Questions raised about optics of House Bill 1020 conference committee

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 7:40 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - You’ve heard about the changes made by lawmakers in response to the public outcries, but they’re still trying to figure out the final version.

The make-up of that conference committee is raising some eyebrows.

Six men are tasked with trying to find compromise. There are five Republicans and one Democrat, but for a bill that’s included concerns about racial motivations.

“It worries me that the conference committee members are with one exception white middle class males,” said Senator John Horhn.

“Of course, I wish there were more black lawmakers and Hinds County lawmakers on the committee,” added conferee Rep. Earle Banks.

Rep. Earle Banks is also the only Jackson resident among the group. Walter Michel lives in Ridgeland, but notes that he does have an interest in seeing Jackson succeed.

“I represent about 20,000 people in northeast Jackson,” said Sen. Walter Michel. “I own office buildings in Jackson and my family real estate business has been located in Jackson since 1927.”

Still, the optics are something Sen. John Horhn says are consistent with the concerns he’s had from day one with the legislation.

“The Jackson delegation is not for this bill,” noted Horhn. “We have very little participation in the crafting of the bill. It affects a large amount of our constituents in a negative way. And we want to be able to go away. If it doesn’t go away, we’ll have to try to find a way to live with it.”

Fellow Jackson delegation member Earle Banks was a no vote on 1020 when it passed the House. But, he seems to be hopeful they’ll find a solution that will help the city.

“My concern of 1020, my concern as a legislator is to do what’s best for the city I represent I live in I grew up again, and to protect the citizens of Jackson,” explained Rep. Earle Banks. “The citizens of Jackson, tell me still, still to this day, that they’re not afraid of Capitol Police. They afraid of the thugs, the thugs that are in the streets of Jackson. And right now, Jackson Police does not seem to have the manpower to do it.”

“I’m hearing a lot from people who want safety, they don’t feel safe at their homes at night,” added Michel. “The court systems another issue, but I really think most people would, if they said they had to have a priority, it would be public safety.”

For more details on the changes the Senate made to the original bill, click here.

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