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Prohibition Could End in Some Mississippi Towns: #MSLeg Roundup

Sam Creekmore, IV, R-New Albany, speaks with committee members at a table covered in mics
Mississippi House Public Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Rep. Samuel Creekmore, pictured, said on Feb. 8, 2024, that an amendment to a prior authorizations reform bill “will give Mississippians expedited care.” AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Prohibition could end for some small Mississippi towns under a bill state lawmakers passed last week.

All Mississippi towns and cities located in dry counties with populations of less than 5,000 residents would be allowed to sell alcohol under House Bill 777 unless the county votes in an election to maintain prohibition.

“Many of you have come to me and the chairman from Panola and the chairman from Rankin (County) and have said, ‘When are we gonna bring some common sense to our alcohol public policy and laws? When are we going to bring Mississippi to the 21st century?’” Mississippi House State Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Zuber III, R-Ocean Springs, said on the House floor on Feb. 6.

A ‘Slow, Methodical Approach’

The Mississippi Department of Revenue’s data show that 31 of Mississippi’s 82 counties are dry, meaning they do not allow the sale of hard liquor within county limits. Some of those do allow sales of beer and other beverages that have less than a 5% alcohol content, however.

House Bill 777
Click above to read House Bill 777

H.B. 777 would also include cities that already legally sell alcohol despite being in dry counties. Zuber clarified that the bill does not include counties because the Legislature is purposefully taking a “slow, methodical approach” to solve issues with taxes and law enforcement.

Tourism in the state has grown recently and smaller cities in dry counties should reap the same benefits as cities in wet counties, he said.

The bill has a bipartisan slate of cosponsors, including Reps. Brent Powell, R-Brandon; Shane Aguirre, R-Tupelo; and Jeffrey Hulum, D-Gulfport.

The House passed H.B. 777 on Feb. 6 and it now moves to the Senate where the chamber could amend or approve the bill if they decided to take it up. If the senators approve it without changes, H.B. 777 will go to Gov. Tate Reeves’ where he can choose whether or not to sign it into law

Prior Authorization Update

Insurance companies would be required to adopt a new system for handling prior authorizations to cover patients’ procedures or medications under Senate Bill 2140, which the Mississippi Senate previously passed and the Mississippi House also approved last week with amendments.

“This bill would improve that efficiency of the process, and the end result will give Mississippians expedited care,” Chairman of the Public Health and Human Services Committee Rep. Sam Creekmore, R-New Albany, said on the House floor on Feb. 8.

Senate Bill 2140
Click above to read Senate Bill 2140.

The bill would address the electronic process insurers use when deciding what to cover. Insurers would be required to post a list online of all services and medicines that require prior authorization.

Creekmore said that if an insurer denies a prior authorization request, the patient’s physician can appeal by having a conference with the insurance company.

Since the House amended S.B. 2140, it will go back to the Senate. If senators approve the amended bill, it will go to Gov. Tate Reeves for his signature. Otherwise, the two chambers could have to work out their differences in conference.

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