By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – While legislation signed into law Monday by Gov. Phil Bryant would allow the state’s larger counties to develop Health Care Zones and receive economic incentives, it also would allow smaller counties to combine efforts for the same benefits.
The Health Care Industry Zone Act would allow “health care zones” to be created in counties with at least 375 acute care hospital beds. In those health care zones, companies “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 … are eligible for certain tax incentives,” according to a Bryant news release.
A little recognized aspect of the legislation, Bryant said, is that it will allow three contiguous counties to join efforts to meet the 375-bed requirement and form a health care zone.
“Not only will we grow this industry of necessity, we will increase Mississippi’s prominence as a place to come for outstanding medical care,” Bryant said in prepared remarks.
The bill was one of four signed in a public ceremony Monday. He said the four helped make the just-completed session “the most jobs friendly, business friendly … in modern history.”
Other bills signed:
* Allow potential and recent high school dropouts to stay in school, while taking jobs skill classes at a community college.
* Allow businesses to claim a state income tax credit on their inventory.
* Redefine certain provisions of the workers’ compensation law. Business representatives say the changes “level the playing field” that had been tilted in favor of workers. Opponents say the bill makes subtle, but substantial changes that will make it difficult for employees to be made whole when injured on the job.
The workers’ compensation bill was the most controversial signed into law by Bryant. At points in the session, it appeared that opponents had killed the bill, but a concerted effort of the business community revived it.
In Northeast Mississippi, both Lee and Lafayette counties would qualify for a health industry zone. Others, if they combine efforts, also can qualify, much like Pontotoc, Union and Lee did to form the PUL Alliance that lured Toyota to Blue Springs.
Bryant said the bill has the same potential to create jobs in the health care industry as the PUL Alliance did in manufacturing.
Also on Monday, Bryant signed the Child Protection Act, which requires various people with influence over children to report any suspected sexual abuse of a child and requires DNA to be preserved when an abortion is performed on a child under the age of 14.