March 18, 2013 10:11:06 AM
JACKSON -- The first two bills that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed during the 2013 legislative session dealt with money.
House Bill 19 gave more cash to the agency that coordinates a program to put all emergency offices under the same digital communications system. House Bill 20 moved money from the car tag reduction fund to the Budget Contingency Fund. Lawmakers use the contingency fund to cobble together cash for the overall state budget.
Bryant followed that with approval of House Bill 1345, which revised the authority of the Harrison County Motor Vehicle for Hire Commission.
Certainly not headline grabbers, those. But hang around the Legislature long, and you discover that every bill has a constituency.
You can bet limousine and taxi drivers in Harrison County are familiar with the Vehicle for Hire Commission.
Bryant signed House Bill 279, which clarifies which court has jurisdiction over crimes committed at Jackson-Evers International Airport. The airport is on land owned by the city of Jackson, but it's in neighboring Rankin County. The new law says criminal cases will be heard in the county where the airport sits.
House Bill 91, signed by the governor, directs the Mississippi Department of Public Safety not to recognize tickets issued to Mississippi motorists caught by traffic cameras or stoplight cameras in another state, unless the other state is a member of the Driver License Compact. Members of the compact share information about applicants for driver's licenses. The 46 compact states also notify each other if the holder of a valid driver's license in one state applies for a license in another state.
Some bills are so specifically drawn -- and technically worded -- for a particular group or industry as to confound the common man or woman.
And the casual reader gets no relief from the "short title" of some bills. Short titles function like a newspaper headline -- revealing something of the story with more details to be gleaned from the total article.
Here's a bill signed by Bryant and filed by Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus: "Prohibit issuance of policy restricting insurer from assigning benefits to provider."
Insurance bills generally read like that. Chism's bill says if you have an insurance policy and want to use it to pay medical bills or nursing home bills, you just write the insurance company and say so.
A bill by Sen. Gary Jackson, R-French Camp -- signed by the governor -- reads: "Loans; limit to single borrower shall allow for credit exposure from derivative transactions."
The long title says: "To require the limit on loans to a single borrower to take into consideration the credit exposure from derivative transactions."
Just the thing to bring that up at the next coffee club.
And it falls to the governor to know what he's signing -- or vetoing, for that matter.
The late Gov. Kirk Fordice told reporters that he read everything that hit his desk. Other governors review summaries prepared by their lawyers or preside over a roundtable discussion among staff.
Bryant has an advantage in that he is a former legislator and knows about the process. Bryant is one of four governors of the eight going back to 1976 who served in the Legislature -- others were Cliff Finch, William Winter and Ronnie Musgrove.
Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said the governor both reads the bills himself and takes staff evaluations into consideration.
"Once the bill reaches the governor's desk for his review, it has been read several times -- including by the policy team member, legal counsel, policy director and chief of staff -- and the governor has been provided with feedback on the measure," Bullock said.