We gaveled in on January 3 to start the 2022 Legislative Session, and since then, the House passed two historic pieces of legislation.
If you’ve been following the issue of Mississippi losing about 3,000 teachers over the past couple of years due to low salaries and other issues, the House passed HB 530 on Tuesday, January 11, to help stop the exodus. In fact, under this plan, starting teachers will be paid more than both the national the Southeastern average.
The Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers (START) Act of 2022, would raise the average starting salary of a Mississippi teacher to $43,000 — a $6,000 increase. The measure would also give every teacher a pay raise between $4,000 and $6,000, effective at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, and give teacher’s assistants a salary bump of $2,000.
Included in the bill are step increases that are more than what teachers now receive for years served.
Significantly, the bill passed overwhelmingly 114–6. I am proud to have co-sponsored this much-needed help for our educators and their assistants. They deserve to be respected, and paying them appropriate to their value to Mississippi shows our respect.
House Bill 531, the Mississippi Tax Freedom Act of 2022, was introduced on Wednesday. The bill would eventually eliminate the state income tax, placing Mississippi as the tenth state in the United States to do so. Significantly, it would also eventually lower the sales tax on groceries to 4 percent. Other items will carry an 8.5 percent sales tax, up from 7 percent. Farmers will continue to have the same lower sales tax they have now.
We’ve always had complaints about the high price of car tags and this legislation will also cut car tags in half by 50% if signed into law. Supporters believe that taking this action will help improve the state’s economy going forward. It should eventually put about $2 billion back into taxpayer pockets. HB 531 passed by a vote of 104-7.
With these two votes, my colleagues and I showed that we are absolutely determined to work together to make things better for our fellow Mississippians.
I expect we will take up the Medical Marijuana issue soon. The Senate passed their version last week 47-5. The medicinal properties of marijuana have been shown to help the pain of chronic conditions and significantly improve the quality of life of certain patients. I expect the House to pass this law out of respect for those who suffer and the 70+ percent of Mississippians who approved of the idea in the 2020 initiative vote.
The first measure I filed during this session is House Bill 112, which provides that families of first responders who die from exposure to Covid 19 in the workplace are eligible for compensation under the Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters Death Benefits Trust Fund. These individuals are putting their lives on the line as they go about their duties caring for the desperately ill. I believe the least we can do is help relieve the stress of funeral expenses for their families if the worst happens.
Monday, January 17, was deadline for introduction of general bills and constitutional amendments. We have until February 1 to pass those measures out of committee. If they don’t survive the committee process, they’ll be dead for the session.
As always, I invite your suggestions and comments on our work at the Capitol. You can stay up to speed at the Legislature’s website www.legislature.ms.us and during the live broadcasts of floor action available through that page or YouTube.
Feel free to reach out to me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, or you can call my office at 601-469-7886.
Housekeeping is a weekly column by Representative Tom Miles who serves as the State Representative from House District #75 which consist of Rankin and Scott Counties.