In the past years, several key measures were born from the State and National conferences to include:
Affordable life insurance available for all Servicemembers and their families
Affordable supplemental life insurance for Servicemembers and their families
Educational assistance for the families of fallen Servicemembers
Enactment of the MS Military Family Relief Fund
Tax relief for deployed Servicemembers
Free first year life insurance policies for new enlistees
State tax credit for Servicemembers
Educational assistance for Servicemembers
Employment protections for Servicemembers
Child custody protection for Servicemembers
Prior to the 2015 legislative session, the NGAMS hired a legislative director, Allen McDaniel, the newly appointed NGAMS Executive Director, so that we may better keep you abreast of the legislation the NGAMS and the legislative committee is fighting for on your behalf. Listed below are our successes beginning with that session.
Amendment to Miss. Code Ann. § 33-7-311 (1972)
As previously worded, the militia immunity statute only provided civil and criminal immunity to militia forces in a state active duty status. However, Mississippi’s militia forces have in the past, for example in Hurricane Katrina operations, and may well in the future, be called to emergency service in some other state command, but federally-funded status, such as 32 U.S.C. 502(f) Active Duty for Special Work (ADSW). Members of the militia who are placed in a United States Code Title 32 status for purposes of service in connection with a declared emergency under the Mississippi Emergency Management Law should enjoy no less civil and criminal immunity than those on state active duty, due to the mere character of their orders. The amendment extended the same immunities to all members in said status.
Amendment to Miss Code Ann. § 45-9-101 and 97-37-7 (2) (1972)
The MS National Guard was not included under the term “United States Armed Forces” when an 18-21 year old is applying for the basic concealed carry permit. We proposed a change to include members of the MS National Guard. For the Enhanced Concealed Carry members of the military had to go through a firearms class. Current and former serving members of any active or reserve component of the United States Military undergoes far more firearms usage and safety training than the one day course that was currently required by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety as satisfying the enhanced concealed carry endorsement. Accordingly, there was no reason these current or retired military personnel, if they had training with a pistol or other handgun during their service, should be required to take the training course, assuming they are otherwise qualified for a basic concealed carry permit.
Amendment to Miss Code Ann. § 33-4-1 (1972)
This amended the provisions of the MS Military Family Relief Fund. As it is previously worded a Serviemember had to be deployed or mobilized to receive benefit from the fund. The fund was created in 2005 to assist the families of mobilized and deployed Guardsmen. However the number of mobilized and deployed Guardsmen has fallen drastically since 2005. There are Guardsmen who have returned from mobilizations and deployments who need the services of this fund but do not qualify under the specific language of the statute. We were able to get removed the requirement of mobilization or deployment so that we may assist more Servicemembers.
To educate our elected officials on our service and needs, we had a well-attended luncheon during the 2015 Session to include 88 legislators, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde-Smith and State Auditor Stacey Pickering. CRTC also hosted informational briefings and tours for the Military Affairs Committees from the MS House and Senate.
HB 732 This bill made specific changes for Title 33 (Military Justice):
1) Changes the maximum amount a General Courts-Martial may fine from $200 to $2,000.
2) Changes the maximum amount a Special Courts-Martial may fine from $100 to $1,000.
3) Changes the maximum amount a Summary Courts-Martial may fine from $25 to $250.
4) Change to allow TAG to designate Confinement Facility. This section will now be consistent with other sections in Title 33 that allows the Mississippi Adjutant General to designate the confinement facility.
HB 968 This bill clarified the synonymous meaning of the terms “high school equivalency diploma” and “GED” for purposes of qualifying students in the Mississippi National Guard Youth Challenge program for graduation.
HB 1119 This bill revised section 33 so that military police during periods of annual training are granted certain peace officer powers; provides the Adjutant General, MS Military Department, MS National Guard and designated civilian employees discretion in performance of their duties and immunity under the MS Tort Claims Act; provides monies from the state general fund may be utilized for the training of civilian guard officers at the law enforcement academy.
SB 2468 This bill made specific change to Title 97 (Crimes) making it a felony offense to assault a member of the Mississippi National Guard or United States Armed Forces while they are acting within the scope of their duties. It’s already a felony offense to engage in simple assault against Law Enforcement Agencies and other first responders.
SB 2669 This bill changed the name from “U.S. Court of Appeal for Military Forces” to “U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.” The U.S. changed the name of the Court over 10 years ago, but Mississippi didn’t update the name in Title 33.
SB 2032 This bill allows any nonlaw enforcement vehicle being used to lead and facilitate the movement of a military funeral procession to be marked with blinking, rotating or oscillating purple lights.
SB 2493 This bill allows members of the National Guard to name a temporary power of attorney for care and custody of their children while deployed or activated in performance of their military duties.
To educate our elected officials in our service and needs, we hosted a well attended luncheon during the 2016 Legislative Session to include 67 legislators, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves toured the facilities and capacities at Thompson Field while members of the Senate and House were given a tour and demonstration of our units’ capabilities during annual training at Camp Shelby.
