Rep. Currie: On gemstones, family bills

Published 12:59 pm Monday, January 30, 2023

After three weeks in session, what are our local senators and representatives working on in the Mississippi Legislature?

Rep. Becky Currie, of Brookhaven, represents House District 81. Currie has authored or co-authored several bills so far.

In 2022, Currie co-authored a bill with Rep. Philip Gunn to remove “Go Mississippi” as the state’s official song and replace it with several others. “One Mississippi” became the first of those songs under the bill. Now Currie is principal author of a bill (HB772) to designate an official state gemstone.

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The opal was discovered in Mississippi nearly 20 years ago, and in December the State Board of Registered Professional Geologists signed off on a resolution asking the Legislature to make the Mississippi Opal the state’s official gemstone. The Mississippi State Oil and Gas Board and the Mississippi Geological Society both backed the move.

“In Mississippi, it would be the only stone considered a gemstone, and so I just thought, ‘Well, if it’s the only one we have, it needs to be the state stone,’” she said. “There is a great deal of it in Copiah County, just north of Brookhaven.”

The opal is described as a precious gemstone which shows brilliant flashes of fire, ranging in color from green to red.

The state fossil is the fossil whale and the state stone is petrified wood, but until now the state has not had a gemstone — because one had not been found. But a study by the Mississippi Geological Survey discovered the stone in Claiborne County. Further study revealed it could be found in the “Catahoula Formation,” which runs along 11 counties, including Copiah.

“This was formed by volcanic ash,” said Jim Starnes, who is MDEQ Surface Geology Division director and president of the State Board of Registered Professional Geologists. “There was a lot of volcanic activity going on out west at a time called the ‘Late Oligocene period’ so we’re looking at about 20 million years ago.”

“Mississippi is a coastal plain state (and) coastal plain states just aren’t known for gemstones,” Starnes said. “Having something as precious as opal in Mississippi, it’s kind of a great thing.”

Here are some others authored by Currie. Each has been referred to committee for study.

  • HB281 — to clarify that beneficiaries may receive sidearm of LEO killed in line of duty
  • HB318 — to prohibit Mississippi agencies from assisting federal agencies transporting immigrants into the state
  • HB320 — to provide authority to allow court to order child support for pregnant women who are not legally married
  • HB1127 — to create Mississippi Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) to prohibit gender transition procedures to minors
  • HB1146 — to create The Mississippi Fatherhood Initiative Fund to be administered by MSDH, for grants to local governments and non-profits that make parenting resources available to fathers