The legislative session is finally over. For the first three months of every year, our state lawmakers gather, debate, and pass laws to respond to the real and pressing needs of their constituents.
We spent 35 million taxpayer dollars this year to fund the Legislature so it could do this important work. And there is no lack of work to be done when Mississippi ranks last on most measurable metrics of a prosperous society. So, how did legislators make use of their time and our money this year?
Attacking Trans Youth: HB 1125
HB 1125 was created to prohibit gender-affirming care for trans youth under 18 in Mississippi. Under this new law, medical professionals, parents, and others who help trans minors access gender-affirming care like hormone therapy or puberty blockers could be held civilly liable by the Attorney General of Mississippi. This law defies science and decency, contradicting the advice of every major medical association in the United States just to attack the small handful of trans kids who’ve sought care in our state.
Learn more about HB 1125 here.
Another year, another attempt by the State of Mississippi to subvert local leadership in our capital city. Introduced by legislators from Senatobia and Lamar County, HB 1020 and SB 2343 encode a radical overreach by state lawmakers onto a municipality they have no business interfering with. No local input or expert testimony was solicited until a public hearing for HB 1020 in March, which the sponsors of these bills chose not to attend.
Between them, these two laws create an unaccountable court system within Jackson’s Capitol Complex Improvement District, set up four temporary judicial positions in Hinds County’s 7th Circuit, divert sales tax from Jackson’s poorest areas to its wealthiest, give Capitol Police concurrent jurisdiction with the Jackson Police Department over all of Jackson, and require written authorization from the Capitol Chief or Department of Public Safety Commissioner for all public events (including protest) that happen near a state building.
Jacksonians want a safer city more than anyone, but this is not what real public safety looks like.
Learn more about HB 1020 and SB 2343 here.
Censoring Digital Libraries: HB 1315
The distribution of obscene materials to minors is strictly prohibited under federal law. Still, Mississippi lawmakers took the time to draft and pass a redundant state law that covers similar ground. HB 1315 requires any vendor, person, or entity that provides digital or online content to incorporate polices that block “material harmful to minors.” Unlike the federal law, Mississippi’s law expands the definition of a minor to all youth under 18. HB 1315’s ban also applies to a broad and poorly defined range of materials: content for “the prurient interest,” content that “lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” and “sexually oriented” content.
This language is so vague it could be used to censor anything from digital books with LGBTQ+ characters to all of TikTok. The law’s collateral effects could include removing essential texts from online search catalogs and threatening Mississippi Library Commission’s grant eligibility. What interpretation the Attorney General will use to enforce HB 1315 remains an open question.
Learn more about defending your right to read and learn here.
Wasting Money on Nonexistent Voter Fraud: HB 1310
HB 1310 allows the Secretary of State to use outdated databases to conduct expensive audits of the voter roll and weed out non-citizen voters. The thing is, there are no non-citizen voters. A study of non-citizen electoral fraud found that “the rate of non-citizen voting in the United States is likely zero.” HB 1310 also includes a “use it or lose it” policy that purges lawfully registered voters if they don’t vote or update their registration during or between presidential elections.
This law does nothing but waste our money on solutions in search of imaginary problems, creating new problems in the process.
Learn more about common-sense voting reforms to make Mississippi's elections more free, accessible, and representative here.
Failing to Reinstate a Ballot Initiative Process: Senate Concurrent Resolution 533
Mississippi voters have not had the ability to amend the state constitution, change or create state law since 2021, when the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the state’s ballot initiative process. SCR 533 was a means to restore that process—though with a lot of caveats. Under SCR 533, Mississippians could only vote on initiatives to change or create state laws (we could no longer amend the state constitution ourselves), and the Legislature retained the power to veto or amend the People’s ballot initiatives. Partisan carve-outs also prohibited ballot initiatives on certain issues like abortion.
With all these restrictions, SCR 533 was far from a full restoration of our right to access the ballot initiative process. But it was something. Instead of taking this flawed but necessary step forward, however, state lawmakers wasted three months of negotiation only to let SCR 533 die at the last moment, leaving Mississippians without any means to directly exercise our democratic will over state law.
Not happy with what you're reading?
Neither are we. The good news is that legislators are elected officials, and 2023 is an election year for legislators in Mississippi. That means We the People have the power to turn things around.
Look up your state legislators and see what laws they used your tax money to push for. If you don't like what you see and are eligable to vote, make sure you're registered and vote your voice. Primary elections are August 8 and the general election is November 7. See you at the polls!
- Mississippi Legislative Budget Office, Publications
- American Medical Association, Everyone deserves quality medical care delivered without bias
- Electoral Studies, The perils of cherry picking low frequency events in large sample surveys
- U.S. Department of Justice, Obscenity
- The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, Supreme Court Kills Mississippi’s Ballot Initiative Process