Sen. Jason Barrett’s amendment brings back Zeb Hughes Law

Published 11:37 am Friday, April 12, 2024

JACKSON — Last week was disappointing for local resident Sharon Hughes. Her hopes that the Zeb Hughes Law would pass were dashed when the bill died in a Senate Committee without going to vote. 

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. 

Lincoln County Sen. Jason Barrett delivered good news to Sharon Thursday afternoon. A substituted strike-all amendment was added to House Bill 1068 by Barrett. The action gave the Zeb Hughes Law new life. It was passed by the Senate by the use of morning roll call with no nay votes and no absent votes Thursday afternoon. 

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“It resonated with me. It is a heartbreaking situation,” Barrett said. “I looked for a bill still alive that I think it could work to get the language into. I found a bill that matched and that was HB1068. It was a bill concerning a County Medical Examiner issuing death certificates. We made the amendment. I spoke to the chairman of Public Health and Judiciary A, presented it yesterday and it passed unanimously.” 

Barrett’s attempt to get the Zeb Hughes Law into the bill required him to file a motion to reconsider the vote by which HB1068 passed. In doing so, it allowed him the chance to get everyone on board with his proposed amendment which added the Zeb Hughes Law into the language of the bill. 

He explained on the Senate Floor Thursday afternoon that the amendment would allow someone to petition a court of competent jurisdiction and prove by clear and convincing evidence that their loved one was in fact deceased and could approve a death certificate accordingly. Under the amendment, the petition to the court for a death certificate could not be considered until 2 years after the catastrophic event. 

“It was such a heartbreaking story to begin with for the families of these young men,” Barrett said. “Hopefully this bill will continue on. I’m happy I could be a small part of the story. Hopefully this tragedy could turn into peacefulness for the families. I spoke with Rep. Becky Currie. She is a staunch proponent for the bill and fought for it in the House. Hopefully we can do what we need to do to help these families and future families quite frankly.” 

The bill will now move on to the House for concurrence. If it passes out of the house unchanged it would advance to the Governor’s office where he can sign it into law. It is likely Rep. Becky Currie will continue to work in the House to get the bill passed. 

Sharon vowed last week to continue to fight for her son and other families who have lost a loved one to a catastrophic event for as long as it takes.