Mississippi senator presents bills on government transparency, personal safety

Published 7:00 am Friday, January 27, 2023

A southern Mississippi senator believes the legislature’s business should be open and public for voters and has authored a bill to make that happen.

Sen. Jason Barrett, of Brookhaven, represents Senate District 39. Barrett has authored or co-authored several bills so far, including a few that he said are especially important to him.

One of those is Senate Bill 2667. Co-sponsored by 19 additional senators, the legislation will clearly specify that the Legislature is subject to the open meetings law. The bill comes as a response to a 2022 ruling by the state Ethics Commission that the Legislature is not covered by the law.

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“I keep saying it — I think government should be transparent,” Barrett said. “I think that all of our people her and up in Jackson would agree. (This bill) provides an opportunity for us to get there.”

If passed, SB2667 would apply to any standing, interim or special committee of the Legislature also, where a quorum may deliberate or act upon any matter. The bill also raises the fine for violations of public records access from $100 to $500.

“I just think it’s time that we go about what we do like our constituents want, deserve and are advocating for,” Barrett said.

Barrett also is the sole author of SB2241, an act to amend the Mississippi Code to prohibit anyone required to register as a sex offender from being employed as a first responder without advance approval from the Director of the Dept. of Public Safety Sex Offender Registry.

“First responder” is defined as a paramedic, emergency medical technician or other individual who, in the course of his or her professional duties, responds to fire, medical, hazardous material or other similar emergencies, including an employee of a legally organized and recognized volunteer organization, whether he or she is paid or volunteer.

“No one in an emergency situation should have to worry about the person providing help to them being a sex offender,” Barrett said.

Senate Bill 2760, which Barrett co-authored with 24 other senators, will create the Mississippi Help Not Harm Act. The law will prohibit any person from knowingly performing or providing gender reassignment surgery or services to a minor. It will also prohibit anyone aiding or abetting the same, and prohibit Medicaid from reimbursing for part or all of costs of care/services rendered for gender reassignment surgery or services.

One additional bill Barrett authored is SB2240, a law which would require the Mississippi Justice Information Center to establish a misdemeanor warrant management system to enable criminal justice agencies to electronically track misdemeanor warrants between jurisdictions as the warrants are issued, served and recalled. It would also require all appropriate agencies in the state to enter the requisite information into the system.