Some positives from legislative session


The state Legislature is currently in session, and while there have been some bills that have been passed by either the Senate or the House that might draw controversy, such as House Bill 1083 which expands open carry laws for the residents, I think some of the bills will help the state in the future if enacted.

Two weeks ago, the Senate passed two bills to fight the growing opioid epidemic that has swept across the nation and has not left Mississippi untouched.

Bill 2840 would establish the Opioid Crisis Intervention Act which will allow law enforcement and communities to use pre-arrest diversion programs to enable those struggling with addiction to seek treatment.

The Senate also passed Bill 2759 that would establish the state Opioid Crisis Commission that will consist of the state health officer, members of state regulator health care boards and legislators who would collaborate on solutions to the opioid epidemic.

According to an October 2017 article in the Clarion Ledger, Mississippi is ranked fourth in the nation for per capita opioid prescriptions. Each year, doctors in the state prescribe around 105 million hydrocodone combination pills, enough for each resident to each take a pill for 36 days. The problem is that unlike previous drug epidemic, the addicts aren’t getting their fix from dealers or the street corner, they’re getting if from doctors.

There are some unscrupulous physicians out there who will give prescriptions to patients who they know are addicted and they should be punished, but there is no way that we can arrest and jail ourselves out of this problem. I am glad that the Senate has recognized how to combat this issue and that hopefully the House and Gov. Phil Bryant will allow its passage.

Meanwhile, the House passed Bill 175, which would offer tax credits to taxpayers who employ persons convicted of non-violent crimes. The bill passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 110-5. I’m all for 

punishing murderers, rapists and child abusers, but I believe non-violent criminals, such as those convicted of drug possession, deserve a second chance, and this bill will help them become contributing members of society again.

The House also passed Bill 192, which would make it lawful to transport unopened beer and light wine on state and federal highways in dry counties and municipalities. The bill also passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 91-19. Of course, with most of Newton County being dry, this will be a relief for several residents who will be traveling to parties and other events.

Right now, it is possible for a customer who has bought an alcoholic beverage in Newton, which is a wet city, to be pulled over just for transporting it to their home elsewhere in the county. Drunk driving takes several innocent lives each year, but people who are being responsible shouldn’t be punished just for transporting alcohol in an unopened container.

Mississippi is one of several states struggling with high incarceration rates, and these bills, if passed, will help alleviate an overburdened justice system.