Raises of teachers, state employees loom
The end of the 2007 legislative session is still three weeks away. Each chamber completed floor work on the other’s general bills during the 10th week.
We will soon begin finalizing "money issues," leading up to final adoption of the state’s budget for fiscal year 2008 beginning July 1, 2007.
Our "legislative calendar," which is a daily publication showing the bills we will be considering on the House floor, is now filled with "concurrence" or "nonconcurrence" items, rather than bills we are seeing for the first time. This means that if we "concur" with the changes made in a bill by the opposite chamber, that bill then goes to the governor for his signature of approval or, in some cases, his veto of disapproval.
If we "do not concur" on a certain bill, it goes to conference negotiation between the House and Senate to see if the differences can be worked out before the session ends. If so, we’ll vote on it again.
Here is a sampling of what we passed last week:
- SB 2838 requiring used car dealers attend an 8-hour licensing seminar before they can be awarded an initial license to do business. Described as a "consumer friendly" measure, it exempts all existing used car dealers.
- SB 2825 tightens restrictions on sexual offenders in school zones. They won’t be able to loiter within 1,500 feet of a school while students under 18 are present, they must notify school officials of their presence and whereabouts at school events and can’t be near children.
- SB 2567 creates a task force to study whether elections for justice court judges should be held in a non-partisan manner – without party primaries.
- SB 2783 directs the state wildlife commission to study deer management zones, including bag limits, antler restrictions and supplemental feeding programs.
- SB 2688 increases to $65,000 the death benefit to the family of a law officer or fireman killed intentionally or accidentally in the line of duty.
- SB 2818 directs school districts to work with juvenile detention center officials to provide education services to students placed in those centers.
- SB 2056 prohibits a person from seeking election to more than one office on the same day.
- SB 2897 limits government contracts to companies hiring only legal citizens or legal aliens.
- SB 2647 allows 18-year-olds to become notaries public.
After completing work on the Senate-originated general bills, the House began taking up some of the appropriation and revenue bills that will be part of the FY 2008 budget.
One major provision to be finalized is the pay raise for state employees. The House has proposed $1,500 for state workers and the Senate $1,000 or 3 percent, whichever is greater.
Both chambers have proposed 3 percent across-the-board raises for school teachers. The House has proposed a $1,000 raise for assistant teachers and the Senate proposed $500. State troopers are due a $3,000 pay raise and $5 million has been added for a new "trooper school."
We also approved the conference report on HB 1471 and SB 2496 restoring emergency transportation services for a group of low-income dialysis patients. All this bill lacks now is Gov. Barbour’s signature.
The House also passed resolutions this week commending the lives and service of two Mississippians who have died in the war in Iraq — Sgt. Terrence Dunn and Sgt. Carl Seigart.