The legislature finished its work for the week and headed home yesterday. This week’s developments include:
Governor Reeves signed HB 1 last Thursday. HB 1 appropriates $18.4 million to cover the shortfall needed to fully fund the teacher pay raise passed by the legislature last spring.
Numerous comments have been made on social media this week regarding HB 21. Rep. Trey Lamar of Senatobia introduced this bill which provides significant pay raises (beginning in 2024) for statewide elected officials and the Speaker of the House. The bill has been referred to House Appropriations and must clear multiple hurdles in both the House and the Senate before being adopted.
Empower Mississippi hosted its school choice rally– complete with yellow scarves – at the capitol Tuesday. Elected officials did not speak at this year’s rally.
The Mississippi Association of School Superintendents (MASS) hosted its winter conference this week. Several legislative leaders, including Lt. Governor Hosemann, Senators DeBar and Blount, Speaker Gunn, and Rep. Bennett, attended the conference’s legislative luncheon Tuesday.
Senate Education met yesterday morning and passed SB 2001, the teacher pay raise bill. The legislation increases the starting pay for novice teachers (two years of experience and less) to $37,000, an increase of $1,110. The bill provides a $1,000 increase via the salary schedule for all other teachers and increases the minimum salary of assistant teachers from $14,000 to $15,000. While the $1,000 raise does not get salaries where they need to be, it is a step in the right direction, especially considering this is the first year of a four-year term and Lt. Governor Hosemann has repeatedly stated he intends to implement a multi-year pay increase plan. SB 2001 now heads to Senate Appropriations where I expect it to be approved.
A GoFundMe account was opened Wednesday on behalf of the four newly-elected legislators Speaker Gunn is trying to force to resign because he considers it double dipping for the representatives to draw their state retirement and legislative pay. As shared previously, Gunn will not authorize the retirees’ legislative pay to be reduced so as to comply with recent revisions to a PERS regulation which allows retirees to serve in the legislature and draw their retirement. Unfortunately, Rep. Ramona Blackledge, one of the four newly-elected legislators, has resigned effective today. As she wrote in her letter of resignation, “Now I am being forced to either relinquish my right to my retirement income or give up my right to continue legislative service because one man has the power and influence to prevent the will and vote of my district to prevail.” Donations to the GoFundMe account will help the duly elected legislators cover the cost of legal representation in this matter and will protect the policy for retirees who, in the future, wish to serve in the legislature and draw their retirement.