Opinion – 1/23/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Panolian: OPINIONS – Rep. Morris & Rep. Burnett

 From the 01/23/07 issue of The Panolian        

Bills require phys ed; healthier school food

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Members of the House of Representatives and our counterparts in the State Senate have completed the filing of the bills and proposed changes to the state Constitution that will be considered during the 2007 legislative session.

Our Legislature operates off of a pre-established calendar, with deadlines for certain actions to be taken at intervals during the 90-day session that started Jan. 2 and is scheduled to end on Sunday, April 1.

After the Jan. 15 deadline for the introduction of bills was met, the next major deadline we face is Jan. 30 for committees of the House and Senate to "report out" — either approve or allow to die — the bills originating in the respective chambers. Then we’ll face a Feb. 8 for full House action on those bills.

As the House committees report out bills, we begin considering them in the full House. For example, during the third week of the session, we approved these matters:

HB 555 to extend the life of the State Board of Health. The group and the state medical officer have been in the headlines of late and the Senate conducted several hearings into its operation. The House is likely to wait on the outcome of Senate deliberations before deciding the board and agency’s future.
HB 566 to provide for the issuance of a birth certificate in the event of a stillborn birth.
HB 801 to compensate poll workers for up to eight hours of training on new voting machines.
HB 296 to increase the amount of unemployment compensation in the state. It would go up $20 to $230 per week on July 1, then another $20 on July 1, 2008. The state has an unemployment trust fund of around $725 million. Jobless workers usually get about one-half of the pay they got while working.

HERE ARE EXAMPLES OF BILLS that were passed out of House committees and will be taken up later by the full House of Representatives:

HB 567 to establish a facility to treat burn victims at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. A similar facility once operated in Greenville. Now, our burn victims must go out of state for treatment. Such a facility here would cost an estimated $10.6 million to construct in a space that is available at UMMC. The facility could accommodate up to 16 patients at one time.
HB 727 to give judges more discretion in sentencing youthful offenders to jail. Currently, some youth have been given automatic life-without-parole sentences.
HB 732 to require physical and health education in the public schools and to create healthier food preparation to combat obesity and diabetes. Schools would also hire a physical activity coordinator.

The House Appropriations Committee also heard about the growth of drug courts in the state which offer alternatives to the sentencing of drug offenders. We now have 14 drug courts and four juvenile drug courts. Last year, 1,043 adults were enrolled in drug court and therefore not incarcerated — saving the state about $13.2 million. It costs the state $12,720 to house an inmate for one year. The drug court idea was initiated several years ago by Rep. Alyce Clarke of Jackson and are named in her honor.

We also welcomed to the House chamber Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Jacobs of Prentiss County, who are advocates for Vietnam War veterans. Mr. Jacobs served in that war and his wife lost her first husband there. Several members of the House are veterans of Vietnam.

To contact a legislator at the State Capitol, please call 1-601-359-3770. To follow the Legislature on the Internet, go to


To follow the Legislature on the Internet, go to: . To contact a member of the Legislature at the Capitol, call 1-601-359-3770.

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