Opinion – 3/15/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Panolian Opinions – Rep. Morris & Rep. Burnett

From the 3/15/05 issue of The Panolian :             
      Unemployment tax reduced, benefits frozen

(Editor’s Note: A plan developed by the House of Representatives to keep the state’s Medicaid program strong through the rest of the current fiscal year was approved by the Legislature on Sunday, March 13.
     The proposal — in the form of House Bill 4 — was approved at the end of an unprecedented special session called by Gov. Barbour. The House ended the special session at approximately 11:45 p.m. on Sunday night, with a plan already in place to return to the 2005 regular session at 4 p.m. Monday.)

Medicaid commanded most of the attention during the week, but the House did meet a March 9 deadline to handle floor action on general bills that originated in the Senate. Legislative deadlines will be arriving in a flurry with the session scheduled to adjourn sine die on Sunday, April 3.

Among the bills approved by the full House this week:

SB 2480 to make changes in the unemployment insurance program was returned by the House to its original Senate language supported by Gov. Barbour. As passed, it would reduce unemployment taxes over several years and direct $20 million from the unemployment trust fund to work force training. It also creates a safety net floor that will keep the trust fund balance from not going below $500 million.
The fund is currently worth more than $680 million. It was noted that the trust fund now has about three times more in it than has ever been needed for pay-outs to unemployed workers. One critic of the bill said the reason that the trust fund is so hefty is the state pays such a low weekly rate: $210 to jobless workers.
SB 2486 was amended to allow the posting of the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and the words "In God We Trust" in any public building. It was noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has before it the issue of posting the Ten Commandments on public property.
SB 2894 would make changes in the juvenile justice detention system, but due to budget constraints most will be delayed at least one year. A key feature is the creation of community-based centers as alternatives to incarceration of wayward youths. The Department of Public Safety will assume inspection duties of the detention facilities that survive the overhaul.
     Special consideration will be given to non-violent, first-time offenders. Only a court would be able to send a youth to a detention facility.
SB 2742 puts the public on a "level playing field" with the State Tax Commission in disputes by mandating a 30-day notice of hearings where disagreements would be negotiated.
SB 2514 to create the Select Committee on Wireless Communication with the goal of promoting the efficient use of public resources to ensure that officials have effective communications services available in emergency situations and the quick restoration of services if disrupted.
SB 2532 governing small loan companies would cap the fee for loan closings and would allow the companies to offer clients membership in auto clubs but not require it to secure a loan.
HB 1734 to allow the governor to reduce the number of prisoners, with the approval of the Parole Board, when state facilities reach an overcrowded situation.
SB 2080 to prevent companies administering the Children’s Health Insurance Program from denying health-care providers participation in the CHIP program.
HB 143 was amended to allow municipalities to govern the use of hotel and motel rooms on an hourly basis.

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HB 1668 to provide incentives, loans and grants for a company planning to open a mini steel mill in Lowndes County was sent to Gov. Barbour for his approval.


Burnett represents District 9 which includes portions of Panola, Quitman, Tate and Tunica Counties.
Morris represents Mississippi’s House District 11 which includes portions of Panola and Tate Counties.


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