Group’s report highlights tort reform votes

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 27, 2003

With qualifying deadlines five weeks away for this year’spolitical races, two interesting legislative races have popped upand lines in the sand are being drawn by at least one specialinterest group to make sure voters understand where incumbentsstand on certain issues.

Former Senator W.L. Rayborn has qualified for the SenateDistrict 39 seat. He will be attempting to reclaim the seat he lostfour years ago to Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

On the House side, Rep. Bobby Moak has officially qualified forhis District 53 seat — setting up a general election contest inNovember against Brookhaven CPA Richard Baker, who qualifiedearlier this month as a Republican. Others could also join bothraces before the March 1 deadline.

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Last week, the Business and Industry Political EducationCommittee (BIPEC) announced its rankings of legislative membersfollowing last year’s special session on tort reform.

For local lawmakers, the rankings are a mixed bag with a 50-50split in the House and 2-1 split in the Senate.

Rankings by the non-partisan business and professionalorganization gave Rep. Jim Barnett (Lincoln County) and Rep. JoeyHudson (Lawrence County) high marks, while giving low marks to Rep.Bobby Moak (Lincoln/Franklin) and Rep. Greg Holloway Sr.(Copiah).

In the Senate, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (Lincoln) and Sen. BobDearing (Franklin/Adams) got high marks while Sen. Lynn Posey(Copiah/Lincoln) received a low ranking.

Moak and Holloway were singled out by BIPEC as members of agroup of 28 legislators who, while they voted for tort reform onthe final passage, voted against reform on every vote prior to thefinal vote. BIPEC questions the sincerity of the vote.

“It is our opinion that (this group of) elected officials had afocus on the coming August and November re-election voting ratherthan what was best for jobs and medical care in their localcounties,” BIPEC said in its report.

Also coming under the criticism of the pro-business group wasPosey, of Union Church. The report says while he also voted forfinal passage, he voted against tort reform measures in four of theseven key votes.

Barnett and Hyde-Smith were praised for their 100 percent votingrecord, as was Hudson at 91 percent and Dearing with his 90 percentvoting record.

BIPEC represents business and professional interests inMississippi. It is a non-partisan group, which does not lobby orgive money to candidates.

The Moak-Baker and Hyde-Smith-Rayborn races will be races towatch and could get interesting. Special interests will be watchingclosely – the business and medical community want to defeat Moakfollowing his performance during the special session. The triallawyers have their eye on Hyde-Smith.

The deadline for qualifying is Saturday March 1. The attorneygeneral ruled last week that circuit clerk offices must remain openall day on March 1 to give candidates full opportunity toqualify.