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EMPOWER Mississippi!!!

The Mississippi legislature recently concluded the 2021 session, and we are excited about the progress on a number of issues.

We believe there is dignity in work and all Mississippians can be contributors if we remove barriers to getting a good job. And the legislature did this through a number of bills this session.

Mississippi became the first state in the South to adopt universal licensing recognition with House Bill 1263. This means that when a licensed professional moves to Mississippi they will not have to jump through government red tape to begin working. For a state with the lowest workforce participation rate in the country, this is a great step.

The legislature is also making it easier to work in a number of professions in the cosmetology field. This includes eyebrow threaders, makeup artists, and those that apply eyelash extensions. These are safe practices that do not involve cutting, coloring, or chemically treating hair, but previously required a license that cost time and money for training that often wasn’t related to the actual work.

Because of this change, entrepreneurs like Karrece Stewart will now able to follow her dreams without burdensome licensing requirements.

“For most of my life, I wanted to have my own business as a makeup artist,” Stewart said. “But Mississippi’s laws that required a license that was unrelated to the profession made that dream impossible. It was cost and time prohibitive. With this change, I will now be able to start a business, better provide for my family, and help give women the confidence they need to see themselves in a different way.”

In another significant move, the legislature continued their path toward reforming the state’s justice system.

Senate Bill 2795 will provide parole eligibility for a new category of offenses.

Parole eligibility does not mean automatic release. It means their case will go before the Parole Board, a five-member board appointed by the governor, before a decision is made. I recently talked with the board about what goes into each decision. No decision is made lightly. Public safety is their number one concern.

“We look to see if they are likely to get out and harm someone else. If I feel like they are a danger to the public, I will vote not to parole,” said Jim Cooper, a board member.

On any given case, the board may talk with those who are incarcerated, law enforcement, judges, district attorneys, and victims and their families. They look at rule violations in prison, family support for those that are incarcerated, and if they have a good job opportunity and a place to live following parole.

By expanding parole eligibility, the state can create incentives for good behavior and rehabilitation in prison and to safely alleviate the pressure of overcrowding in Mississippi’s prisons.

We believe in providing second chances. It will save taxpayer money, and it is the right thing to do when it has been earned.

Jessica Flowers was someone society probably could have written off. She grew up in a home surrounded by drugs and soon found her way down that path. She became involved in drugs at a young age and spent years in and out of prison.

But after serving time and finding treatment, she then found a new life and a career.

“I am blown away with myself,” Jessica said. “I thought I was a nobody. I think the thing that people who have been in my situation need to hear most is that it doesn’t matter how many times you mess up, there is always hope.”

The legislature helped make it easier for those leaving prison to begin working with the passage of a bill to provide ex-offenders with a provisional driver’s license – something necessary for getting and keeping a job.

Finally, the legislature spent a considerable amount of time – and ultimately one chamber passed – legislation to move away from the state’s income tax.

Last year, our team embarked on an effort to provide lawmakers empirical research on the potential impact of eliminating the income tax in Mississippi, as well as actionable insights into how other states operate without income taxes. We released a report with that research that was widely used by lawmakers and referenced by the media.

We believe that if structured correctly, the elimination of the income tax could have a profoundly positive effect for all Mississippians, allowing families to save more and invest more into their communities and growing opportunity.

We are hopeful this discussion will continue next year.

Thank you to all our investors across the state who generously partner with us in this mission. And thank you to every citizen who stepped forward to bravely share their story about why policy change is needed. Alongside all of you, I am incredibly optimistic about the future of Mississippi.


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