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Legislature focused on law enforcement
by Zack Steen
Mar 18, 2017 | 2645 views | 0 0 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rep. Nick Bain (D-Alcorn) went to bat recently for stricter criminal justice and Blue Lives Matter laws in the Well of the House at the Sate Capitol in Jackson.
Rep. Nick Bain (D-Alcorn) went to bat recently for stricter criminal justice and Blue Lives Matter laws in the Well of the House at the Sate Capitol in Jackson.
Corinth Democratic Rep. Nick Bain recently took to the Well of the House in the state capitol.

The local lawyer went to bat for criminal justice in an effort to make DUI laws in Mississippi more effective.

Bain also wants more laws enacted to support local law enforcement.

One such bill called the “Back the Badge Act” gained transaction last week passing out of both the House and Senate.

“It would double the penalties against people who intentionally harm law enforcement officers, firefighters or emergency personnel,” said Bain. “The best part is there wasn’t much debate. It seems everyone agreed that Mississippi needs more Blue Lives Matter laws in place.”

The bill would expand the state's existing hate crimes law, which enhances penalties for crimes committed because of a victim's race, religion, national origin or gender.

Proponents have said the “Back the Badge Act” was created in response to the killings of police officers last year in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Another tragedy happened in Mississippi earlier this week when two volunteer firefighters were struck by a vehicle and killed in Sumrall.

HB 645 is now headed to the governor to possibly be signed into law, and if passed, Bain said it could one of the best new laws put into place later this year.

Gov. Phil Bryant, who started his career as a deputy sheriff, will likely sign the bill which would become law on July 1. During his State of the State speech in January, he mentioned the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent Lee Tartt, who was killed in the February 2016 standoff and shootout in Tishomingo County. Three other officers were wounded.

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

Bain said he agrees with the governor’s statement.

“It seems like most Mississippians care deeply about our law enforcement and their safety,” Bain said. “It’s sad the same thing can’t be said about other parts of the country.”

“Back the Badge” originally proposed tripling the penalties for attacks on law enforcement officers, firefighters or emergency workers — in or out of uniform. Senators changed that to double penalties, and the House accepted that change. According to the final version, the bill can't be interpreted to limit the constitutional right to free speech — an addition that addresses concerns about the possibility of people being punished for protesting police behavior.

During earlier debates, some members in both chambers raised concerns about harsh treatment of African-Americans by police officers.

According to current law, aggravated assault — a broad crime that generally covers violent attacks that don't kill a victim — is punishable by up to 20 years in prison for most cases, or 30 years if the victim is on a list that includes law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency workers. It was not immediately clear whether the penalty would be 40 years or 60 years under “Back the Badge.”

Lottery is almost dead

A Gaming Commission appropriation bill was looked at closely last week, during the final few days to consider such bills.

SB 2986 was amended as a last ditch effort by some lawmakers to establish a state lottery. The amendment died, however, ending another chance to enact a Mississippi lottery.

“There’s still a few chances left for it to come back this session. If not, I’m certain it is a measure that will be back next year,” said Bain, who is one of the many Democratic lawmakers against creating a lottery.

Flag push fails

Two Senate bills which would have required state schools to display the Mississippi state flag in order to receive state money also died last week.

The bills acted to withhold a tax break from universities that don't fly the flag.

All eight of Mississippi's public universities have stopped flying the flag, which prominently features the Confederate battle emblem.

(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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