Mississippi Legislature: 2021 Session Update

By Jeff Wagner, Shareholder
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C.

As noted in my article in the last issue of The MAA Flyer, the 2021 Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature convened on January 5, 2021. As I write this, we are now 60 days and one ice storm into the session and, unlike the last several years, there has been little activity that would directly affect airports in the state.

Fortunately, the few bills that may affect airports are generally favorable. Although several bills that would relax requirements for airports to use reverse auctions for most non-construction procurements (HB 841, HB 842, SB 2647) have died, one remains alive (HB 1197). It would not only relax the reverse auction requirement by allowing a governing authority (such as an airport board) to opt out of the reverse auction requirement if the governing board makes a finding on its minutes that the interests of the governing authority would be best served using a different method, but would also allow an airport to utilize the design-build method of contracting on an appropriate project without going through the cumbersome two-step procurement process previously required.

HB 634 has passed both houses and would amend certain provisions of Section 45-9-51 of the Mississippi Code relating to state agencies and local governments limiting the carrying of firearms in public buildings and other facilities. With respect to local governments, the bill would prohibit a local government from doing by lease agreement (entering into a lease as landlord or tenant) what it cannot do through ordinance: prohibit the carriage of firearms except as specifically authorized by statute. Although the bill does not change where a firearm may be carried (at least with respect to airports), the bill may require changes to an airport’s notice regarding prohibitions on carrying firearms in the passenger terminal if the airport’s notice does not currently state that it applies to all permit holders, including “enhanced” permit holders. Finally, the bill also includes an “anti-harassment” provision that prohibits a local government from imposing additional requirements for a person lawfully carrying a firearm to enter into a public building or other facility or from “shadowing” anyone that has lawfully entered such a building carrying a firearm.

As a matter of note, the Legislature has extended the repealer (expiration date) on Section 25-61-5 of the Mississippi Public Records Act (SB 2809). Section 25-61-5 is the heart of the Public Records Act and is what makes governmental records public in Mississippi. The provision was set to expire on July 1, 2021, but has now been extended to July 1, 2024. This bill has been passed by both houses and is expected to be signed into law by the Governor.

Jeff Wagner is a shareholder in the Jackson, Mississippi, office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C., and may be reached at 601-973-3610 or by email at [email protected]