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Rep. Noah Sanford
The 2022 legislative session was kicked off on Tuesday, January 4. Within the week, the House of Representatives had passed Bill 384, which redrew congressional district lines, by a vote of 75-44. Federal law requires all congressional districts to have the exact same number of residents—or as close to exact as possible. Per the 2020 Census, the Second Congressional District, represented by Rep. Bennie Thompson, lost more than 60,000 residents, while the other three districts showed slight gains; therefore, it was necessary to redraw the lines and move more voters into the Second District. This was accomplished by moving four counties in Southwest Mississippi—Adams, Wilkinson, Franklin, and Amite—into Rep. Thompson’s district. Covington, Simpson, and Jefferson Davis Counties will all remain in the Third Congressional District. The Senate quickly passed this bill, and it now heads to the desk of the Governor, who has indicated he will sign it into law.
The second week of the legislative session saw two bills of massive importance pass by wide margins. Both have now been transmitted to the Senate, which can pass them, amend them, or let them die by taking no action.
House Bill 530, dubbed the “SMART Act” (Strategically Accelerating the Retention and Recruitment of Teachers), was passed by a margin of 114-6. It would provide a significant teacher pay raise, boosting first year teacher salaries to $43,000, and providing commensurate raises to more experienced teachers. For years, Mississippi has been plagued by a shortage of teachers and, though there a myriad of causes, low pay is chief among them. The SMART Act would bring Mississippi’s starting teacher pay to just above the Southeastern average, placing us in an advantageous position compared to our neighboring states. The bill also provided for a $2,000 pay raise for teacher assistants.
On Wednesday, January 12, House Bill 531, the Mississippi Tax Freedom Act, passed by a margin of 97-12. The bill would phase out the state income tax over a period of years, while increasing the general sales tax from 7% to 8.5%, and lowering the tax on groceries from 7% to 4%. In addition, it would cut the state assessments on car tags by 50%. Overall, this would be a substantial tax cut for Mississippians. If adopted by the Senate and signed into law, Mississippi would become the tenth state in the country to have no income tax. Among the states without an income tax are Texas, Tennessee, and Florida—the fastest-growing states in the Southeast and three of the fastest in the nation.
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Noah Sanford represents parts of Covington, Simpson, and Jefferson Davis Counties in the Mississippi House of Representatives. He can be reached at NSanford@house.ms.gov.
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