Federal Judge Overturns HB 1523

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocked House Bill 1523 from going into effect following the state legislature’s passage during the 2016 Legislative Session. Under the bill, businesses would have been allowed to deny services based on sincerely held religious beliefs without facing reciprocity from the state. Individuals would still be able to bring suit against such businesses but the state would remain neutral.

Judge Reeves’ injunction asserts that the law violates the U.S. Constitution in two places:

  1. The First Amendment by “establish[ing] an official preference for certain religious beliefs over others,” and
  2. The Fourteenth Amendment by explicitly favoring “anti-LGBTG religious beliefs” and providing adherents to those beliefs a special right to discriminate that is not available to others.

Mississippi’s Attorney General Jim Hood believes the federal court ruling was clear and does not expect to appeal. No other officials’ comments were available.

This is not the first time Judge Reeves has ruled on religious freedom issues. In July 2015, he issued a court order to prevent Rankin County School District (RCSD) from including any religious activities at school sponsored events. After receiving a $7,500 fine after failing to satisfactorily comply with the court order, the RCSD prevented the Brandon High School Band from playing “How Great Thou Art” during a halftime show fearing that such an act would violate the court order and subject the district to additional fines.

Although born in Texas, Reeves grew up in Yazoo City and was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi by President Obama in 2010.

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2015 Candidates for Attorney General

Incumbent Attorney General Jim Hood will have an opponent in the November state elections. Mike Hurst qualified to run for AG on the last day to qualify which also was his last day at the U.S. Attorney’s office. Hurst served as U.S. Attorney since 2006 where he was assigned to the corruption case of former Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps.

Hood has served as Mississippi’s AG since 2003 and filed for reelection on February 20th. He is the only Democrat elected to a state-wide office.

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2015 election slow to take shape

The qualifying deadline for the 2015 state election is February 27th but few candidates have candidates have entered. Some of the significant questions surround the statewide offices:

  1. Who will be the Democrat Candidate for Governor? Attorney General Jim Hood is a front-runner but he has indicated little interest.
  2. Who will run for Lieutenant Governor? Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has contemplated challenging incumbent Tate Reeves.
  3. Who will be running for Attorney General? Will incumbent Jim Hood attempt reelection?
  4. Will Stacey Pickering run for reelection as State Auditor? Republican challengers Mary Hawkins Butler (Madison Mayor) and Sen. Michael Watson (Pascagoula) have already expressed interest.

A wildcard in the 2015 elections is Sen. Chris McDaniel. He is thought to be a credible Republican challenger for Attorney General but has also indicated his interest in Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State. However, McDaniel may be more set on federal office and wait to challenge U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo for the 4th Congressional District in 2016.

The 2015 Election will be November 3rd with any party primaries 3 month prior on August 4th.

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Childers’ success partly depends on home region

From the Daily Journal, Bobby Harrison argues that Travis Childers (D) could succeed in winning the U.S. Senate seat in the fall elections–it all depends upon turnout from his home region of Northeast Mississippi.

Harrison derives his opinion from the success of Attorney General Jim Hood, Mississippi’s only statewide-elected Democrat, has experienced.  Hood hasn’t just won the AG seat, he has dominated it with margins of victory just as large as Republicans in statewide elections.

Siting geographical and party biases, Harrison states, “Democrats have a built-in base in the state.  An example of that can be found in the 2008 general election when little-known state Rep. Erik Fleming received 39 percent of the vote with literally no money to spend on the race against the highly popular Cochran.”

Despite all the suppositions and theories, ultimately Harrison concedes, “. . . Childers’ task is not impossible–just highly unlikely.”

MS House approves “strike teams”

Mississippi House voted 69-48 to approve House Bill 749, the “Statewide Law Enforcement Strike Team Act,” to create three statewide law enforcement strike teams.  An initiative of Gov. Phil Bryant, the strike teams will be under the authority of the state Attorney General (currently Jim Hood) and will be composed of 12-15 municipal, county, and/or state law enforcement members on loan from their local jurisdictions and chosen by the AG.  The strike teams will be geographically distributed throughout the northern, central, and southern areas of the state in each of the 3 Supreme Court districts (to become known as “strike zones”).

Republicans and Democrats are concerned about the possible abuse of police power and government overreach.  Some argue that strike teams are necessary to support local law enforcement efforts in high crime areas.  Proponents say that about $1.5 million will be spent on overtime and equipment.

The bill was authored by Rep. Mark Baker (R-74).   Of the South Mississippi Representatives (see listing), only Sonya Williams-Barnes (D-119)David Baria (D-122), and Randall H. Patterson (D-115) voted against the bill which moves to the Senate where a similar bill was unable to get out of committee.

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