State Politics

Internet-sales tax, mental health top Jim Hood’s legislative agenda

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood

Mental-health funding, tighter prescription-drug controls, an internet-sales tax and early voting are among the issues on state Attorney General Jim Hood’s legislative agenda.

The state legislature cut mental-health funding by $8.3 million last year, and the U.S. Justice Department months later sued Mississippi on a complaint of violating federal law by the way the state gives services to the mentally ill, Hood said in a news release Thursday.

The state needs more funding for the Department of Mental Health, he said.

Hood also urged lawmakers to require health-care professionals to check the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program before they prescribe controlled substances such as opioids. Tighter controls, he said, can help deter opioid abuse, overdoses and deaths.

Here are some of Hood’s other priorities that, if enacted by the legislature, could affect Coast residents:

  • Establishment of an internet sales tax: A tax on online sales could earn the state more than $130 million per year, one estimate says. Hood has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider a 1992 ruling that requires a business to have a physical presence in a state in order for it to be required to remit sales and use taxes.
  • Establishment of an early-voting period: Hood wants to create a three-week early-voting period before each election
  • Campaign finance reforms: Candidates and political committees would be required to itemize credit-card purchases.
  • Wiretapping authority for human-trafficking investigations: The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the AG’s Office could be authorized by a judge to use wiretaps if the agencies can show why they believe the wiretap will provide evidence a felony is being committed under the Human Trafficking Act.
  • Creation of a criminal charge of indecent assault: There is no current effective method to charge a person with fondling a competent adult. The act typically is considered simple assault, but such charges are being dismissed because that charge requires bodily harm or an attempt to cause bodily injury as an element for conviction. Making “indecent assault” a crime would rectify this problem.
  • Creation of a sexual-assault protection order: Sentencing courts would be authorized to issue a criminal protection order against anyone convicted of rape or sexual battery, which would prohibit an offender from having contact with the victim.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews