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Report To The People

House Votes To Recognize Students’ Right To Religious Expression At School Events

By Tommy Reynolds

On Thursday, March 7, the House passed a bill that recognizes the right of young people to express themselves.  Senate Bill 2633 “The Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act of 2013” provides guidelines for the expressions of faith and devotion at specified public school events, such as football games and student-led Bible study groups.
In this country, we enjoy a heritage of religious freedom as guaranteed through our U. S. Constitution. As Mississippians and Ameri-cans, we are proud of that heritage. It only stands to reason that we should allow freedom of religious expression in all areas of our society, including schools. This bill protects students from discrimination on religious grounds and specifically allows students to draw religious symbols, wear religious items and write on religious subjects as part of regular assignments. No one will be forced to participate in religious activities under this measure. I supported this bill.
I authored House Bill 394 which provides that counties and municipalities can offer their surplus real property at public auction. Previously, the entities were restricted to only advertising available surplus real property in legal notices in our newspapers.      
The process required that individuals wishing to purchase the property must submit sealed bids which would be awarded at the board meetings. Many of us felt this was unnecessarily re-strictive and may have prevented some citizens from participating in the purchasing process.
Now, counties and municipalities can advertise available surplus property and sell it to the highest bidder at a public auction. The tradition of public auction is one which involves as many participants as possible. We believe that by opening the process in this way, counties and municipalities will realize more income from their surplus real property sales.  The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 52 – 0 last week and is enroute to the Governor for his signature. The act takes effect on July 1.
I supported a change to our DUI laws which involves providing a means for those previously convicted of impaired driving to prove themselves sober before taking the wheel.  House Bill 481 requires that offenders must breathe into an interlock device in order to crank their cars. They will also be given restricted drivers licenses. The restrictions will apply for a specified amount of time, depending on the offense. This measure is currently before the Senate. I believe it will help cut down on the number of highway deaths caused by drunk driving in Missis-sippi. I also believe it will enable offenders to continue to go to work and support their families or continue their educations.
The House unanimously voted to approve Senate Bill 2513. This bill makes it mandatory that all fish products must be labeled with their country of origin. We had previously addressed this issue for the catfish industry when we were being overrun by foreign imports of fish that were labeled “catfish.”
 Now, consumers will be aware of exactly where the fish was caught before purchasing it for consumption. I believe this is an important amendment to the previous requirement of catfish labeling.  We should be promoting domestic products whenever and however possible, in my opinion.
I am pleased to be a member of the newly formed Mississippi House of Repre-sentatives Rural Caucus.  Those of us whose districts include the towns and communities that make up much of Mississippi decided we should band together to make sure the interests of our constituents are heard at the Capitol. This is a bi-partisan effort. We believe the things that bind us far outweigh the things that separate us. Doing good for the rural communities of Missis-sippi trumps politics, in my opinion.
Budgeting negotiations will soon be underway when the Legislature makes the very important decisions concerning how much money each state agency will receive during the upcoming fiscal year. It is at this point that Legislative priorities become evident.    
Please contact me on these or any other issues at 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965 or by email at I can also be reached by telephone at (662) 473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you.

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