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Report to the People

Amendment Keeps ‘Noah’s Law’ Alive

Last week, the House completed floor debate on measures that originated with us and had been passed out of committee for deliberation. After the February 9 floor deadline, fewer than 100 general bills were still alive of the more than 2,000 bills filed by legislators during the 2017 session.

I was pleased that Noah’s Law remained alive through the process, via an amendment to House Bill 753. The original measure addressed the care of vulnerable persons. It was called “Nancy’s Law” in honor of a vulnerable person whose lack of care precipitated the measure. My amendment inserted the language of Noah’s Law, which prohibits the sale of pure caffeine products to minors under the age of 18. This measure is named after a young man who died after ingesting caffeine products. His family has been urging that this bill become law. Our hope is that the Senate will agree that this is a worthy safety measure for our young people. The bill passed by a vote of 119-1.

 Another measure that is named after a young man who died before his time is House Bill 1089, or the “Rivers McGraw Bill.” This young man took his own life rather than face the consequences of a DUI arrest. He had been battling substance abuse for several years. His friends bailed him out of jail, and he was gone before his mother could get to him. This bill states that within eight hours of the arrest of someone under the age of 21, law enforcement officers must make reasonable efforts to notify parents before releasing the minor. The measure passed unanimously in the presence of Rivers’s parents.

I sponsored House Bill 551, which allows public libraries to distribute court approved legal forms to assist pro se litigants proceeding in a court action. “Pro se” is a term that means “for oneself,” and pro se litigants are individuals who are representing themselves in court, rather than hiring an attorney. Court proceedings require the filing of specific paperwork. Individuals proceeding without legal counsel will be better equipped to represent themselves if they have access to the proper forms. This bill passed 118 – 3.

 House Bill 974 barely passed the House, despite very strong and vocal opposition by some of us. As someone who entered the Legislature at the time of the creation of the State Personnel Board, I have been opposed to this idea of taking state employees out of civil service protection. The current program was introduced because the hiring practices of state government could be rife with cronyism and political payback. The State Personnel Board provides a system where “good ol boy” influence is lessened in hiring state government employees. The SPB also provides an objective method in which the most qualified applicants are hired – no matter who they might know. Or not know.

In my opinion, state employees’ employment and separation of employment should be made on the basis of merit and qualifications. Not on the basis of politics.

We also passed a measure I co-sponsored and handled on the house floor creating a study committee to consider restoring suffrage to those modern era veterans who have fallen during the aftermath of service, but who deserve another chance to become fully participating citizens for the country whose uniform they wore. This idea stems from a bill that was passed in 1948, during the time that William Winters N.S. “Soggy” Sweat and many other young World War II veterans served in the legislature. 

Some World War I and World War II veterans were having a difficult time adjusting to peace time, and some had committed disfranchising crimes. The leadership at the time determined that these individuals should have an enhanced opportunity to regain their right to vote. Under the present effort, veterans from the Korean Conflict and the Viet Nam War to the present could be considered for this action if the legislature chose to authorize it. House Bill 1054 passed by an overwhelming vote.

If I can be of assistance in any way, please call on me.  My local office telephone number is 662-647-3203 and my e-mail address is  

My mailing address is 1720 North Main St., Water Valley, MS 38965.

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