The week of February 13 was an odd week around the state capitol. With general House Bills out of the way, representatives began working on House Appropriations Bills, which will determine how much money is given to various state agencies.
This may sound like a very busy week but the reality is that nothing much happened. The House was responsible for looking at the preliminary budgets of 54 state agencies, including the departments of transportation, public health, Medicaid, education and public safety. To an outsider this sounds like some very important work. You might think that legislators would be engrossed in hearings and reading through mounds of budget proposals so they can make an informed decision. But that would not be the case. Leadership had already talked to all the agencies and the Legislative Budget Office, LBO, had already made recommendations on agency budgets. So when the House Appropriations Committee met, bills outlining the amount of money appropriated for each agency were passed with very little discussion. This is also the week where political payback kicks into full gear and various pork projects begin finding their way into state funding bills.
Each budget included a reverse repealer, a clause which ensures that a bill cannot become law before going to a conference committee for further revisions. With reverse repealers in place, most appropriations bills were voted on by the full House, in a block to help speed up the process. Because when you are spending $6 billion speed is apparently the most important aspect of the process.
Now that the House has passed its appropriations bills, they will be transmitted to the Senate. When the Senate removes the reverse repealer the bill must then go to a conference committee. This is where a select few will actually do the work and make the decisions about how much money each agency receives. Then the "real" appropriations bills come back to the full House for a vote.
Here are a few of the more ridiculous bills that are being considered by your legislature;
- HB 1545 - would give the city of Shelby $300,000 to construct a downtown walking trail and playground.
- HB 1558 - would provide the MS Department of Education with $10 million to build recreational facilities, (playgrounds) on county-owned properties around the state.
- HB 1572 - would have the state borrow $5 million to build a Sportsplex in Marion County, MS.
- HB 1645 - this bill would allow the State to borrow $500,000 to improve a park in Yazoo, MS.
- HB 1589 - this bill continues the theme of the 2017 Legislative session of "take every dollar we can get our hands on", and would impose a tax on attorneys who practice in Mississippi but are not domiciled in or maintain a regular place of business in Mississippi
- HB 1597 - is an attempt to expand the reach of the Mississippi Department of Revenue to give it power to tax business and individuals who do not live in Mississippi. This bill is an extension of HB 480, the internet tax bill. This bill further expands our run-away government and threatens every person in and out of our state.
So you won't think the House is the only legislative body in our State willing to spend your money on pork projects, here is a couple from the Senate;
- SB 2935 - this bill obligate the State of Mississippi to a $1.2 million dollar bond to build the city of Marks, MS a community center and city hall.
- SB 2946 - with the passage of this bill the State of Mississippi would borrow one million two hundred fifty thousand dollars, ($1,250,000) for the city of Tremont, MS to build the Tammy Wynette Legacy Park.
In a state where those in leadership positions continually tell us we are in desperate need of more money, spending money on these unnecessary projects is absurd. Last week, under the guise of a desperate need for money to fix failing roads and bridges, the House forced through an internet tax bill that could take as much as $150 million from the people of Mississippi. But this week we seem to have ample money to fund parks, pools, and community centers.
Visiting Your Capitol
This week I had the pleasure of speaking to TeenPact. TeenPact is a dynamic, hands-on leadership school for Christian students. Their mission is to train youth to understand the political process, value their liberty, defend their Christian faith and engage the culture at a time in their lives when, typically, they do not care about such things. These young leaders give me great hope for our State and our country.
Learn more about TeenPact on their website www.teenpact.com.
Thank you Desoto County and Olive Branch for giving me the opportunity to represent you in our state government. We are making a difference.