2 legislative bills to benefit Tribe
Two bills passed in the 2021 Mississippi Legislature will benefit the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI).
The first will allow tribal members to use their MBCI identification cards like a state-issued ID card.
State Sen. Jenifer Branning, a Republican from Philadelphia, said the MBCI ID card will be recognized under state law a valid state ID.
“This helps Tribal members to receive services for which an ID is required,” Branning said.
The second would allow non-Tribal businesses that locate on Choctaw lands to be eligible for programs through the Mississippi Development Authority.
Rep. C. Scott Bounds, also a Republican from Philadelphia, said this has been in the works for a while.
“The Tribe has been wanting this,” Bounds said. “The state gives incentives for companies to locate and expand in towns and cities all the time. Now we can do it for the tribe.
“It’s a game-changer for the Tribe and the state to be able to offer these incentives to any business that wants to locate on Tribal lands,” Bounds said.
Both Branning and Bounds talked about legislation that will affect the entire state.
Branning said lawmakers put $102 million in additional money over last year into the budget for education.
From that, $51 million went for the $1,000 teacher pay raises. Teacher assistants also received a raise.
Lawmakers also doubled the number of slots for the state’s pre-k program.
“We have added the computer science curriculum that will be starting up in the schools,” Bounds said.
“One thing that I thought was a big thing was the requirement for schools to designate their sports teams based on biological sex and not gender ID.”
Lawmakers also passed a pay raise for state employees.
Branning said Senate Bill 2825 known as the Mississippi Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2021, which she wrote, passed both houses.
“Senate Bill 2825 puts $89 million into the emergency road and bridge fund,” said Branning, who is the chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
“The counties and municipalities will be able to apply for that money.”
The bill also increases the weight limits under the harvest permit for log trucks and trucks hauling produce beginning in 2023.
“This is important for the forestry industry and the farmers of our area,” Branning said. “It was a big win from an economic development standpoint.”
It also moves the Mississippi Department of Transportation enforcement division over to the Department of Public Safety, Branning said.
“On a state level, we have to make sure we are making wise decisions to improve our state infrastructure,” Branning said.
“I will be assisting with the lieutenant governor and the House leadership on a comprehensive plan for infrastructure spending. We want to make sure we are using those dollars very wisely.”