legislators said it was successful.

“I’m real proud of the Pearl River County delegation. They did a great job this year and I think the county is well represented in Jackson,” Smith said.