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Report To The People

Mental Health Court Bill Among Non-Controversial Actions


The House began floor debate in earnest on February 1, after all committee business on general bills was concluded the evening before. We saw some heated debate on controversial issues that have garnered headlines across the state. There were also several important matters that were quietly and quickly approved and forwarded on to the Senate for action.

One of these non-controversial actions is the bill establishing Mental Health courts as an alternative for incarceration of mentally ill Mississippians. These individuals who have gotten into trouble, or committed a crime, due to their illness will have a different consequence path under the plan.

House Bill 489, which I co-sponsored, allows for this alternative court system to create appropriate help for the mentally ill. Importantly, this bill also allows the Youth Courts to participate in the system so that young people who have committed infractions due to their illness also will be treated appropriately. 

It is important to note that not all individuals with mental illness commit crimes, but for those who do fall into trouble, we should offer them every opportunity to recover, compatible with public safety not only from their illness, but also from the consequences of it. The bill passed unanimously.

House Bill 974 was proposed out of the House Appropriations Committee, and it calls for the majority of our 30,000 state employees to be out from under the protections of the State Personnel Board. Those of us who strongly oppose this measure recognize this move as an opening that could result in cronyism and patronage in the ranks of state employees. The last thing they need is to be in fear for their jobs at the whim of a director if they are properly doing their jobs.

Although the measure barely passed, it is currently held on a motion to reconsider. There is a reason that we have the State Personnel Board – to provide a system whereby we would take the politics out of hiring and firing the employees who make sure government is running no matter who is elected. I voted against this bill.

After the committee deadline, it became clear that there would be no equal pay for women for equal work measure to come out of this session without extreme action. Although several bills had been filed and had wide bi-partisan support, nothing had come out of committee. An effort was made in the House to poll a measure out of committee so that the full House could have the opportunity to vote on this important legislation. That effort failed on a strict partisan vote. We knew it would be a long shot, since that particular parliamentary move rarely succeeds, but we felt it was worth a try.

If I can be of assistance in any way, please call on me. My local office telephone number is 662-647-3203 and my email address is thomasureynolds@bellsouth.net. My mailing address is 1720 North Main St., Water Valley, MS, 38965.

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