The 2018 regular session of the Mississippi Legislature convened on January 2.
Lawmakers set the total budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 at $6.096 billion, $22 million above FY 2018. The legislature funded most state agencies, including IHL general support at the same level as last year. A few exceptions include: Education received a $4.1 million increase; Department of Health received a $2.3 million increase; and Department of Public Safety received a $2.3 million increase. The Division of Medicaid received a $1.7 million decrease.
Though IHL general support was level funded for FY 2019, Mississippi State University ag units received a 2% increase from FY 18. The appropriations include: MSU-Ag & Forestry Experiment Station received a $467,664 increase from FY 18; MSU-Cooperative Extension Service received a $614,341 increase from FY 18; MSU-Forest & Wildlife Research Center received a $115,833 increase from FY 18; and MSU-Veterinary Medicine received a $505,676 increase from FY 18. In addition, all health insurance premium increases were covered by the state in the FY 19 appropriations.
There were two bond bills that the legislators were considering in conference. House Bill 1649 ended up passing. The bond bill included $250 million for projects deemed to have statewide impact: universities, $82.5 million; community colleges, $25 million; local system bridge repair and rehabilitation program, $50 million; local sewer and drinking water revolving loan programs, $8 million; state agency improvements, $45 million. Senate Bill 3047, that was to authorize bonds for various other projects around the state died in conference.
Included in the $82.5 million for universities in the bond bill is $10 million for Mississippi State for Phase I of construction, furnishing and equipping of a new building and related facilities to house the Kinesiology Department. In addition, Mississippi State University/Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine received $4,172,500 for construction, furnishing and equipping of a new building and related facilities to house the Blackjack Forest and Wildlife Research Facility.
Thank you to Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and all legislative leaders for continuing to make IHL and Mississippi State University a priority for our state. We are grateful that our requests were heard and acted on appropriately for FY 2019.
The three major policy issues considered by the legislature during the session were infrastructure, the education funding formula, and the Medicaid program.
Both the Senate and the House passed versions of an infrastructure package that would have dedicated funding towards maintenance and repair of roads and bridges. Ultimately SB 3046 – the Building Roads, Improving Development and Growing the Economy (BRIDGE) Act made it to conference. However, the legislature failed to adopt a conference report and the measure died. We anticipate a special session in the next month or two to address our failing infrastructure.
Two years ago, the legislature hired a consulting company to study the state’s current funding formula for public education and to make recommendations on improving the formula. This year, the House passed HB 957 – Education; establish Mississippi Uniform Per Student Funding Formula Act of 2018. The Senate Education Committee passed the bill; however, in an unexpected turn of events, the bill died when a procedural motion to recommit the bill to committee passed, effectively killing the bill.
The legislators negotiated and worked all session long on SB 2836, the “Medicaid Technical Amendments” bill. In the last days of the session, the legislature adopted a conference report that extends the current statute. In addition, the bill directs the Medical Care Advisory Committee to develop recommendations relating to the authority of the division to formulate a five percent reduction in reimbursements. It creates a Commission on Expanding Medicaid managed care to study the impact of expanding managed care contracts to cover additional categories of Medicaid-eligible beneficiaries. The bill also authorizes Medicaid to reimburse eligible providers for treatment of opioid dependency and other highly addictive drugs and grants the director of the Division flexibility in determining limits on number of physician visits and prescriptions drugs, emergency medical transportation services, pharmacy services, and dental services.
The Legislature adjourned “Sine Die” on March 28.
We also want to thank Bucky Murphy for his years of service as Vice Chair, Government Affairs. His leadership and counsel are greatly appreciated, and I will do my best to continue the success of Bully Bloc’s government affairs team.
Stephen Clay, Vice Chair Government Affairs
“MISSISSIPPI’S UNIVERSITIES PLAY AN INVALUABLE ROLE – NOT ONLY IN EDUCATING OUR PEOPLE – BUT IN BUILDING A STRONGER ECONOMY. I’M PROUD WE WERE ABLE TO PROVIDE STEADY SUPPORT FOR MISSISSIPPI STATE THIS YEAR WHILE EMPHASIZING THE UNIVERSITY’S IMPORTANT RESEARCH PROGRAMS THAT IMPACT EVERYDAY CITIZENS.” – LT. GOV. TATE REEVES
“DURING THE 2018 SESSION, I WORKED VERY CLOSELY WITH DR. KEENUM TO ENSURE THE BOND BILL ADDRESSED THE NEEDS OF MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY,” SAID SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE PHILIP GUNN. “WE WERE EXTREMELY PLEASED TO REACH A DEAL THIS YEAR THAT WILL FOCUS ON THOSE NEEDS.”
Bully Bloc is a non-partisan political action committee not affiliated with Mississippi State University.