House bills are now headed to the Senate

By TOM MILES,

The week of February 5 presented challenges as we worked through the House calendar to pass bills to the Senate for their consideration.

A measure I co-sponsored, House Bill 1198, mandates that health insurance policies must pay certain costs for individuals who are seeking fertility treatment. There are few things more heartbreaking to a family than having trouble conceiving. The expenses of medical help are often too much for families to pay out of pocket. I am very proud that the House showed such compassion and solid support for this idea. HB 1198 passed 82-27.

House Bill 326 was one of two measures concerning our firefighters that we passed to help these brave folks do their jobs more safely. This measure gives authority to county boards of supervisors to expend whatever funds are necessary to maintain and repair, to buy liability insurance and tags, decals and anything else necessary in the upkeep and use of equipment purchased through the Firefighter Property Program. It only makes sense that such large taxpayer investments should be appropriately maintained, especially if they are transporting men and women who are on their way to save others’ lives and property. HB326 passed unanimously with a vote of 118-0.

There is just something about flashing blue lights that gets people’s attention, and the House passed a measure to use these lights to help make responding fire trucks more visible from behind. Sometimes, it’s difficult to see a fire truck in the dark. I co-sponsored House Bill 49, which requires that fire trucks must be equipped with flashing blue lights on the rear of the vehicle. We believe this will offer these first responders more visibility and create a safer driving environment on the routes they travel. The House supported this idea by a vote of 112-1.

 Another step we took to create safer roadways was passing House Bill 80, which states that drivers cannot “cruise” in the left lanes of four-or-more laned roadways. We’ve all been in situations where we are stuck behind someone who is traveling at a slower rate of speed in the left lane and blocking the normal flow of traffic. I’m hopeful this will help prevent that habit, and the accidents it can cause. HB80 passed the House 97-27.

I supported House Bill 1083, which helped to clarify the laws regulating how and where citizens are allowed to carry guns. While this measure created some controversy in the House, many of us recognized that the need to be specific in these laws is important. I believe that the proper implementation of our right to bear arms is an essential component of a free society. This bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 80-29.

We voted on a Medicaid “technical bill,” which made some changes to the operation of Medicaid, most significantly requiring that Medicaid rebid its managed care contracts. This was a controversial step because the agency had just bid these contracts last summer. However, there was some concern that some provider bids were erroneously denied. Some of us tried to introduce amendments to require that Medicaid be a tool for making sure that all working families have access to health care. That idea was not approved by the House. One change that was introduced and accepted was to include the mandated treatment of addiction including, but not limited to, opioid addiction. House Bill 898 passed the House and has been transmitted to the Senate for action.

In a final effort on Friday, we tried to stop House Bill 1023 from being transmitted to the Senate by trying to hold it on a motion to reconsider. This bill basically guts the Mississippi Attorney General’s ability to protect consumers through law suits and other means. This makes no sense to me, considering that the state is currently embroiled in a big lawsuit against opioid manufacturers because they did not adequately or accurately warn people about the dangers of their drugs. Many families have been devastated by drug addiction — and many today are losing their sons and daughters because of addiction. In my opinion, we must maintain this important, protective function of our Attorney General’s Office. We were unsuccessful in our try. The House voted to send it to the Senate with 50 members voting “No.”

In the coming week we will start taking up appropriation bills and those filled in the Ways and Means Committee.