Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus releases 2023 policy agenda

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 7:20 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Lawmakers get a lot of requests each session. And today’s calls to action are from some of their own. The legislative black caucus is hoping their fellow members won’t throw away their ideas. But instead, realize many of them are tied to ongoing problems.

“These are our legislative positions,” said Sen. Angela Turner-Ford, Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Chair. “But to be frank with you, these are common sense ideas.”

The Legislative Black Caucus wants to be heard.

“You have the minority representation of the legislature. We simply do not have the numbers to impact the process the way that we would like, but that does not mean we are not working.”

Still, they think their agenda is one that can benefit everyone in the state.

“We believe in fairness, and health care is an issue of fairness,” noted Rep. Omeria Scott. “Having the ability to vote once you have served your time and paid your dues to society is an issue of fairness. A child being able to have broadband and clean water those are issues of fairness.”

Republican leaders have said they believe that at least short-term funding to help to fail hospitals is possible this session. This caucus isn’t ruling that out but they don’t think it’s enough.

“Medicaid expansion for us is the position,” said Turner-Ford.

Rep. Bryant Clark has already filed a bill seeking to make that happen.

“I’m optimistic, cautiously optimistic that this year we get some traction on the Medicaid bill, to expand Medicaid,” explained Clark. “I hope that we also take heed to the writing on the wall and go ahead on and do what almost every other state in the union has already done.”

Another direct impact for Mississippians involves returning their voice in the form of a ballot initiative process. They don’t think they need to reinvent the wheel.

“It was a technical error with five congressional districts, and we only have four. But these people have brought you a whole new program to confuse the people, the people understand how to work this process. So let’s get in here, do the four congressional districts so that the people can get their way.”

One area where the caucus is encouraged with the steps already being taken is criminal justice reforms. But they believe there’s more work to be done.

The full policy agenda for the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus includes:

  • Healthcare (Medicaid expansion under Affordable Care Act)
  • Education (Full funding of MAEP, increasing teacher pay and more funding for subject area coaches in Mississippi classrooms, directing MDE be directed to disseminate information about 24-hour tutoring program and other academic supports to schools and parents)
  • Critical infrastructure (Make incentives available to broadband providers to connect under-served communities, and ensure every home in the state has clean drinking water)
  • Election reform (Implement early voting, fully restore voting rights of convicted felons who are no longer incarcerated)
  • Restoration of the ballot initiative and referendum process (Insert language that allows for modification of the number of congressional districts after each redistricting cycle)
  • Economic justice and racial equality (Address discriminatory practices in hiring, banking, and finance and make a loss of employment based on the way a person styles his or her hair illegal, make Juneteenth an official state holiday)
  • Criminal justice reform (Release incarcerated persons for non-violent offenses, examine and modify laws around juveniles sentenced to life without parole and habitual offenders, make simple possession of marijuana carry civil penalties only now that the medical cannabis program has been enacted)
  • TANF reform (Proposes a governing board be instituted to oversee TANF dollars and help MDHS administer appropriations received from the federal government in a manner that is fair and equitable)
  • ARPA funding (Proposes remaining ARPA funds be appropriated to the cities and counties that did not receive enough funds to complete critical water and sewer projects)

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