Going to Jackson

JACKSON – Earlier this week, Ripley High School students got the opportunity to see the lawmaking process in action in a visit to the state capital. The students are part of a class of 12 seniors who learn practical aspects of the law in a class called “Street Law.” “We were interested in giving our students something more than a tour of the capital. We wanted to let them what really happens during the lawmaking process,” said Ripley attorney Sean Akins, who teaches the class along with his law partner, County Prosecutor Bart Adams. Said class member Michael McBryde: “After studying and being tested on laws and the elements of laws all year, we finally got to see the laws in-the-making, and I think it was more interesting than any of us thought it ever would be.” The timing of the visit to the Legislature could not have been better. The class began their day by visiting the Mississippi Supreme Court chambers where they watched an oral argument before the Justices. Students then went to the part of the building that is off limits to the public and visited the conference room where the justices actually make the decisions. Said class member Burt Wilkerson: “We walked into what we thought was a plain conference room but everyone got quiet when we learned that it was the room where the Justices decide whether convicted criminals live or die.” The students were given a private tour at the invitation of Justice David Chandler of Ackerman. Said Adams: “We wanted these students to see that what happens in the Legislature and the Courts is important and affects real people. After the class met with State Senators Eric Powell and Bill Stone along with Representative Greg Ward, the students adjourned to the old Supreme Court chamber to watch a conference committee meeting.” Representatives from the House of Representatives and the Senate were attempting to resolve a difference in competing bills to raise the cigarette tax. The House of Representatives wanted a larger increase than the Senate would accept. “The committee never reached a conclusion which showed just how difficult the lawmaking process can be,” said McBryde: On Tuesday morning, the class met briefly with Gov. Haley Barbour. Said class member Kacie Pickle: “The most exciting part of the trip was meeting the governor. A lot of people can’t say they met him, but I can.” After their meeting, the class watched the debate from the public gallery in the House of Representatives. The House was debating whether to override Barbour’s veto of a bill that ended the government’s ability to take private property for use by private industry. That ability is known as eminent domain. The debate was passionate between the Legislature that wanted to protect private property owners and the Governor who believed that the government should be able to take private property from landowners who won’t sell their property voluntarily in very limited circumstances when an industrial project needs the land. The class watched history being made when the Governor’s veto was overridden for the first time since Barbour became governor. “Watching the House in action was the most interesting to me. Things got heated when the discussion of the eminent domain bill was started. The Governor’s veto was actually overridden in the House 101-19. We got to see how our government really works,” said class member Cindy Benson. The Senate later voted 28-22 to override his veto, but the veto still stands, since it takes a two-thirds majority to override a veto. Thirty-four votes would have been needed to override the veto. Akins and Adams expressed appreciation to Principal Lynn McGee and Superintendent Frank Campbell for their support of the class along with the Peoples Bank that helped fund the trip. Akins and Adams volunteered to teach Street Law every day for one class period before their office opens.

Southern Sentinel