By Tommy Reynolds
By the time you read this column, we will be less than a week away from sine die and preparing to spend the weekend at the Capitol during “conference weekend” when final agreements on budget matters and conference reports are reached. We will then consider the final versions of the measures and prepare to close the session in early April.
The House passed a number of important measures last week, with many becoming law once the Governor signs them.
House Bill 585 was one such measure that created quite a bit of media attention and discussions in both chambers of the Capitol. This is the so-called Justice Reform Bill which makes sweeping changes in how offenders are sentenced and serve time for a wide variety of crimes. The bill offers judges more leeway in sentencing. Many advocates of this measure claim that the bill will help create a justice system that is balanced and reasonable, with a new direction toward emphasis on rehabilitation and prevention of recidivism.
Additionally, advocates believe that this new approach toward sentencing will help stem the costs of incarcerating non-violent offenders while providing an opportunity for many reformed convicts to once again become productive citizens and reduce dependence upon government assistance for their families. Those opposing the bill were afraid that punishment for some crimes were too light. So, several amendments were made to the bill during conference committee meetings to help accommodate those concerns. In the end, the House voted to approve the measure 105-13. I supported the bill.
During most sessions, we approve a number of bonds to enable state and local governments to complete important public works and property improvements, among other matters.
This year, the omnibus bond bill is Senate Bill 2975. I successfully offered on the house floor an amendment to provide $5 million in bond authority for infrastructure and public property repairs through the Small Municipalities and Limited Population Counties fund. This is an important opportunity for qualified entities in our area to help improve the quality of living for their citizens. To qualify for participation in this Program, a county must have less than 30,000 in population or a city less that 10,000 in population. The amendment passed on a strong voice vote.
I co-sponsored a successful House floor amendment to the bond bill, which provides $30 million to support an eight-county railroad authority for the rail service that runs through Yalobusha, Tallahatchie and Grenada counties.
As I have reported previously, the stability of this rail service is a vital component of our region’s economic improvement. With the additional approval by the Senate of the rail authority’s permission to operate, the bond amendment may be the additional move we needed to secure the continuation of the rail service all the way from Southaven to just north of Canton.
During floor debate on Senate Bill 2871, House members approved an amendment to provide funding for a trooper school. You may remember that I filed a bill early in the session for this purpose. SB 2871 was returned to the Senate which declined concurrence and asked for a conference.
Please feel free to contact me at 1720 N. Main Street, Water Valley, MS 38965 , by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (662)473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.