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2024 Legislative Review

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It’s time to look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of this year’s legislative session through Bigger Pie Forum’s lens of enhancing opportunity and reducing barriers to growth in Mississippi’s economy.

The Good

We start with some minor victories for taxpayers related to gifts that can be accepted by regulatory agencies from the people or companies they regulate.

HB 1664 offers some clarification to the prohibition on gifts and campaign contributions that may be given to or received by a Public Service Commissioner or the Public Utilities Staff. This was prompted by 2023 campaign contributions to now-former commissioners Brandon Presley and Brent Bailey from solar power producers from other states.

HB 1664 doesn’t mention solar producers specifically, but it does reference another section of law where the definition of an electric public utility includes “the generation, manufacture, transmission, distribution, provision, or furnishing of electricity to or for the public,” which should cover solar. It also adds a prohibition against gifts or contributions from anyone “acting at the request or direction” of a public utility. That addresses the concern that solar companies operating in Mississippi may have asked solar companies in other states to make contributions the Mississippi companies might not be allowed to make.

HB 1664 also adds a prohibition against gifts or campaign contributions from anyone who has participated in a PSC proceeding in the four years preceding the gift or contribution. The goal of all these prohibitions, of course, is to limit the conflicts of interest that could influence decisions by the PSC.

HB 1471 creates a similar prohibition on gifts to officers or employees of BEAM, the Office of Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi, which provides grants to broadband service providers to deploy broadband access in unserved or underserved areas.

In the “shouldn’t be necessary, but it is” category, HB 1583 prohibits any ordinance, building code, or other policy that restricts or prohibits anyone from using an appliance based on the type of utility service required to operate the appliance. This is to preempt what we have seen in other states where local governments are prohibiting the installation of appliances that use natural gas or other fossil fuels.

SB 2059 stipulates as a matter of law that energy produced from biomass (mostly forest product residuals) or from agricultural harvesting is considered renewable and carbon neutral. When the bioenergy is paired with carbon capture and storage, the bioenergy is carbon negative.

SB 2072 allows physical therapists to perform physical therapy on patients without a prescription or referral from another health professional if the physical therapist has a doctorate in physical therapy or has five years of licensed clinical practical experience.

The Bad

SB 2557 calls for Mississippi State or Alcorn State to lease land at one of their branch experiment stations for up to 50 years for a “solar installation.” This provision was added to the section of law declaring that agriculture “is the primary industry of Mississippi” and that research should

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