Last week’s major deadline was on Tuesday when House members either voted to approve Senate bills that had been sent our way or allowed them to die in committee. More than 40 surviving measures were debated on the House floor.
I am particularly encouraged that the Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Act (SB 2725) passed by a vote of 105-9. Agriculture is Mississippi’s number one industry, and by passing Senate Bill 2725, the House made strides to increase the diversity of our crop production in a way that hasn’t been visited here in over half a century.
The measure was amended to provide appropriations from sources other than those mandated by the legislature to expand the flexibility needed for farmers to initiate this new crop opportunity as soon as possible. The bill will go back to the Senate, which can approve our change, or invite conference. With the kind of bi-partisan, enthusiastic support of this effort that I’ve seen at the Capitol, I believe we should see this new boon to our agricultural economy sooner than later.
You may recall that I had advocated for such a bill early in the session and, in fact, authored a House measure (HB 1208) to accomplish this important economic development opportunity for our state. It passed overwhelmingly; however, the Senate chose to send us their version, and we approved it.
Like my bill, Senate Bill 2725 authorizes and legalizes the cultivation, processing and transportation of industrial hemp. This kind of hemp doesn’t have the mind-affecting qualities of its cousin marijuana; rather, it is a crop that has been cultivated for thousands of years to produce fiber for canvas, rope, paper and even clothing.
In fact, it is believed the Chinese were making clothing from hemp as early as the second century B.C. Even the Vikings are said to have used the strong fibers to construct their ships’ canvas sails and ropes. Hemp was a favorite crop of President George Washington, who cultivated it and wrote about it over 90 times as a planter at Mount Vernon.
Today, the North American Industrial Hemp Council touts 25,000 products made from this very useful plant, including “rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel.”
I am proud that Mississippi farmers now have the chance to receive the benefits of growing this useful crop.
We also addressed some of the issues in our prison system by passing the Mississippi Correctional Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2020 (Senate Bill 2123). It was one of the most discussed bills on the floor this week and amends certain code sections regarding parole eligibility requirements. Proponents of the bill called it a step towards criminal justice reform in the state. The bill passed by a vote of 73-35 and has been returned to the Senate.
The deadline for general Senate bills to be passed out of the House is next Wednesday, June 17.
In answer to the question concerning the length and dates of the current session which has been disrupted by COVID-19, we voted to concur on House Concurrent Resolution 69, which was initially passed by the House two weeks ago. HCR 69 extends the session in 30-day increments as necessary beginning July 10; Dec. 31 would be the latest possible day for sine die. This would allow the Legislature to take up coronavirus-related legislation without having to rely on a special session. The amended measure has been sent back to the Senate for concurrence.
On Thursday morning, the House welcomed Meridian native Todd Tilghman, the most recent winner of NBC’s The Voice. House Concurrent Resolution 74 was introduced congratulating Pastor Tilghman on his victory and recognizing his positive representation of Mississippi. HC 74 passed unanimously by a vote of 116-0.
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