By Tommy Reynolds
Sometimes those of us who are in the legislature are able to work together to pass bills that most legislators can agree on. We had such an opportunity last week and we were able to help our veterans in the process.
I strongly supported and co-sponsored House Bill 1322, which was unanimously approved by the House and sent to the Senate. The measure provides tax credits for businesses that hire our returning servicemen and women.
We have been saddened to learn that so many of the men and women fighting for the survival and safety of our country have returned home only to find no jobs available for them. In October, it was estimated that 250,000 post 9/11 veterans were unemployed. According to the U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 6.9 percent of returning service people were unemployed in September.
While the overall unemployment rates for veterans continues to fall, we should note that the issue is even more disturbing for women. Almost 20 percent of women service members did not have jobs when they returned from the service, according to figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in October.
The steady decline in the overall number of unemployed veterans from highs of 10 and 11 percent in 2011 to the current rates may be partially attributable to the efforts of the Federal Government’s program, “Joining Forces,” which encourages businesses to hire and train returning veterans. But the rates are still too high.
HB 1322 takes it a step further and offers Missis-sippi businesses a tax credit of $2,000 per year, per veteran. To claim the tax credit, taxpayers are required to employ the veteran for at least six months of the year in which the credit is claimed and to insure the individual works at least 30 hours per week.
The time period for hiring the veterans runs from the date the measure passes both chambers and runs through January 1, 2016. Additionally, the tax credits claimed under the section may be carried forward for five years past the January 2016 termination date of the credit allowance.
The incentive should help more businesses hire veterans and, in turn, help veterans provide for their families. This is just a small gesture of appreciation from the State of Mississippi to those who have given so much to us and our nation. I think it is important that we honor their contributions in this way, and I was pleased to help.
House Bill 1322 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Another measure which I co-sponsored that should result in a cooperative passage by House members is the revision of the Mississippi Human Traffick-ing Act (House Bill 673). This measure seeks to enhance identification and punishment for those who trade in human beings, a crime which most often results in the sexual abuse of its victims.
The Attorney General’s Office tells us that the human trafficking enterprise is one of the top three criminal activities in the world – right up there with the illegal drug trade. While many of us may believe this activity exists only in foreign countries or large urban areas, we are assured that it exists right here in Mississippi.
The domestic violence shelters are reporting that they are helping trafficking victims all over the state. One shelter in the central area has provided help for several victims during the past year.
I also sponsored a similar measure at the beginning of the session just to make sure we would be able to act to protect the victims of trafficking here in Mississippi. Those of us who attended the National Conference of State Legislators meeting in Washington, D. C. were made very aware of the crime’s presence in our country and offered suggestions on how to combat it.
Please contact me on these or any other issues at 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.. I can also be reached by telephone at (662) 473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you.