Members of the Jackson delegation sit in on the Senate Judiciary A committee meeting regarding HB 1020.
The Senate take on HB 1020 completely removes CCID language and adds special judges to existing Hinds County Court system.
Update March 7: Senate passes strike all, with three additional amendments.
After making major changes to the original version of HB 1020 in the form of a strike all in committee, the Senate has moved to continue amending the bill, that will likely end up in conference.
On the floor on Tuesday, Senator Brice Wiggins (R) offered two more amendments to the bill that were passed and Senator Briggs Hopson (R) had one approved. Several other amendments were offered, mostly by Democrat members, and failed.
The first amendment added the Hinds County Sheriffs department to the list of entities to enter into an MOU, the others were Jackson Police Department and the Department of Public Safety. It also removed mandatory language for the MOU, which would not provide for a default agency.
The amendment would also continue to restrict capitol police to the CCID jurisdiction, and not allow them to patrol the entire city, which was a proposal made in the strike all.
The second amendment passed completely removed the language that appropriated funding to the two additional Assistant District Attorney positions in Hinds County that are allowed for under the bill. After a roll call vote, and 17 no votes from mostly Democrat members, the amendment did pass.
Sen. Hopson’s amendment changed repealer dates to portions of the legislation. The intent of the amendment was to allow time to better understand what the financial impact regarding changes made to capitol police operations to the state.
The Senate spent several hours debating the bill before it passed on a vote of 34 to 15. The bill will likely head to conference to be worked between the chambers.
Changes came for HB 1020 when it made its way to the Senate Judiciary A committee on Thursday where Senator Brice Wiggins (R) presented a strike all amendment to the legislation.
“Nobody anywhere in this building or anywhere can say that we don’t need to improve public safety. To that end, Jackson is the capitol city of the state of Mississippi. We work here, we have people here, we want a safe place,” said Wiggins.
The amendment made major changes to the proposed court system, the biggest of which, was removing all Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) language from the bill and all of the language pertaining to appointments of judges.
The changes made to the court system include:
- Codifies for the next three years funding for special judges and prosecutors for Hinds County.
- Provides for five “temporary special judges” to be appointed by the Chief Justice; funded through ARPA funds.
- The special judges would expire in 2026
- Provides for three additional Assistant District Attorneys to be permanent
- Provides for three Assistant Public Defenders and a second Assistant County Prosecutor to be funded by the Legislature.
- Beginning with the next election cycle there will be an elected judge in Hinds County.
The legislation does mirror some of the original language proposal by the House, in which body cameras and patrol vehicle cameras would be required to be worn by all capitl police.
According to the strike all, capitol police would have an extended jurisdiction to serve the entire city of Jackson. This is not to be confused of an expansion of the lines of the CCID, two things that function separately, according to Wiggins.
In order for capitol police, which serve under the Department of Public Safety (DPS), and the Jackson Police Department to work in tandem throughout the entire city, a memorandum would have to be agreed upon between the two entities. If an memorandum was not signed, authority would fall under DPS.
“In the Senate for the last two years, has funded prosecutors and judges to help the city of Jackson. Those prosecutors and judges have been doing their job here at the state capitol,” said Wiggins. “The effect of the strike all that is before you, we are codifying what we’ve been doing as a state legislature for the last two years.”
Wiggins said prior to presenting the strike all he had conversations with the Hinds County District Attorney as well as members of the Jackson Delegation regarding the changes. He said in meetings with the Hinds DA it was indicated to him that the assistance that has come from the state up to this point, has greatly addressed the backlog issues in caseload.
Members of the Jackson Delegation in the House and Senate were present for the committee meeting.
“The bill is a lot less onerous than what the House sent us. There is still some work to be done though,” said Senator John Horhn (D), a member of the Jackson Delegation. He added that they would like to see some residency requirements made for the special appointed judges who would serve in these positions, particularly in District 7. He said they would prefer those individuals be hinds county residents.
He added that they would like to tweak the language in the memorandum to also include the Hinds County Sheriffs department.
Horhn said he hopes to see clear language on a “sunset” requirement for these special judges.
“If we’re trying to deal with backlog, lets deal with backlog and once we get the backlog disposed of the judges need to go away,” said Horhn. “We like to see that we are codifying what the state is already doing and is putting the actions of the state in statute rather than running it through the appropriations process.”
Senator Sollie Norwood (D) reiterated Horhn’s sentiments saying he thought there were positive changes that had been made, but it was still a working document and the process was not complete.
All indicators point to the bill going to conference.