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Legislature focuses on statewide law enforcement
by Zack Steen
Jan 21, 2017 | 2783 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff photo by Zack Steen | Corinth Police Department Sgt. Fred Gooch is a strong local supporter of more statewide Blue Lives matter laws. Additional law enforcement laws are a focus of lawmakers during the current Legislative session.
Staff photo by Zack Steen | Corinth Police Department Sgt. Fred Gooch is a strong local supporter of more statewide Blue Lives matter laws. Additional law enforcement laws are a focus of lawmakers during the current Legislative session.
Earlier this week, during Republican Gov. Phill Bryant’s State of the State address, he emphasized the importance of Blue Lives.

In Mississippi, Blue Lives matter, he said.

“Across our nation, law enforcement is under attack,” Bryant told Legislatures. “Here in Mississippi, most of our citizens continue to support and respect the men and women who wear the badge and protect and serve.”

Bryant said the state is “in desperate need of a new trooper school.”

The Mississippi Highway Patrol currently has only 161 active troopers, less than is statutorily allowed.

Bryant urged members of the House and Senate to “back the badge and put more Troopers on the road.”

Lawmakers, both Democratic and Republication, have drafted multiple Blue Lives matter bills to increase awareness for law enforcement in the Magnolia state.

District 4 Rep. Jody Steverson (D-Alcorn, Tippah) said he has and will continue to support all law enforcement officers.

“Any legislation in Jackson dealing with Blue Lives matter, I will proudly support,” said Steverson. “I also love Gov. Bryant’s idea of addressing our Trooper shortage crisis.”

Rep. Nick Bain (D-Alcorn) agrees.

“More Blue Lives matter laws in this state – laws that will help protect our law enforcement is clearly needed,” said Bain. “The idea of more Troopers on our highways and protections for our vulnerable children are issues we all can agree on.”

Two bills authored by Bain focus on law enforcement and crimes against children. The bills seek to clarify mandatory reporting by school officials when to comes to child abuse, child sexual abuse or neglect.

Roads and bridges

Bain said he was disappointed the Governor did not mention the state’s crumbling roads and bridges in his State of the State address.

“There is a urgent need for highway maintenance and repair funds – with so many of our bridges and roads in perilous condition,” Bain said. “There is certainly a mood in the House (of Representatives) to address this issue sooner than later.”

Estimates have been as high as 936 state bridges and 24,591 miles of state maintained roads in need of repair, he said.

Bain isn’t alone.

Sen. Rita Potts Parks (R-Alcorn, Tippah, Tishomingo) said earlier this month the state must allocate funds to improve Mississippi’s infrastructure.

Public education

During his speech, Bryant didn’t hold back.

“Each year ... I address the importance of working together to better public education. And each year, immediately following this address, some self-appointed education advocate will appear in a pre-recorded message of opposition — claiming this Governor and the Legislative leadership are somehow in conflict with public education,” said Bryant. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The Governor said he wanted to make Mississippi’s public education one of nation’s finest.

The possible starting point happened earlier this week when the much-anticipated EdBuild report was released. The report seeks to provide recommendations to lawmakers on changes to the state’s public education funding formula.

One recommendation includes forcing local governments to pay more than the state.

“Quite frankly, there are still many major pieces of information still lacking before I would either reject or approve the plan, but from what I can tell, the prime effect of the new system would be to push more education expense on local taxpayers,” said Bain. “I am encouraged that EdBuild recommends a lengthy phase-in of any changes, which would at least give us room to make needed adjustments.”

AG bill dies

The week’s most contested piece of legislation proposed a three-member commission be established to approve the Attorney General’s use of outside attorneys in cases that could result in hefty legal awards.

“The proposal failed on a close vote, and I think the outcome was wise,” said Bain.

Members who opposed the bill pointed out that the Attorney General is bringing money into the state through these lawsuits, while supporters of the bill accused the Attorney General of engaging in “taxation by litigation.”

“On Tuesday, Attorney General Jim Hood presented the state with a check for $26 million as the result of litigation,” added Bain. “I think tying the AG office’s hands when they are trying to help all of Mississippi is not good policy.”

The bill failed, but is being held on a motion to reconsider, which means it may be brought back up, according to Bain.

D.C. inauguration

Mississippi lawmakers adjourned early on Thursday in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday.

Parks and Rep. Lester “Bubba” Carpenter (R-Alcorn, Tishomingo) traveled to Washington, D.C. for the event.

“The experience was awesome,” said Carpenter. “I thank God for the opportunity to bring my family to witness such a historical event.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

(Capitol Connections by staff writer Zack Steen appears on Sunday in the Daily Corinthian. The weekly feature includes news and notes from the Mississippi Legislature.)

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