Homestead and voter ID issues die without fanfare

     Much to the dismay of elderly and disabled Mississippians, legislation designed to alleviate some of their tax burdens died a quick death in the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives. The Chairman of that committee said he had too many questions about what he referred to as a complex local tax issue, despite the fact it the legislation has already been passed by the State Senate.

     With many residents of Union County being in that age group and some disabled,  the lack of consideration of this legislation to ease the effects of this economy on two of the most affected groups is unfortunate.

Margaret Rogers, our State Representative,  never got a chance to represent these Union County groups because of its death in committee.

     The legislation, as passed by the State Senate, proposed to exempt citizens over the age of 65 and the disabled among us from taxes on the first $100,000 of their property value. Currently, that level is $75,000. For example:  an elderly homeowner who owns a $150,000 home would have to pay taxes on only $50.000.

     In counties where mandatory property reappraisals and property values went up, interest was high and now disappointments are just as high.

     The poor, the elderly and the disabled, or all three rolled up into one, are the groups who suffer the most during tough economic times. This legislation was well intended and should have been passed, but the concern of those outside these groups that such a tax cut would make it necessary at some point in time to raise their taxes to make up the difference prevailed.

     The legislative process once again denies all of the representatives of the people of Mississippi from voting the desires and wishes of their constituents. Not that the legislation would have passed for certain, but for the sake of our elderly and disabled, it would have been more in the public’s best interests to allow this tax adjustment to have a chance in front of all those who have been elected to represent us.

    State Senator, Nickey Browning, who will not get to vote on the Homestead Exemption issue said, “ I supported the Homestead Exemption bill. We need to do all we can to help our older people, but the bill died in a House committee.

     However, the same sort of event took place in the State Senate involving the much discussed voter ID bill. Although Democrats in Jackson have been the culprits of bushwhacking this legislation, it was the Republicans in the Senate doing the honors this time.

     Citing concern over the provisions of early voting and age exemption for senior citizens, the Republican leadership killed the bill before it could get out of the Senate Elections Committee or allowing it to be amended. Another of the provisions of the bill that raised major objections was one that provided for a requirement that people to display a photo identification to vote.

     State Senator, Nickey Browning, supported the voter ID legislation, but, once again, did not get an opportunity to consider it. Yet another example of  the process getting in the way of the people’s representatives having an opportunity to vote the wishes of the people.

     Most people in Mississippi of the correct age carry a driver’s license in their pocket or handbag. Most of them also have had to show that license to cash a check, get on an airplane or open a bank account, so why is it our legislators have this hand up on not requiring voters to identify themselves? At the same time, other legislators are indifferent to the plight of our elderly and disabled. Could it be because elected officials on the state level feel aloof from those they represent?