Mississippi’s legislative session to tackle everything from teacher pay raises to medical marijuana

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 5:54 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2022 at 6:45 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The 2022 Mississippi Legislature begins Tuesday and lawmakers are returning to a packed agenda.

The three-month session will begin at noon.

Legislators will be making decisions on everything from teacher pay raises to how the state will spend the $1.8 billion federal pandemic relief money.

Those funds must be spent on broad areas that include broadband infrastructure and water and sewer improvements.

This also includes programs related to health care to combat and recover from the pandemic.

The state’s lieutenant governor expects overseeing the allocation of the relief money to be one of the biggest challenges during the session.

Teacher pay raises may also be on the table. Something Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves has proposed in the past.

“My proposal at the beginning of this 4-year period was a $4,300 increase in total teacher pay,” said Reeves. “The legislature was overdue a-thousand of it last year. I’ve proposed the other $3,300 in my executive budget recommendation for this year.”

March 18 is the deadline to decide on amendments for appropriations and revenue bills as well as introducing local and private revenue bills.

Medical Marijuana is another big topic on the line.

Medical Marijuana in Mississippi has been a big fight for the past few years.

You may remember, in 2020, more than 74% of Mississippi voters approved Initiative 65, which allowed patients to purchase up to five ounces of medical marijuana every month.

However, that didn’t go anywhere when the state’s highest court overturned the initiative due to problems with the state’s ballot initiative process

Then the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act received bipartisan approval in September of last year but will still face the general assembly this session. Supporters of the bill were hoping a special session would be called to sign the bill into law.

Some pro-cannabis lawmakers and advocates also have concerns about the amendments being tacked onto it.

However, Reeves voiced concerns on the amount of marijuana allowed within the bill.

“As it’s most recently been drafted, would allow for up to 11 joints a day and I just think that’s too many,” said Reeves. “I think we ought to put limits on that to begin with. We’ve been talking to the legislative leadership about that and hopefully, we’ll be successful in convincing them that we ought to start conservatively, and we ought to start small.”

Reeves suggested cutting the amount allowed in half and to allow a pharmacist or doctor to make exceptions for patients who need more on a case-by-case basis.

With the plan on the table for a vote, it’s possible it could be put into law without Reeves’ approval.

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