Proposed bill hopes to encourage college grades to stay in MS

By MISSY MCGEE,

The fifth week of the 2019 legislative session proved to be the busiest thus far. Committee meetings to discuss House bills wrapped up early in the week because of the recent general bills deadline.

The House convened late last week to discuss the legislation that made it to the calendar and during these days, many pieces of legislation were considered.

I was pleased that HB 816, the Mississippi Educational Talent Recruitment Act, which I co-authored with Representative Trey Lamar (Senatobia) passed the House, which seeks to keep our young college graduates in the state. 

Often referred to as “brain drain,” this was an issue that I talked about frequently in my campaign.

I have often said we must find ways to encourage recent college graduates to stay in our state and make a life and career for themselves.

If enacted into law, this bill would provide an income rebate of 50 percent of an individual’s state income taxes for recent graduates of colleges and other post-graduate degree programs if they stay in Mississippi for at least five years. 

If they purchase a home, buy a business that employees at least one additional employee or become a teacher, they will receive 100 percent of the state income tax they paid after a five year period.

This also includes natives from other states who move to Mississippi upon graduation and meet conditions of the program.

Proponents of the bill said tax incentives would give talented individuals a reason to stay in the state and that five years is enough time to “put down roots.”

The bill passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 111-2.

Another debated bill was HB 623, which amends current law to exempt school districts with an “A” or “B” accountability rating from performing certain duties imposed on other school districts around the state.

Some of these duties include reporting student grades to the Department of Education, participating in the Department of Education’s textbook selection process, completing surveys and some continuing education requirements for teachers.

Through an established grant program, “A” and “B” schools would also be allowed to offer certain incentives for eligible teachers, such as loan forgiveness and housing assistance.

I believed this bill would further disadvantage students in “C,” “D” and “F” school districts and I ultimately voted against the bill. 

I further believed that the teacher incentives would make it harder for lower rated schools to recruit good teachers.

The bill eventually passed the House 85-28.

I was honored to handle on the floor HB 677 which allows any witness to report a vehicle overtaking a school bus while it is loading or unloading children.

Current law states that the offense must be witnessed by a member of law enforcement or by the school bus driver in order for it to be reported. 

This bill provides that anyone may be able to report someone that unlawfully passes a school bus.

The bill would also allow a bus driver to prevent being overtaken by blocking the two outermost lanes of traffic. The origin of the bill stems from several children in Mississippi and around the United States who have been hit and killed by someone failing to yield for a stopped school bus in the last year.

 The bill passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 113-4.

I was very pleased that we passed HB 334, the Rivers McGraw Mental Health Court Act, which authorizes the creation of mental health courts throughout the state.

In Hattiesburg, we have been recognized for the successful mental health court that is run through the Hattiesburg Municipal Court in partnership with Pine Belt Mental Health.

There is a critical need for our judicial process to be more responsive and understanding of the needs of defendants with mental illness, all while maintaining public safety and protecting our court system.

In hopes of reducing the number of future criminal justice interactions with offenders who have mental illnesses, reducing the inappropriate institutionalization of people with mental illnesses, and linking the criminal justice and mental health systems.

The ability to create certified mental health courts is a step in the right direction to protect all parties involved and help ensure offenders get the appropriate mental health treatments they need.

It was also my honor to author House Resolution 29 which designated February 1 as “Wear Red Day.” Many thanks for all those who showed up at the State Capitol this week to raise awareness for women’s heart health.

Floor debate will continue on general bills until this Thursday, Feb. 14, which is the deadline for all bills on the House calendar to be considered. 

If bills are not taken up by Thursday, the bill will “die on the calendar.”

The Capitol was full of visitors this week.  It was great to see lots of friends from Hattiesburg including those with the Mississippi Realtors and some outstanding Hattiesburg students who attend the Mississippi School of Math and Science.

 

State Rep. Missy McGee, a Republican, represents the citizens of House District 102. Send her an email to: mmcgee@house.ms.gov.