JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Tuesday was a deadline day at the State Capitol.
Several bills effectively died on the calendar for the year because no action was taken on them. The legislative session had just started when the news of the DHS embezzlement case broke.
With it being a deadline day, we wanted to check in on the status of the bills that were filed in response to that situation.
There’s a new microscope on what Mississippi’s doing with federal dollars. Rep. Jarvis Dortch and other House members filed several bills proposing TANF reforms they said would help families in need and bring needed transparency to state spending. None of those bills survived deadline day.
“You can put controls on TANF spending if the legislature has any interest in doing that," noted Dortch. "This is one of the problems with block granting any kind of program especially if a legislature is unwilling to do the hard work and decide where that money needs to go. They’re basically creating a slush fund that people in the executive offices can use for their own personal gain.”
Sen. Angela Turner-Ford also filed legislation attempting to add oversight to the process. Again, it was never brought out of committee.
“I think that that does come down to political will," explained Sen. Turner-Ford. "We have to make sure that taxpayer dollars are protected. And of course in order to do that you have to have the numbers. You need the support. So, if the numbers are going to remain the same and the policies are going to remain the same... you have to anticipate that maybe this could happen again and that’s not good.”
Those same lawmakers criticized a bill that has advanced. They say it would allow recipients of programs like Medicaid or TANF to be audited. The bill sponsor says the bill was intended to help the Auditor’s office comply with a federal rule.
“To review, not audit, but would review tax returns that are in the Dept. of Revenue’s possession and compare them to the applications that were submitted," said Sen. Josh Harkins. "So, people that were saying I need Medicaid assistance because I don’t make enough money... they’re going to basically take a small sample size and see what percentage of the people that have filed tax returns actually match up with the application they put in.”
Others bills that have advanced are a teacher pay raise, equal pay, and amending the state hate crime laws to include disabilities, sexual orientation and gender identity.