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Under the Dome, Week 1 | First Things First

It’s the most wonderful time of the yearrr! Wait. The holidays are over, and we have entered a new year. If you identify as a Mississippi politico, advocate, special interest watchdog, lobbyist or concerned citizen, the new year signifies the commencement of the Mississippi Legislative session. Time to buckle up, thicken your skin, play defense (or offense) on your issue of choice. You’re doing this all while trying to brighten Mississippi’s future and not set us any further back. We really can’t afford to go back any further.

We hope these updates will help you stay woke, wake others up and, ultimately, build on the momentum of the powerful force Black women were and are. (When you’re woke, don’t forget to take power naps.) When we don’t have a seat at the table, we must do like our foremother, Shirley Chisholm, and take our own.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions on our Facebook page about things that are happening, especially if you need clarification on issues or topics we mention in this and future Under the Dome updates.

On My Toes The 132nd Mississippi State Legislature began the third session in its four-year term Tuesday, January 2, 2018, on a blistering cold 34-degree-Jackson afternoon. (I mean, I had to walk from my car to the Capitol without a proper coat. It was awful and not foreshadowing, I hope.) Special elections brought in four new House members from Hattiesburg, Picayune, Starkville and Vicksburg.  The first week is generally a lighthearted, slow-moving week with lobbyists introducing their clients/companies and legislative agendas.

We’d typically expect to see the only real House and Senate legislation introduced in the first week be a resolution-based acknowledgement of the death of a longtime public servant or promotion of a state servant, for example. But not this year!

Instead of business as usual and in the beginning of the first short week of the session, legislators, lobbyists and the press corps all seemed to feel pressure to keep up. (Catch up maybe?) The deadline to file general bills and legislation is Monday, January 15, 2018. Why the rush? There’s definitely an appropriate gif that goes here.

I Wish We’d All Been Ready

  1.  Hundreds of bills were introduced in the House and referred to committees that met and approved three to four bills. (One can only imagine certain committee members had advanced access to the legislation.)

  2. The Transportation Committee Chair asked for more time to prepare for a Wednesday (yes, one day after Tuesday’s noon convening) committee meeting because he wasn’t ready to meet or vote Wednesday without time to read or at least review a 104-page piece of legislation.

  3. It was apparent the bills the transportation committee passed were decided on in advance of the MEC convening on Thursday. Of the few bills that emerged from committee meetings, infrastructure seemed to be the theme (with most allocating funds specifically for roads and bridges), which was disputed and mostly unfunded during the 2017 legislative session.

  4. With any legislation introduced, a legislator’s ability to read and understand new legislation is key in forming an opinion and allows for proper debate on an issue. And on many occasions, it allows for the lawmakers to gain support, amend the legislation to help and not harm Mississippians. At least that is supposed to be the process.

If these four bullets are any indication of how the session is going to be, then we’d better hold on to our lace-fronts and afro picks and keep our phones handy because people and organizations that care about the things we care about may be giving us to calls to action as soon as next week.

Here’s the bottom line: This session, like all others, will be über important. And while the aforementioned legislation isn’t necessarily sexy, it gives us a clue about how other issues might be handled.

Inside Looking Out

  1. Human rights and gender equality

  2. Reproductive rights/justice

  3. Education (early childhood, K-12 and higher education funding, with a keen focus on funding, access to adequate education for all, infrastructure in rural/under-resourced school districts and opposition to diversion of local, state, and federal dollars toward the privatization of public education)

  4. Health care (access to care, specifically distance and quality of care, adequate coverage—physical and mental—for all)

  5. Economic development (especially opportunities for young women in college, recent graduates and/or skilled laborers)

Our reason for tracking the chosen issues are simple. They are important to Mississippi girls, young women and the families from which they come. These issues have the potential to affect us all in some way, from the agency we have over our own bodies to expenses, how we choose to care for them and, likewise, for those we care about deeply.

I Cram to Understand U We want you to be as engaged and actionable as you’d like to be, navigate the information we provide. This update may be enough for you; it may not be. To stay on top of updates, we offer the following tips for following the 2018 Legislative Session:

  1. Understand how a bill becomes a law. Most people don’t understand the process and that is quite alright. That Schoolhouse Rock video was a long time ago, was about the federal government and it missed a thing or two.

  2. Know your legislator. There’s a link to help with that. You probably want to do that, if you’ll be reading this every week.

  3. Know how your state representative and state senator votes on issues that concern you. Enter your zip code, choose your legislator and use the drop down menu to choose a bill or leave it blank to see how they voted on any piece of legislation.

  4. Follow legislative floor action play by play by watching the webcast. This can be time consuming, but if you are not familiar with the process (even after reading how a bill becomes a law), it’s helpful. It’s also often a source of entertainment (especially when Rep. Steve Holland takes the mic!). Unfortunately, we can’t see or hear committee meetings, but we’ll be there and promise to keep you updated.

  5. If you are active on social media, follow the official Mississippi Legislative Session hashtag #msleg. Beware, though. The hashtag is a bit of a rabbit hole.

Next Look for weekly updates from us and encourage your friends and family to follow us too. After all, I’ll be at this until April 1, when the regular session ends). Is that a joke or what?! Until soon …


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