2018 State Legislature Session Completed, Insights from 3 DeSoto County Members of the State Legislature

Jackson, MS

By:  Arthur Randallson, Editor

On Wednesday afternoon, March 28, the Mississippi State Legislature concluded its annual three-month legislative season in Jackson, right before Holy Thursday and Good Friday.  State Senators and State Representatives returned home and were able to spend Easter weekend with their families.

The DeSoto County Newsroom heard from three local members of the State Legislature.

Senator David Parker (R-DeSoto, District 2) said this year proved to be “an active session.”  Dr. Parker, an optometrist and the owner of Olive Branch Eyecare, wrote 3 bills that will become law.  Governor Bryant has already approved the first two of these three bills.  As summarized by Senator Parker, they are:

“Senate Bill 2220 which makes it easier for our community college to get funding in a timely manner.

Senate Bill 2644 which changed the qualifications for Executive Direction of Veteran Affairs to allow inclusion of members of the National Guard.

Senate Bill 2663 which clarified court ordered drug testing as a response to the Opioid Crisis in our state.”

As Chairman of the legislature’s Veteran and Military Affairs Committee, Senator Parker helped to pass “a funding initiative in partnership with the state and federal government to bring a new, state of the art National Guard Armory to DeSoto County,” he said.  Details of DeSoto County’s upcoming National Guard Armory will be released later.  Also, Senator Parker said he and his committee “fully funded the requests of both the military department and veteran affairs.”

On a subject that generated national attention, Senator Parker mentioned a pro-life highlight of the state legislature passing “a bill to limit abortions in the state to only the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.”  Senator Parker concluded, “it has again been an honor to represent the people of DeSoto County this year!”

Representative Jeff Hale (R-DeSoto, District 24) also mentioned the pro-life bill:  “One of the most notable pieces of legislation this session was a law to prohibit abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.  This will be the most restrictive abortion law in the country.”

Rep. Hale gave a summary of vehicle-themed legislation passed this session:

“The failure to have mandatory motor vehicle liability insurance will now be a criminal offense instead of a civil violation.

Transport of unopened beer and light wine on state and federal highways in dry areas of the state will now be allowed.  Municipalities that have voted to permit the sale and consumption of alcohol will also be able to establish leisure and recreation districts, which will allow consumers to walk from place to place with alcohol within a designated area.

The Kaelin Kersh Act will require that any operator of an emergency vehicle must use the vehicle’s blinking or rotating lights when traveling at a speed faster than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit.”

Rep. Hale said a solid amount of time was devoted to Medicaid.  The state legislature decides what the state will add, on top of the federal Medicare.

“This year, members adopted legislation that mandates that managed care companies pay the same reimbursement rate as the legislature-set rates for Medicaid.  The new law deletes the annual limit on physician visits, home health service visits and the monthly prescription limit. It will also provide reimbursement for treatment for those experiencing opioid dependency, provide payment options for rural hospitals and reimbursements for OB/GYNs and psychiatrists,” Representative Hale said.  “Pharmacists will now be able to provide additional information to patients about affordable options for medication.”

In addition, the state legislature got tougher about dog fighting in the state.  A bill passed this year includes punishments for owning or having anything to do with “paraphernalia for the purpose of dog fighting,” Rep. Hale explained.  “The bill sets the maximum penalty for dog fighting at a fine of $10,000 or 10 years in the State Penitentiary.”

Representative Dana Criswell (R-DeSoto, District 6) authored House Bill 668, a civil rights bill, which he co-sponsored with Representatives Abe Hudson, Jr. (D-Bolivar/Sunflower, District 29) and Kabir Karriem (D-Lowndes, District 41).  The passage of this bill officially repeals multiple sections in the Mississippi Code that came down hard on “vagrancy” and “persons defined as tramps.”

Representative Criswell said, “These laws gave law enforcement broad authority to arrest citizens without proof they violated any law.  If declared a vagrant or tramp, a citizen could lose their right to possess a firearm without due process.”  After discussions with Rep. Hudson, Rep. Criswell explained that he “discovered these laws were used in the past to arrest black citizens without just cause.”  In partnering with Rep. Hudson and members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. Criswell is “proud to be a part of making our state a better place for all our citizens.”