Lawmakers keeping eye on surviving pieces of legislation

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 6, 2009

Local legislators have a combined total of 34 bills still activein the Legislature this session after a Tuesday committee deadlineresulted in the deaths of hundreds of bills in the House andSenate.

The three representatives and one senator can now focus on theirremaining legislation, which mainly calls for reforms in the legaland medical fields.

District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, leads the localpack with 15 bills still active in the House. He started thesession with 89 bills, and his 15 remaining bills represent almost17 percent of his original total.

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“Quite honestly, if you get one or two bills a session, you’redoing pretty good,” he said. “If I have that many still rocking,that’s fine.”

Of Moak’s remaining legislation, the bill moving forward withthe most support is House Bill 1203 – the Municipal HistoricalHamlet Act. It passed the House Wednesday.

Inspired by Moak’s hometown of Bogue Chitto, HB 1203 allows forcommunities that lost their incorporated status prior to 1945 toapply for small loans and grants to improve infrastructureitems.

“I’ve been trying to figure out a way for Bogue Chitto and othersmall communities to get the benefit of some of the dollars thatare out there,” Moak said. “When you’re out in the county, it’shard to put a group of interests together when they’re notincorporated.”

Moak also managed to clear from committee House Bill 65, whichwould create a tax-free weekend for school supplies before thestart of both school semesters, and House Bill 599, which wouldcreate the Uniform Child Abduction Act. It would allow states towork together, cutting through red tape in an effort to morequickly apprehend and prosecute child kidnappers.

Coming in second in the local group is District 39 Sen. CindyHyde-Smith, D-Brookhaven, who still has 13 of her original 24 billsalive. Hyde-Smith had the second lowest total of bills introduced,but her 54 percent success rate is the highest among locallegislators.

“I normally choose to chase rabbits worth chasing and I feel Ican catch,” she said.

The majority of Hyde-Smith’s remaining bills deal with familymatters. At least seven of her still-active bills deal with theDepartment of Human Services and call for new regulations onpaternal genetic testing and new ways of extracting child supportfrom those who refuse to pay.

One of Hyde-Smith’s bills, Senate Bill 2598, authorizesfinancial support for the children of illegal aliens in thedepartment’s custody.

“I don’t care what color or shade a child is, or what languagethey may just be learning to speak, if that child is abused in thisstate, I will do everything I can to make sure that child isremoved form the abuse and taken care of, even with state dollars,”she said.

As chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Hyde-Smith isalso pushing for Senate Bill 2937, which would establish theMississippi Country of Origin Labeling Law, and has helped othersenators craft bills including more agriculturists in the Right toFarm Act. She said her work on imminent domain legislation survivesin other legislators’ bills.

District 91 Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, ranks third amonglocal legislators with four of his 33 original bills remaining, or12 percent.

“When you don’t have a bunch of clout up here – which I don’t -and when you’re a tad toward the liberal side of down the middle,it will take you a while to convince people some of this stuff is agood idea,” Evans said.

Evans said the most important of his remaining bills is HouseBill 840, which would create an as yet unfunded pilot project forthe expansion of public defenders’ offices around the state. Hesaid the public defender offices would be a “mirror image” ofdistrict attorney offices in three court districts around thestate.

“The state … would spend an equivalent amount of money tryingto prove people aren’t guilty as it currently spend trying to provepeople are guilty,” Evans said. “It’s just a balancing act to me.If the state’s going to spend money to take your liberty or life,they ought to [spend as much to] make sure they’re taking itlawfully.”

Evans’ surviving legislation also includes House Bill 832 – theFair Pay Act of 2009. The act would ensure employees in the samepositions with the same experience would receive equal payregardless of age, gender or race.

Ranking last among local legislators is District 92 Rep. BeckyCurrie, R-Brookhaven, who saw four of her five bills die incommittee.

Two of her expired bills dealt with reforming the MississippiDepartment of Mental of Health, which was spared reform thissession until a possible joint legislative task force could studyit later this year. Another of her dead bills banned the use oftraffic cameras statewide.

Currie’s remaining bill, House Bill 1275, would restrict usingthe word “nurse” in job titles to only qualified nurses under theNurse Practice Law.

“There’s a lot of people that come into communities and saythey’re nurses and want to sit with the elderly, but they’re notnurses,” she said. “We don’t want them to say they can provide aservice they’re not qualified or licensed for.”

Currie said the bill stems from her 30-year background as anurse, and specifically guards against Christian Science nurses whodo not believe in medical treatment, only prayer.

“I believe in prayer, but God has also given us the ability tohave medicine and seek medical treatment,” she said. “If anyoneadds any amendments about Christian Science nurses, I’d rather thebill die. I’d kill it myself.”