By Jack Elliott Jr./The Associated Press
JACKSON — Hundreds of bills don’t survive a session of the Mississippi Legislature.
Some are filed by multiple lawmakers when only one bill is needed. Some Senate bills are duplicates of House bills and vice versa. Some are silly. Some need more study. Some make no sense. Others originated in coffee shop discussions as something the Legislature should do — but really shouldn’t.
The 2013 legislative session is no different. But folks will tell you that until a session is over, nothing dead until it is “dead dead dead.”
As Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton said: “There’s dead, dead-dead and really dead.”
This past week was the deadline for committees to consider bills that would change general laws. Another deadline is Feb. 14 for the full House and Senate to consider bills that started in their own chamber. Then, they swap bills with a March 5 deadline for Senate committees to act House bills and vice versa.
Some perennial issues died again last week. No radar for sheriff’s departments, no ban on texting by motorists and no harsher penalties for cockfighting.
Sen. Briggs Hopson III, R-Vicksburg, took his Judiciary A Committee through a series of bills. As the meeting drew to a close, Hopson acknowledged he wasn’t going to take up a number of adoption bills filed in the committee.
Hopson talked about the complicated issues associated with adoptions and his committee didn’t have the time to look as closely at them as he would have liked.
“I would urge you to do some more work during the break,” Hopson said.
Among the adoption bills was one that would have levied a $500,000 fine for any organization that illegally placed a child for adoption and another addressed adoption of children from overseas.
One adoption bill is alive in the House. It would provide for restoration of parental rights of a natural parent.
Switching to the other side of the Capitol, House Municipalities Committee chairman Ed Blackmon Jr., D-Canton, agonized over bringing up a particular bill. So much was his agony that he skipped all over his committee’s printed agenda to avoid it.
Short title was: “Municipal judge; require to be an attorney.”
“What’s wrong with it?” asked one committee member.
“It’s lawyer’s bill. It’s a lawyer’s bill,” said Blackmon, who is a lawyer himself.
State law says “in all municipalities where a municipal judge is not appointed, the mayor, or mayor pro tempore, shall be the municipal judge.” It says nothing about them being lawyers.
Non-lawyers in the Legislature — some of them anti-lawyer — will tell you they love to see lawyers fight over something that affects their livelihood. Debate can hang up the Legislature for hours. Blackmon didn’t want to do that.
There were other bills that didn’t get out of House and Senate committees.
Mississippi loves naming things — see flower, toy, fish, reptile and others in the Blue Book. But, a bill to name the black bear the state mammal didn’t survive.
Lawmakers still don’t want to be bothered with changing the state song. Bills died in both houses.
The Senate Wildlife Committee let die a bill that would require a hunter who places a tree stand on public lands or lands not his own to attach to the stand a weather-resistant tag containing his name and address.
Legislation to allow hunting of over bait during any open season on deer failed to get out of committees.
Wildlife bills are like lawyer’s bills. Debate can last for hours.
One dead bill that may have legs: A proposal from Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, to require the state wildlife agency to install wireless Internet access at all state parks.