Mississippi Legislature finishes work for 2019 session


The Mississippi Legislature ended its 2019 session Friday, with senators and representatives saying an emotional farewell to two dozen colleagues who are not seeking re-election.

One of the retiring senators, Republican Videt Carmichael of Meridian, described himself as a “country boy” and said he is grateful that voters in eastern Mississippi sent him to the Capitol for 20 years.

“I love music, so I’m going to quote a piece of song,” Carmichael said. “‘I’m drinking from my saucer because my cup of blessings is run over."”

It was one of the shortest regular legislative sessions in recent Mississippi history, with lawmakers taking several long weekends and ending work on the 81st day out of 90 that were scheduled.

During nearly three months at the Capitol, lawmakers fulfilled some promises that House and Senate leaders had made. They approved a $1,500 pay raise for teachers and enacted laws that could help expand broadband to rural areas and could help protect children who are victims of human trafficking.

They made Mississippi the 15th state to ask Congress to call a national convention to consider changing the U.S. Constitution to limit federal spending — a proposal backed by tea party groups and opposed by many Democrats who worry that conservative convention delegates could try to restrict the oversight role of the federal judiciary or take away voting rights from women or African-Americans.

Mississippi was one of several Republican-led states where lawmakers considered new restrictions on abortion. Gov. Phil Bryant on March 21 signed Senate Bill 2116 , to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the only abortion clinic in Mississippi say the law is unconstitutional, and they are asking a federal judge to block it before it can take effect July 1.

Bryant on Friday signed a bill that will limit the reasons property owners can be sued for actions that happen on their land. Senate Bill 2901 becomes law July 1. Supporters said landlords or other property owners should not take a financial hit because of dangerous actions by other people on the property. Opponents said limiting the property owners’ liability could lead to lackadaisical security that would endanger people’s lives.

House Bill 1283 , which awaits the governor’s consideration, would require public schools to conduct active-shooter drills.

Among the proposals that died during the session was a bill that would have allowed police agencies to resume seizing property associated with drug arrests without a court judgment.

The Senate Elections Committee killed a bill that sought to resolve problems college students face while trying to cast absentee ballots for elections that could go to runoffs.

Also killed this year were bills either to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the Mississippi flag or to require universities or public entities to fly the flag. As in recent years, the House Rules Committee chairman, Republican Rep. Jason White of West, said there was no consensus on either side of the flag issue. (AP)

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