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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Lawmakers tackle redistricting, medical marijuana, teacher salaries, and tax reform

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Jackson, Miss (WLBT) – A busy day at the Capitol as the second week of the 2022 legislative session continues.

The morning began with the full Senate’s approval of the congressional redistricting plan. The Senate took more than an hour to debate the newly redrawn lines.

Congress District 2 was the only one of the four districts to lose population at the last census. Therefore, they had to find a way to bring more people to the area.

Some of the concerns raised by members of the House of Representatives last week surfaced again on Wednesday. Many senators are concerned that District 2 will not be compressed because the new lines extend nearly the entire length of the state.

“We’ve spent a lot of hours making sure it’s fair and yet it complies with federal guidelines,” Senator Dean Kirby said.

“I feel a court appeal is imminent,” Senator Derek Simmons noted. “At any time, you could just make up for the loss of the 65,000 residents in District 2 by taking every county a congressman’s home and adding a little Madison County and you could do that without expanding the land mass by picking the state’s four southwest counties. I think it would only lead to create a problem.”

Two amendments were unsuccessfully introduced in the Senate. He now goes to the governor for final approval.

Next, it was a crowded conference room for the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee where they took medical marijuana. After months of waiting, a medical marijuana bill is seeing the light of day in the state Capitol.

“It’s not a perfect bill, but we’ve tried to be conservative,” Senator Kevin Blackwill said. “We’ve tried to take initiative 65, intent 65, and keep that within that framework.”

Senate bill 2095The highlights are similar to what was revealed as lawmakers were waiting for the special session that never took place. The amount has been a recent talking point.

But negotiators were not affected by the speech.

Blackwell noted that “3.5 grams of a flower equals one unit.” “1 gram of concentrate equals one unit and 100 mg of the saturated product equals one unit.”

Another point of concern includes comparisons with Oklahoma.

“One legislator from Oklahoma came in and talked about the criminal companies coming in and buying all the land and so on in their state,” Senator Dennis DeBar noted.

Senator Kevin Blackwill says this proposed program is more restrictive.

“I had no requirements, for a license it was only $2,500,” Blackwill said of the Oklahoma plan. “Our fees are a lot more than that. And part of that is making sure we have a legitimate business coming in. They had both indoor and outdoor growth. We only grow indoors. They didn’t have a seed tracking system for sale. We do.”

The number of expected participants is also not as high according to Blackwell as the governor noted.

“We expect it to be about 25,000 in the first year and after five years it could be up to 125,000,” Blackwill said.

Some amendments were introduced, such as those made by Senator Barbara Blackmun.

Blackmun suggested that “growth is permitted on plantations as well as in utilities”.

But that and other modifications failed. The committee passed and could be considered by the full Senate on Thursday.

At the same time that the committee was taking up medical marijuana, the whole House was passing major legislation.

On Wednesday, they passed a teacher pay increase and a tax plan that would phase out the state income tax, lower sales tax on groceries and put a higher sales tax rate on other items.

We will continue to follow all of these bills as they still have a long way to go in the legislative process.

Copyright 2022 WLBT. All rights reserved.


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