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Mississippi Senate passes multiple bills including teacher loan repayment, voting machine standards

Updated: Feb. 4, 2021 at 9:11 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi legislature is moving on to floor debates this week after the first major deadline to get bills passed out of committee. Several bills were passed in both chambers Thursday. Here are some of the Senate highlights.

EDUCATION

Mississippi teachers are again the target of some pending legislation. The Senate’s already passed a pay raise for teachers, but it’s now turning attention to the lack of teachers in the classroom. Senate Bill 2305 would provide some financial relief.

“We say to those young people graduating from college, if you agree to come teach in a Mississippi school, we will pay down your student loan debt,” explained Sen. David Blount.

That amount would be higher if the teacher located in a critical shortage district.

“Is the idea to pay back the entirety of these teachers loans overtime?” asked Sen. Chris McDaniel. “Is that the idea?”

“No, it is not,” responded Blount. “If you, under what we’re proposing, and again these numbers are subject to change… if you go to a non-critical needs shortage district and become a teacher, the amount that goes to pay down your college loans would be $10,500.”

The three year program would be as follows:

Critical shortage district

Year 1: $4,500

Year 2: $5,500

Year 3: $6,500

Non-critical shortage district

Year 1: $2,500

Year 2: $3,500

Year 3: $4,500

“We had less licensed last year than we have in almost any year and some of that, I think, is motivated by monetary concerns,” said Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann of licensed teachers. “And we are addressing those monetary concerns.”

SB 2305 passed by a vote of 47-2.

Senate Bill 2267 passed. It requires the Mississippi Department of Education to issue a Mississippi license to any teacher who has a valid out-of-state license within 14 days of receiving their application. Teachers receiving reciprocity would still be subject to a background check before being hired by a district under a separate statute.

TANF

Another bill would increase money going to some Mississippians but not take a bite out of the state budget. Senate Bill 2759 would increase the monthly check for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF for the first time in 21 years.

“The legislation before you propose is raising that monthly benefit amount by $90 per month,” said Sen. Joey Fillingane.

“How did we determine the amount for the increase?” asked Sen. Angela Turner-Ford.

“This doesn’t impact any state dollars,” explained Sen. Fillingane. “These are all federal dollars but if you take too many then you do start impacting other programs that they operate.”

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

ELECTIONS

Senate Bill 2113 would ensure that counties are selecting machines that meet national standards. It requires they have a certification by the United States Election Assistance Commission.

“Make sure your machine operates, can’t be hacked. As you know, we’re not attached to the internet on our machines… all those things come into play,” said Lt. Gov. Hosemann.

“We’ve just got to do whatever we can to provide confidence for people to vote,” noted Sen. Angela Hill.

Both the House and Senate will continue floor debates in the coming days.

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