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Progress limited in the Mississippi legislature

Just like every year, the Mississippi legislators did verbal battle with one other, inevitably voting along party line, over what they would accomplish in the 2023 session.

Some of the key issues were state versus city leadership, transgender youth care, ballot initiative and postpartum care.

Here’s our assessment of this legislative session.

Among the things we’re happy about:

  • Postpartum Medicaid Extension: SB 2212 is a huge win for Mississippi. 60% of births in Mississippi use Medicaid coverage. This will allow mothers to access necessary postpartum treatment and care, a crucial life-saving measure for a state with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.
  • Pink Tax: This year, we began our journey to eliminate the pink tax. The pink tax is a term primarily used for the cost of period products borne by women and people assigned female at birth, but it can also be a “tax” that affects products marketed to women (for example, pink razors cost more than men's razors). This year was our first step on that journey. We assisted in passing HB 1264, which requires public schools to provide menstruation products in bathrooms.
  • Ballot Initiative: Even though the legislature did not pass a ballot initiative bill this year, we count this as a win because there was constructive discussion and movement. We saw a coalition of progressive and conservative voices saying that the process the legislature was pushing was too onerous and too limited. Having a consensus with conservative voices lent strength to our position. We count this as a win. The SPLC Action Fund aims to build connections across the political spectrum to move Mississippi forward. The limitations of this year’s proposed ballot initiative is too high a price to pay.

Among the things we were disappointed about:

  • Anti-transgender Health care: This year we saw HB 1125 pass incredibly quickly. We fought this bill from the beginning. Unfortunately, we could not stop its passage. We worked with other organizations and let the subject matter experts in Mississippi direct the work and took a supporting role. We will continue to monitor the effects of this bill and lend our support to the advocates of Mississippi helping youth access the care they so desperately need and deserve.
  • Election bills: This year saw the passage of both HB 1310 and SB 2358. Senate Bill 2358 is an absentee ballot assistance ban. It prevents anyone who is not a postal worker or package service worker, a member of an absentee voter’s household, or direct family from returning their absentee ballot.
  • HB 1310 builds on HB 1510 from the 2022 session: This bill allows for the removal of people from active voter rolls if they are flagged by citizenship check, if election officials get any “reliable information” that a voter has moved from the address of their registration, or if they have not voted in the past two federal or past three state elections. Anyone flagged by the citizenship check must provide statutorily enumerated documents to prove their citizenship check, and anyone removed for residency issues must either vote in the next election (apparently by affidavit) or re-register to vote. The legislation doesn't appear to offer any precise mechanism for how to fix this alleged deficiency in registration.
  • HB 1020 and SB 2343: These two bills were the talk of the session, gaining national and international coverage around the legislature's treatment of Jackson. While the provisions in both bills were initially contained in HB 1020, at the end of the session the Capitol Police expansion was moved to SB 2343 and the Capital Complex Improvement District portion remained in HB 1020 along with the newly established CCID court system and the extension of the unelected “temporary” judge system in the 7th Circuit Court. These bills were heavily protested by the community at rallies and in hearings. It remains to be seen what effect these bills will have on the capital city and its citizens.

Photo at top: The "Our Mothers" statue outside the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson. The United Confederate Veterans erected the monument in 1917. (Credit: Rory Doyle/AFP via Getty Images)