By Tommy Reynolds
There is good news on the horizon for our local communities. On Feb. 12, Gov. Bryant signed House Bill 19 to provide $20 million in funds for the local system bridge replacement program. I strongly supported this effort.
This program has provided millions of dollars in bridge replacement and repair moneys for each of the counties I represent: Yalobusha, Tallahatchie, La-fayette and Grenada. I am very pleased that this legislation shows a top priority of making sure our communities have safe bridges.
The bridges that are targeted by this program actually are rated at 50 percent below sufficiency. This means that a bridge is greatly inadequate to support traffic needs. In our rural communities, normal travel for our citizens often requires crossing a bridge. It is the least we can do to make sure those bridges are safe for our people.
On another front, I am pleased to report that a measure I co-sponsored to punish human traffickers (House Bill 673) was overwhelmingly passed by the House on Feb. 14 with a vote of 119-1 and has been sent to the Senate. While we don’t want to think such activity occurs here, statistics show that the enterprise of trading in humans is the third largest criminal activity in the world – right behind drugs. We must take a strong stand in defense of human trafficking victims, and I believe the full Legislature will do so this session.
The House also voted to strengthen the state’s domestic violence laws by a vote of 118-0. House Bill 709 provides harsher penalties for people who do harm to those with whom they have or have had an intimate or familial relationship. Among other actions, it adds the crime of aggravated domestic violence to the list of acts that do not have a statute of limitations. I strongly support strengthening our domestic violence laws.
In keeping with the current understanding of children’s learning capabilities, the House passed a program by a vote of 94-20 to phase in pre-kindergarten as a component of our public school offerings. In addition to professional educators, House Bill 781 was supported by business leaders, law en-forcement and other non-educators who all recognize the importance of early learning enhancement as a key component of productive citizenship.
Young minds are like sponges that sop up knowledge. We need to take advantage of that window of opportunity to provide them with as many educational tools as possible. I strongly support providing our children with every educational opportunity at our disposal.
House Bill 269 was passed unanimously and provides increased death benefits to our emergency responders when they are killed in the line of duty. The bill also includes emergency medical technicians in the category of those who will receive benefits because they put themselves at risk to help us when we need help the most. The bill increases the death benefit from $65,000 to $100,000.
I believe this is a worthy way of showing appreciation to those who are willing to lay down their lives to keep us safe. Many states do not offer this kind of coverage to the families of first responders. I am proud that Mississippi does.
All of the measures mentioned here are the result of bi-partisan efforts among House members to do good for our fellow Mississip-pians. I believe that with a spirit of cooperation and a determination to do what’s right, we can accomplish important and worthy goals. I look forward to reporting on more successes during this session.
Please contact me on these or any other issues at 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965 or by email at email@example.com. I can also be reached by telephone at (662) 473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you.