Legislators facing bill deadline

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, March 15, 2012

A bill by a local lawmaker cracking down on illegal immigrants passed the House of Representatives in a late night Wednesday session, but the future of any other legislation by local representatives seems dim.

     Most bills introduced in the Legislature died by deadline last week, failing to make it out of committee. Now, the legislative chamber in which a bill originated must take action on a bill for it to survive past Thursday.

     However, the House calendar of legislation to be considered today does not include any other legislation by Lincoln County representatives, though House Speaker Phillip Gunn can revise the calendar.

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     A bill by District 92’s Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, cracking down on illegal immigration, passed the House Wednesday night but with some of the more controversial measures removed. Currie, however, expressed confidence in the bill Thursday morning.

     “I don’t think any of the changes weakened it,” Currie said. “I think we still have a good, strong bill.”

     Currie originally introduced a copy of Alabama’s anti-illegal immigration bill, but her bill has been successively weakened.

     Provisions requiring persons to carry proof of immigration status was taken out in committee. On the floor Wednesday night, the bill was further altered to prohibit a law enforcement officer from inquiring about immigration status in a traffic stop.

     A successful amendment also removed the provision that schools report the number of illegal immigrants enrolled as students. Currie emphasized that only total numbers and no student names would have been reported, but said she didn’t have a problem with that provision’s removal.

     Among the bills technically alive but likely to die tonight include several by District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, dealing with income tax.

     His legislation variously authorized fuel cost adjustments to gross income, provided credits to contractors for homes constructed under certain green standards and allowed adjustment to income for higher education tuition, fees and other costs.

     Another bill giving tax credits to small businesses for creating jobs survived last week’s deadline.

     Moak said the credits for small businesses were intended to provide some balance to the number of credits and incentives given to large corporations.

     A symbolic resolution Currie didn’t expect to go anywhere survived last week’s deadline but probably won’t be a priority leading up to Thursday’s deadline. Currie’s resolution would express opposition to provisions of the federal National Defense Authorization Act that allowed American citizens to be detained indefinitely without charge.

     “I didn’t expect (that),” Currie said of the bill surviving last week’s deadline. “It was symbolic. That’s all it was.”

     A bill by District 91’s Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, to increase excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products technically remains alive. All other bills introduced by Evans died under Tuesday’s deadline.

     Currie said the priority for today’s legislative session will be the discussion of a charter school bill. The Senate previously passed a charter school law, but the House has not yet taken up discussion on a charter school bill passed by a House committee.

     Moak said his priority in that discussion will be to ensuring that charter schools don’t lead to broad disparity in the quality of public schools.

     “I want to make sure that kids get a good education no matter what district they’re in,” Moak said.