We are very pleased to announce that for the third straight year all the bills introduced to the Mississippi Legislature have passed and have either already been signed into law or are only awaiting Governor Bryant’s signature. These new laws will be in place on July 1, 2017. We thank the members of the NGAMS Legislative Committee and Major General Durr Boyles and his staff, especially LTC (Ret) Tim Prater, for their leadership, assistance and efforts. Many of these new laws are the result of communication from our Service members on the issues that impact their lives. As we have stated many times, this is why it is so important for our Service members to be active members of NGAMS and to attend the state and national conferences.
We are especially pleased this year to not get our budget cut like so many other state agencies. Listed below are the specific bills by number along with a brief description. Please follow the link at the bottom of this post to read the history and full text of each individual item. It takes you to the front page of the Mississippi legislature. From there you may simply plug in the respective House and Senate bill numbers.
Finally, we are very thankful to the members of the legislature and their staff for working with us. It is a very difficult task they face each year but they were very accommodating to us throughout the process.
HB 336: Amends MS Code Ann. Section 33-4-1 to provide that monies in the Mississippi Military Family Relief Fund may be used to provide assistance to families that experience a financial hardship as a result of a family member who is a member of the Mississippi National Guard regardless of whether the family member is a resident of Mississippi.
HB 383: Amends MS Code Ann. Section 63-1-208 to require the commissioner of public safety to adopt rules and regulations that provide for the military skills test waiver for commercial driver’s licenses.
SB 2620: Amends MS Code Ann. Section 33-13-151, to revise the composition of summary courts-martial; Amends Section 33-13-159 to provide that the decision to grant a request for trial before a special or general courts-martial is reserved to the general court-martial convening authority, and to revise the maximum sentence which may be imposed by a summary courts-martial for a single offense; Amends Section 33-13-179 to revise who may convene a summary courts-martial; Amends Section 33-13-183 to provide that a military judge or a summary court officer shall preside over sessions of the court-martial to which he or she has been detailed; Amends Section 33-13-325 to increase the amount of fine which may be imposed by a military court for contempt.
HB 1026: Creates in the state treasury a special fund to be known as the “Mississippi National Guard State Active Duty Emergency Operations Fund” for the purpose of maintaining annual general fund budget restrictions and enabling the Mississippi Military Department to respond to domestic events as directed by the governor during declared states of emergency or in conjunction with approved emergency management assistance compacts.
SB 2967: Provides an appropriation for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the Mississippi National Guard for fiscal year 2018.
Over the last few years we have continued to evaluate our approach to presenting issues to the state legislature and other statewide officials. In the past we did not present proposed legislation until the session began in January. We now have adopted a policy that we will meet during the summer immediately following the state legislative session. During this meeting we will discuss the items that did and did not pass during the prior session. We prioritize legislation for the upcoming session and devise a plan for implementation. We additionally schedule visits for legislators and other government officials to the various military installations and functions throughout the state.
Through the efforts of the Legislative Committee, the members of the NGAMS, the Director of Legislative Affairs and Economic Development for the Adjutant General and our leadership in the Mississippi Legislature we are very happy that the following proposals have passed and been signed into law. We thank all those involved for their tireless efforts and their concerns for the well-being of our men and women in uniform and are happy to report the following successes.
Amended Section 33-1-19, Mississippi Code of 1972, to provide that military servicemen or veterans shall have reemployment protections when performing duties or receiving training with armed forces of other states, (including active state duty, state-training duty or any other military duty authorized under Title 10 or Title 32 of the United States Code).
Amended Section 35-1-3, Mississippi Code of 1972, to clarify that the executive director and deputy director of the state veterans affairs board shall be a currently serving member or honorably discharged or released veteran of any active or reserve component branch of the united states armed forces.
Previously currently serving members of the Mississippi National Guard were not eligible to serve as either the executive director or deputy director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board.
The Mississippi Military Department was provide an increase in funding to include funding for the Youth Challenge Program and Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby. The Mississippi Military is one of very few state agencies that did not take a cut in their funding and one of even fewer to receive an increase.
Finally, the Mississippi Military Department was able to gain $5,000,000 in bond money to planning, construction, repair, renovation, replacement, furnishing and equipping readiness centers. This matching funds will be combined with the federal funding provided by the efforts of our federal delegation.
To educate our elected officials in our service and needs, the Mississippi National Guard Legislative Committee had a well attended luncheon during the 2018 Legislative Session to include 77 legislators, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, Commissioner of Agriculture (and now U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Treasurer Lynn Fitch, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and State Auditor Stacey Pickering.
In late fall 2017 Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves toured the proposed armory location and current facility in Desoto County. Several members of the legislature and stare officials also toured Camp Shelby and visited with soon to be deployed soldiers for a demonstration of our units’ capabilities.
The NGAMS Legislative Committee will continue to educate our elected officials on the mission and importance of the Mississippi National Guard and support legislation that benefits our members.