Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that a meteorite crashed to Earth and landed on the Jackson Free Press' offices, resulting in a broken pinky toe on my left foot. According to a new state law, it would be up to me to prove to my bosses that I wasn't high as a kite when said celestial projectile descended on Fondren, at least to receive workers compensation benefits. This morning Gov. Phil Bryant signed four bills into law, including one that, his press release states, "provides that the worker compensation system does not favor an employer over an employee or vice versa" and "establishes guidelines for drug and alcohol testing in the case of a workplace injury and clarifies attorney payments." The bill is one of the centerpieces of the governor's Mississippi Works plan to set the state on the path to becoming the nation's most friendly.
Bryant, a Republican who began his first term in January signed three other bills this morning as well. They included one to create "health care development zones around the state, a dual high school-community college enrollment plan to help high school dropouts get jobs, and a state tax credit that pays companies back when they pay inventory taxes. Here's the full release from Bryant's office, verbatim:
JACKSON—Gov. Phil Bryant today signed into law four components of his Mississippi Works agenda, including the Mississippi Health Care Industry Zone Act (House Bill 1537) and his dual enrollment-dual credit measure to transition high school dropouts into the state's workforce (Senate Bill 2792). Bryant also signed into law measures to bring balance to Mississippi's worker compensation program (Senate Bill 2576) and provide inventory tax relief to Mississippi businesses (Senate Bill 2934).
"Today is a great day for Mississippi and our ongoing effort to make this the most job-friendly state in the nation," Gov. Bryant said. "The cooperation of private sector leaders and Mississippi's elected officials is producing great opportunities for this state, including the legislation signed today."
Bryant signed the Health Care Industry Zone Act, a major component of his Mississippi Works agenda. The measure is designed to spur the development of health care jobs and expand access to health care in Mississippi.
"The signing of this bill creates an unprecedented opportunity in Mississippi for health care innovation and expansion. Not only will we grow this industry of necessity, we will increase Mississippi's prominence as a place to come for outstanding medical care."
The Health Care Industry Zone Act authorizes the establishment of "health care zones" throughout the state where significant acute-care facilities exist. Health care businesses like laboratory testing facilities, medical supply distributors and biotechnology research facilities that either make an investment of at least $10 million or create a minimum of 25 full time, permanent jobs within the health care zone are eligible for certain tax incentives.
Bryant also signed Senate Bill 2792, his Mississippi Works dual enrollment-dual credit measure.
Workforce development is a priority for the governor, and this bill aims to transition potential and recent high school dropouts into workforce training programs, giving them the opportunity to complete their high school education while earning a work skill certification.
Bryant says the measure is an important investment in Mississippi's economic future.
"I have said many times, when I travel this state and meet with companies to learn what makes a business want to locate here, I hear again and again about the quality of Mississippi's workforce. I want to make sure every child has the opportunity to be a part of that workforce, and this legislation will ensure that our most vulnerable students have another chance to succeed."
Bryant additionally signed Senate Bill 2934, a bill that creates relief for Mississippi businesses that pay inventory tax
"An essential factor in creating a climate ripe for job creation is eliminating unnecessary taxes and regulations," Bryant said. "For years, we have worked to revise Mississippi's outdated inventory tax system, and today I am signing a law that provides relief to the state's job creators."
Under the new law, businesses that pay inventory tax are eligible for tax credits against their state income tax liability. The income tax credits serve to help offset what a company pays in inventory tax.
Bryant also signed Senate Bill 2576, a measure that revises Mississippi's worker compensation regulations. Bryant says the measure makes important restorations to a fair and impartial worker compensation system.
The bill provides that the worker compensation system does not favor an employer over an employee or vice versa. It also establishes guidelines for drug and alcohol testing in the case of a workplace injury and clarifies attorney payments.
Bryant earlier in the legislative session signed two other bills that are part of his Mississippi Works agenda.
Senate Bill 2604 aims to reduce instances of unemployment fraud and creates a training program to help certain unemployed Mississippians learn entrepreneurial skills.
Bryant has also signed into law the Mississippi Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act (Senate Bill 2398). A cornerstone of Bryant's Mississippi Works agenda, the bill allows small businesses to help review state business regulations and develop rules that are not overly burdensome to small employers.