Cheap Smokes, Empty Bellies

Legislative failures this year included the death of HB 247, which would have raised the tax on cigarettes and reduced the sales tax on Groceries. That bill died after Barbour told Appropriations Chairman Tommy Robertson to kill the bill, despite outcry from health advocacy groups and polls revealing the bill's popularity.

Senate members could not rally the necessary votes to revive the bill, even though the Democratically controlled House had passed the same bill by a huge margin.

Sen. Gloria Williamson, D-Philadelphia, said some reasons for the Senate's rejection of the bill were not fit for public consumption.

"I heard the reason floating around was that the grocery tax was the only way to get tax money out of some of the poorer income brackets, and when I heard that, that just made me mad because it was the tackiest thing I've ever heard," Williamson said. "You know as well as I do that lower- income people in Mississippi pay the most disproportionate amount of taxes."

The House also attempted to pass several bills promoting the construction of a burn-treatment facility at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Firefighters from around the state stormed the capitol one day and, days later, circled the building in fire trucks with sirens blaring, demanding legislators bring a facility back into the state. Burn victims must currently cross state lines for severe burn treatment. Legislators failed to secure funding for the burn center proposals during the last week of the session.

The Legislature did strike a blow at abortion rights this year, however, even if the move was largely rhetorical. SB 2391 bans most abortions in Mississippi—a state with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The bill bans abortion only if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade on a federal level.


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