Currie disappointed senate let Zeb Hughes Law die in committee

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — A bill which would allow hurting families or spouses obtain a death certificate with presumption of death was not passed out of a senate committee by deadline Tuesday. Lincoln County Rep. Becky Currie authored house bill 80 called “Zeb Hughes Law,” and the legislation died, for lack of a better word. 

Zeb Hughes is one of two local duck hunters who went missing on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg on December 3, 2020. Hughes was from Wesson and the other missing hunter is Gunner Palmer of Hazlehurst. They had set out to scout for ducks on the Mississippi River but never made it back home. Their boat and some hunting equipment was found in the search efforts after their disappearance. 

House Bill 80, would create a presumption of death for a missing person who had undergone a catastrophic event causing imminent peril. This bill would allow Mississippi’s Registrar of Vital Statistics to prepare death certificates under such conditions as the Zeb Hughes Law describes through a court order. 

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Currie said she worked with Hughes’ mother at Kings Daughter Medical Center and is a friend of hers. Currently, Mississippi’s law requires someone to be missing and presumed dead for seven years before a death certificate can be issued.

The bill passed out of the House with 121 yes votes and moved on to the Senate. The bill was referred to the senate committee Judiciary A where it was not reported on and brought to the senate floor for a vote. 

Currie said she was disappointed with the senate committee for not bothering to take up the bill. Senate Judiciary A Committee Chairman Brice Wiggins didn’t take the bill up and Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hoseman didn’t take the bill up other. 

The bill seemed like a simple thing for the senate to pass. Currie said it passed out of the house without a single no vote and would have given a mother closure. 

“We can’t do simple bills to help each other out. We can fight over big bills, the ones that make big impacts but we can’t get the simple bills passed,” Currie said. “I just find it sad for the state. We will come back with it next year.” 

She added while the bill is dead in the committee it is possible the changes the bill would make could be added to any bill dealing with the respective code sections. 

Currie said she is looking to see if there are any bills still alive that would change the code sections. If not, the bill will not move any further this session. She plans to continue to fight for the bill with her friend. 

“We have known each other for a long time. The circumstances of her son’s death were awful to begin with,” Currie said. “All agencies from Federal, state and local said he was gone. It is not a case of a missing person. We will try again next year. She doesn’t want anyone to go through this. She told me she will fight for this bill.” 

Check back for updates on this bill.