Mississippi lawmakers considering changes that will affect people’s wallets, change some leisure activity requirements

Published 6:24 am Monday, February 8, 2021

Mississippi legislators are making decisions that could affect people’s wallets and change some of their leisure activities.

Teachers could get a pay raise. Senate Bill 2001 would give $1,000 to most teachers and $1,100 to newer ones as a way to bump up the base pay. The bill has passed the Senate and has moved to the House for more work. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said during his State of the State address that he will sign any teacher pay raise bill that lands on his desk.

Another proposal to make teaching more attractive is a college loan repayment program. Under Senate Bill 2305, the state would pay off part of the student loan for any person who teaches up to three years in a Mississippi public school, with higher payments made to those teaching in areas with critical needs. The bill has passed the Senate and moves to the House.

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It’s been 21 years since Mississippi increased cash assistance payments through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The current welfare payments are $146 for a family of two, $170 for a family of three and $194 for a family of four. Senate Bill 2759 would give a $90 a month increase to each category, based on a recommendation from Mississippi Department of Human Services director Bob Anderson.

“These are the poorest of the poor in our state,” Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall said during a Senate debate Thursday.

Fillingane described the $90 a month increase as a “modest but reasonable amount that Mississippi could afford.” He said the state usually has about 2,500 to 3,000 families who qualify for TANF; it’s closer to about 3,000 now.
Fillingane said the increase would cost about $2.8 million a year, and all of that would be federal money.

Republican Sen. Melanie Sojourner of Natchez said during the debate: “Of course, those are all our dollars.”
Sojourner was one of nine senators, all Republicans, who voted against the increase.

Republican Sen. David Parker of Olive Branch, who voted for the bill, said: “An increase can definitely help in this situation.”

The bill moves to the House for more work.

One of the bills that could affect leisure activities is Senate Bill 2787. It would eliminate the need for a passenger in a boat to be an observer when one person is driving the boat and another is skiing behind it. The bill says the boat driver could use a rearview mirror to observe the skier. Sojourner said some other states already have similar laws. The bill passed the Senate but was held for the possibility of more debate.

House Bill 1288 would allow charter boat operators to sell alcohol to passengers on board — something that legislators are calling “booze cruises.” This would be limited to boats that carry at least 49 passengers and that operate in the waters off the three coastal counties. The bill has passed the House and moves to the Senate.

Running low on merlot? Don’t want to bundle up to buy bourbon? House Bill 1135 and Senate Bill 2804 would allow for home delivery of beer, wine and liquor. Each chamber has passed its own bill. They must eventually agree on a single bill to send to the governor. Among those backing the proposal for alcohol delivery is the grocery delivery service Shipt, according to an attorney who spoke to a Senate committee.

Two bills that are awaiting consideration — House Bill 1030 and Senate Bill 2313 — would allow college athletes to be compensated for their own name, image and likeness. That would affect fans’ leisure activities, and the athletes’ wallets.