Two groups eyeing legal action against state over controversial legislation

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 7:09 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Two groups are already preparing to take legal action against the state over a bill that hasn’t even made it to the governor’s desk: House Bill 1020.

It’s a bill that you’re probably more than familiar with at this point because it’s been at the center of controversy for months now.

H.B. 1020 seeks to expand Capitol Police jurisdiction as well as provide temporary special judges paid for by the state.

If it becomes law and the NAACP and Legislative Black Caucus each file suit, it could be a number of years before the law would even affect you.

“At the end of the day, the only folks who win in situations like that are the lawyers,” Senator John Horhn said.

Senator Horhn is part of the Legislative Black Caucus, and he said he’s prepared to fight against the bill it’s signed into law...

“In the senate, we have taken a lot of the sting out of that bill. It’s a lot better than it was, but it is still a snake,” Horhn said. “We want to kill that bill when it gets into conference, but I think that’s going to be an uphill battle.”

The bill has potential to be in limbo for years much like the state’s attempted takeover of the airport - a lawsuit that was filed in 2016 and has yet to be resolved.

Mississippi College School of Law Professor Matt Steffey said the timeframe will depend heavily on whether the judge issues a court order known as a preliminary injunction.

“If there’s no preliminary injunction at the beginning then the law can go into effect while the lawsuit continues to drag on,” Steffey said. “That’s the first big thing the parties will fight over. Is the court going to pause the effectiveness of the law while the litigation plays out?”

Steffey said two other reasons suits like the one over the airport take so long to be resolved is because they are complex and all sides are well-lawyered.

“If something is actually litigated, it can take quite a long time to resolve. Most things are resolved by settlement, but if it’s going to go to court and going to go up on appeal and come back down and be fought over these rather technical legal aspects, two years turns into three and three turns into four and four, somehow, turns into seven,” Steffey said.

Another bill that could have potentially landed the state in court died on Wednesday. That was S.B. 2889, which would have put Jackson’s water system under the control of an unelected board of directors.

It was never brought up for a vote.

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