The new term of the Mississippi Legislature convenes at noon today, with the first order of business being putting in place the mechanisms and leadership to govern for the next four years.
The first day will be dominated by the election of a House speaker by the newly elected 122 House members. Rep. Jason White, a Republican from West who has served during the past four-year term as speaker pro tempore, was selected as the next speaker in a closed-door December meeting by House Republicans, who have a two-thirds majority in the chamber.
The election of White as speaker on Tuesday is expected to be a formality. Every House Republican is expected to support White and no other House member has publicly announced plans to challenge him for the speakership.
White will succeed Philip Gunn, who opted to step down and not pursue a fourth term as speaker. The House Republicans in December also selected Republican Rep. Manly Barton of Moss Point to replace White as pro tempore.
In the Senate, Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, is expected to be reelected by the members as Senate pro tempore, meaning in general terms he will be the second-in-command to Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who also will be entering his second term in the statewide post.
Then, over the coming days, other statewide officials will be sworn into office. None of the eight statewide officials will be new to their jobs as all of the eight are incumbents.
After the pomp and circumstances of this week, lawmakers will begin work on what could be a pivotal 2024 session.
Some of the key issues that could be debated and considered include:
Gov. Tate Reeves, who was reelected this past November by the narrowest margin in a gubernatorial election since 1999, still wants to eliminate the state’s personal income tax. White and other expected House leaders also have expressed support for eliminating the personal income tax, which accounts for nearly one-third of state general fund revenue. Senate leaders have said they will consider tax reductions in 2024, but perhaps not the complete elimination of the income tax.
Reeves has been a big supporter of providing public funds to students to attend private schools, though he did not campaign on the issue. As a matter of fact, few candidates elected in 2023 campaigned on the issue, though, it could be a big one during the 2024 session.
Restoring the ballot initiative
For the third year in a row, lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to restore the ballot initiative, the way for citizens to place issues directly on a statewide ballot. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the prior initiative process was invalid. During the last two years, the House and Senate failed to reach an agreement over how the process should be replaced.
Addressing Mississippi’s health care crisis
Scores of rural hospitals across the state are on the verge of closing or significantly cutting back health services, and numerous Mississippians do not have health insurance. One potential solution that legislative leaders might consider is the expansion of Medicaid coverage to more people under the Affordable Care Act, as 40 other states have done. White, the likely new speaker, has previously said he is open to at least considering the expansion pf Medicaid and studying health care issues closely during the session. Hosemann also has voiced support for at least the consideration of Medicaid expansion. Reeves has been a staunch opponent of Medicaid expansion.
Take our 2023 reader survey
Read original article by clicking here.