You are currently viewing Legislative Update for February 15, 2022

Legislative Update for February 15, 2022

  • Post category:News

Families as Allies is tracking these bills related to mental health, disabilities and childrenThe list sorts bills according to their content areas: mental health, education, child welfare, juvenile justice, special health care needs, disability rights and transparency/access to information. Inclusion on the list indicates the bill is related to the issue listed. It does not imply that we agree with or endorse it. We want you to have as much information as possible to advocate for what you think is best for your children and family.

General bills that are still alive have moved to the opposite chamber. That means Senate bills are now in the House and House bills are now in the Senate.

Lt. Governor Hosemann has assigned most House bills to Senate committees, and Speaker Gunn has assigned most Senate bills to House committees. Those that they have not assigned will likely be assigned soon. The hyperlink underneath each bill explains the latest action on the bill. General bills must be voted out of committee by March 1 to stay alive and move forward. Committee Chairs decide whether or not to bring bills up for debate and voting. They can choose not to bring up a bill at all, in which case the bill dies and does not move on.

Lt. Governor Hosemann and Speaker Gunn will place bills that pass out of committee on the calendar to be voted on by the entire Senate or House.

To give feedback on a bill assigned to a committee in the opposite chamber, call the Capitol switchboard at (601) 359-3770 and ask them to give a message to the relevant committee chair. If you think the bill is a good idea, say that it should be voted out of committee and why. If you do not think the bill is a good idea, say that you do not think it should be voted out of committee and why. This link lists the chairs of each committee.

Remember, at this point in the session, you want to contact the committee’s Chair in the OPPOSITE chamber of where the bill began. You can tell which chamber a bill started in by looking at the bill number. Senate Bill numbers start with SB, and House Bill numbers start with HB. (House and Senate Resolutions, Concurrent Resolutions and Senate Nominations do not always follow the same timelines that bills do.)

Families as Allies does not typically take stances on legislation. Still, we do look at bills’ consistency with the nationally accepted definition of family-driven practice, our core values (every child and family, excellence, partnership and accountability) and our core beliefs about families. These are our core beliefs about families:

  • Families know their children better than anyone.
  • Families are their children’s strongest advocates.
  • Systems should follow laws and policies about families’ and children’s rights.

From time to time, throughout the remainder of the session, we will discuss specific bills through the lens of the definition of family-driven practice and our core values and beliefs. This week we draw your attention to Senate Bills (SB) 2087 and 2865.

SB 2087 requires “official meetings of certain public bodies, with exceptions, to be broadcast via video livestreaming applications on the front page of the official website of each respective agency, to require information to be included in all public notices, and to provide that any action taken by such a public body failing to comply with livestreaming requirements is void and of no effect; and for related purposes.” The proposed law does not apply to “the Legislature or any of its component units, the judiciary or any of its component units, a political subdivision or municipal corporation of the state or any of the administrative units of a political subdivision or municipal corporation.”

If passed, SB 2087 requires most public bodies, including state agencies, to live-stream official meetings on their websites. Families have shared that they would like to attend state agency public meetings, such as the Medicaid Medical Care Advisory committee or the Board of Mental Health meeting, but cannot due to work or childcare demands. Therefore, we believe this proposed law would strengthen family-driven practice in Mississippi because families would “have access to accurate, understandable, and complete information necessary to set goals and to make informed decisions.” The bill also appears to be consistent with Families as Allies’ core goal of accountability, which states: “We will be open and honest with you about our organization and help you get information from the systems that serve your child.”

SB 2087 has been referred to two committees in the House: Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency and Judiciary, Division A. This process is called a double referral. A double referral can happen if a bill is related to two different committees. It can also occur if there is interest in making the bill harder to pass. If you support this bill, it must get voted out of the first committee quickly. Representative Randy Boyd chairs the Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency committee. You can leave him a message at (601) 359-3770 if you have feedback about SB 2087 coming out of committee.

SB 2865 is “an act making an appropriation from the coronavirus state fiscal recovery fund to the Department of Mental Health for the purpose of assisting with behavioral and mental health needs exacerbated by the covid-19 public health emergency, responding to other public health impacts, assisting community mental health centers, and other operational expenses allowable under the American rescue plan act; and for related purposes.” This bill allocates $104 million in COVID relief funds to the Department of Mental Health (DMH).

Along with other organizations, Families as Allies sent a letter to legislative leadership with these recommendations about SB 2865:

  1. Use the funds to strengthen the infrastructure to sustain the system over time rather than add services for a few short years.
  2. Create a stakeholder committee to advise and monitor the DMH on how they use these funds.
  3. Ensure that any recommendations related to the children’s system are coordinated through the Interagency Coordinating Council for Children and Youth.
  4. Require the DMH to regularly report to the legislature and the stakeholder group about the use of the funds and their outcomes.
  5. Support the stakeholder group to coordinate its plans with the Office of the Coordinator of Mental Health Accessibility and Dr. Michael Hogan, the monitor in the lawsuit.

Families as Allies believes these recommendations are consistent with our core value of accountability, the Mississippi state law about the system of care for children’s mental health and the definition of family-driven practice.

Family-driven means: “Families have the primary role in decisions regarding their children as well as the policies and procedures governing the well-being of all children in their community, state, tribe, territory and nation. This includes, but is not limited to … Partnering in decision-making at all levels … Families and youth, providers, administrators, and policymakers accept and support willingly and enthusiastically shared decision-making and responsibility for outcomes, as evidenced by: Families and family-run organizations provide direction for policy decisions that impact funding, supports, and services, including the right of families and youth to have a meaningful voice at the individual and policy level.”

SB 2865 was referred to the House Appropriations Committee on February 2. Because it is an appropriations bill, it does not have to be voted out of committee until March 17 but could be acted on in committee earlier. Representative John Reed chairs the House Appropriations Committee. Messages for him can be left through the Capitol switchboard (601) 359-3770.

The Mississippi House and Senate are both live-streamed. Senate committee meetings are live-streamed as well. The link to join is at the top of the Senate committee agenda schedule.

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