The fifth week of the 2021 Legislative Session proved to be the busiest thus far. Committee meetings to discuss House bills wrapped up early in the week because of Tuesday’s general bills deadline. The House convened in person on Wednesday for the first time in two weeks to discuss the legislation that made it to the calendar. The bills that were considered dealt with a variety of topics.
House Bill 997 would remove the Department of Revenue from being a wholesale distributor of alcoholic beverages within the state and allow for wholesale permits to be issued to private companies. The Department of Revenue currently operates the Alcoholic Beverage Control warehouse in Gluckstadt. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 104-3 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
Another bill that would change alcohol laws was House Bill 1135. The bill would create a delivery service permit to allow the holder to contract for the delivery of alcoholic beverages from a licensed retailer to a consumer. HB 1135 passed the House by a vote of 71-38.
One greatly debated bill was House Bill 1315. The bill would repeal occupational licenses for art therapists, auctioneers, interior designers, funeral home directors and wigologists. Proponents of the bill noted that these professions pose no real threat to public safety and have no need for state regulation, while those opposed argued that this repeal would lead to a lack of oversight in these industries. HB 1315 passed by a vote of 74-36, and the bill is now being held on a motion to reconsider.
House Bill 1302 was another source of much debate among House members. The bill would authorize optometrists who have passed educational requirements and have professional experience to perform certain procedures to treat eye diseases. Proponents of the bill stated that the proposed procedures are already being taught in optometry schools and are allowed in neighboring states. Opponents of the bill debated that these procedures should be performed by licensed physicians who specialize in ophthalmology. The bill passed 90-25 and has been sent to the Senate.
House Bill 1303 would allow advance practice registered nurses, or nurse practitioners, who have met certain experience requirements to practice primary care without a collaborative agreement with a licensed physician. The bill passed the House by a vote of 78-38.
House Bill 122 would authorize expungement for up to three felony convictions if 15 years have passed since a person’s last felony conviction. Various felonies such as violent crimes, arson and trafficking would not be eligible for expungement. The bill passed by a vote of 78-42 and is now being held on a motion to reconsider.
A number of noncontroversial bills also passed through the House this week, including a bill naming the firing range at the MS Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy after Lieutenant Colonel Pat Cronin (HB 9); a bill authorizing the sale of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine without a prescription (HB 479); a bill authorizing the Department of Corrections to provide hospice care to terminally-ill patients (HB 1174); and a bill exempting law enforcement officers from concealed firearms permit fees and renewal fees (HB 886).
Floor debate will continue on these general bills until the Feb. 11 deadline. After that, discussion will move to appropriation and revenue bills, as well as bills originating in the Senate.