State Senate sees tough legislation

Published 12:01 am Monday, February 25, 2008

The Mississippi Senate this week passed tough legislation that dealt with a variety of issues including stemming the flow of illegal immigrants into the state to protecting jobs and conserving state resources that are being improperly obtained.

The body passed Senate Bill 2984 that seeks to stop illegal immigrants from receiving workers compensation benefits in the event they are hurt on the job. The bill makes their employer responsible for any medical bills incurred by illegal workers.

They also passed Senate Bill 2823, which makes it a felony to transport illegal aliens. Senate Bill 2564 would deny benefits such as welfare and public assistance to illegal aliens and force state agencies to more thoroughly investigate whether the persons are in the U.S. legally.

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Those actions came as the federal government this week steps up its efforts to erect a virtual electronic monitoring fence in area known to be travel corridors for illegal aliens.

The Senate also passed the controversial Senate Bill 2468 that would require voter identification for those casting ballots at the polls. The bill would require one form of ID to be produced if a poll worker had reason to question a person’s identity. The hotly debated bill drew passionate debate from supporters who cited how it would help to prevent voter fraud and from opponents who likened the bill to a poll tax of the past that was meant to keep minority voters from casting ballots.

In correcting a loophole, Senate Bill 2566 was passed with the intent of placing Bureau of Narcotics agents under the same rules governing state troopers and other sworn officers of the Department of Public Safety. The bill would stop bureau agents from engaging in political campaigns either as candidates or by supporting candidates who seek office.

The loophole was made clear last year when Bureau of Narcotics agent Jimmy Saxton took leave from his job to run for sheriff of Madison County against incumbent Toby Trowbridge.

Senate Bill 2405 seeks creation of a task force that would monitor and assist underperforming schools and school districts.

Under public welfare the Senate passed the following bills:

4 S.B. 2622, which increased the penalty for home invasion or burglary of an cccupied dwelling.

4 S.B. 2619 seeks creation of a task force to study the proper preservation of DNA evidence gathered at the scene of a crime.

4 S.B. 2223 would enhance the penalties for crimes committed against persons 65-years-old or older. It is expected that the bill will be amended to include vulnerable adults such as those who have disabilities.

4 S.B. 2921 would seek stiffer penalties for persons convicted of multiple killings during a single episode of violence.

All of these the matters must next be debated by the House of Representatives who could either vote them up or down. The matters that pass the House will be forwarded to Gov. Haley Barbour for his approval or rejection.

Among those matters awaiting House approval is Senate Bill 2680, which seeks to reduce the size of government and would allow department directors to streamline their agencies.

Another comprehensive item that has been praised by the news media as the most comprehensive fix for state ethics matters is Senate Bill 2983. The measure was touted as one of the most significant items passed this session, being more thorough than any of the five offered by the House.

And earlier in the week, the Senate honored another of Mississippi’s native son, by passing Senate Bill 2909, which renamed a stretch of U.S. Highway 84 in Adams County as “Richard Wright Memorial Highway.”

Wright was a world-renowned author who was born on a plantation and was the grandson of a slave, but went on to earned praise from the literary world for his first novel, “Native Son,” which he published in 1940. Wright was an African American author, whose works touched the imagination of the world, sometimes provoking praise and sometimes generating controversy. Wright’s works included “Uncle Tom’s Children,” published in 1938, which fictionalized the lynchings of the early 1900s that were common throughout the deep- south. The controversial author died in 1960, at the age of 52.

District 37 Sen. Bob Dearing authored the bill in collaboration with Rep. Robert L. Johnson III of Natchez co-sponsored the measure on the House side.

Kelvin Butler is Mississippi senator representing a portion of Adams County.