Busy day at the Capitol: Lawmakers tackling redistricting, medical marijuana, teacher pay and tax reform

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 8:44 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A busy day at the State Capitol as week two of the 2022 legislative session continues.

The morning started with the full Senate passing the congressional redistricting plan. The Senate took more than an hour debating the newly redrawn lines.

Congressional District 2 was the only one of the four that lost population in the last census. So, they had to find a way to bring more people into the district.

Some of the concerns raised by House members last week came up again Wednesday. Several Senators worry that District 2 would no longer be compact because the new lines stretch nearly the full length of the state.

”We spent a lot of hours making sure it was fair and yet complying with the federal guidelines,” said Senator Dean Kirby.

”I feel like a court challenge is imminent,” noted Senator Derrick Simmons. “Anytime you can just pick up the 65,000 population loss in District 2 by picking up all of that congressman’s home county and adding a little of Madison County and you can do that without extending land mass by picking up the southwestern most four counties of the state. I think it’s just going to create a problem.”

Two amendments were unsuccessfully offered in the Senate. It now goes to the Governor for final approval.

Then, it was a packed committee room for the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee where they took up medical marijuana. After months of waiting, the medical marijuana bill is seeing the light of day at the State Capitol.

“It’s not a perfect bill, but we’ve tried to be conservative,” said Senator Kevin Blackwell. “We tried to take Initiative 65, the intent of 65, and keep that within this framework.”

Senate bill 2095′s highlights are similar to what’s been revealed as lawmakers awaited the special session that was never called. The amount has been a recent point of debate.

But negotiators haven’t been swayed by the rhetoric.

“3.5 grams of flower equals one unit,” noted Blackwell. “1 gram of concentrate equals one unit and 100 mg of an infused product equals one unit.”

Another point of concern involves comparisons to Oklahoma.

“An Oklahoma legislator came in and talked about criminal enterprises coming in and buying up all the land and so forth in their state,” noted Sen. Dennis DeBar.

Sen. Kevin Blackwell says this proposed program is much more restrictive.

“Had no requirements, to get a license was only $2,500,” Blackwell said of Oklahoma’s plan. “Our fees are substantially more than that. And part of that is to make sure that we have legitimate businesses coming in. They had indoor and outdoor growth. We’re only growing indoor. They did not have a seed to sale tracking system. We do.”

The numbers of anticipated participants is also not as high according to Blackwell as the Governor has referenced.

“We’re anticipating may be about 25,000 the first year and after five years may be up to 125,000 people,” said Blackwell.

Some amendments were offered like one from Sen. Barbara Blackmon.

“Growing be allowed at farms as well as in facilities,” Blackmon suggested.

But that and other amendments failed. It passed the committee and could be taken up by the full Senate as early as Thursday.

At the same time the committee was taking up medical marijuana, the full House was passing out major pieces of legislation.

Wednesday, they passed a teacher pay raise and a tax plan that would phase out the state income tax, reduce sales tax on groceries and set a higher sales tax rate on other items.

We’ll keep following all of these bills as they still have a long way to go in the legislative process.

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