Three ideas for the upcoming Mississippi legislative session

HE’S LISTENING: House Speaker Philip Gunn solicited ideas from Mississippi citizens during a recent tour of the state.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said on his recent listening tour stop in Ridgeland he wouldn’t mind being a plagiarist if it results in good governance.

“Plagiarism is rampant in politics,” Gunn said with a laugh at the meeting. “It’s easy to copy from another state a law that’s been proven to work.”

Here are three ideas Gunn and the Mississippi Legislature could borrow from other states for the 2015 session, which opens in January.

License plate reader data retention

The newest technology that’s making waves in the privacy debate are license plate readers that can scan and download a vehicle’s license plate. They can be used by both law enforcement agencies and towing companies in the business of automobile repossession.

According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, one of the makers of license plate readers wants to merge the collected data with that from public records and facial recognition for law enforcement agencies.

Sounds like something out George Orwell’s “1984.”

Vermont passed a law in 2013 that has strict limits on the collection of data from these devices. Mississippi should follow suit, lest Big Brother keep tabs on your whereabouts.

Student data privacy protection

Another privacy concern is the selling of student data by government contractors to third parties. Twenty states, including California, have passed laws to protect student data. Idaho passed Senate Bill 1372 in 2014 that prevents government vendors from selling student data for “secondary” purposes such as sales, marketing or advertising.

The Mississippi Senate had a bill last year, SB 2436, that would’ve allowed parents to opt out of the mandatory educational data tracking system. It died in committee.

With data breaches rampant, a common-sense protection of students’ data shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Small-scale tax reform

In an election year, swinging for the fences with a large-scale tax reform might be too ambitious, but West Virginia has a model Mississippi can follow to improve the state’s business climate without the worry of striking out.

It’d be legislative small-ball. Get a runner on base with no outs. Bunt him over or steal second base, thus setting the table for the big hitters in the batting order to drive him home with a sharply-hit single. No extra-base hits required.

Like Mississippi, West Virginia has both a corporate franchise tax and a corporate income tax. The Mountain State has reduced its franchise tax rate from 0.2 to 0.1 percent and will eliminate the tax in 2015. West Virginia also reduced its corporate income tax rate from 7 to 6.5 percent.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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