Senator brags on state legal reforms|[7/6/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2006

Limits on civil lawsuits are working in Mississippi, said Sen. Charlie Ross, R-Brandon, who championed legal reforms adopted in the Legislature – adding he plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2007.

Ross recapped changes to lawsuit rules enacted by the Legislature in 2004 for members of the Vicksburg Lions Club on Wednesday.

&#8220We addressed where you could be sued; we addressed who could be sued; and we addressed what you could be sued for,” Ross said.

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Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, in her second four-year term, is term-limited and cannot seek a third.

Ross is chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary, Division A, Committee and has recently been named chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Civil Justice Task Force.

He said he was honored to draft the tort-reform legislation and &#8220lead the fight on the Senate side.

&#8220And because I was in that position I get invited all over the country now to tell other states what we did and how we did it,” Ross said, adding that he’d been to Texas; Georgia; Washington, D.C.; and Idaho and said he plans to go to California this summer.

&#8220Everybody wants to know what we did and how we did it,” he said.

Ross, a Jackson attorney who served as a fighter pilot in the first Gulf War, said he’s convinced the bill &#8220did not overreach.” He’d seen first hand that courts in some Mississippi counties had gotten &#8220out-of-kilter,” he added.

&#8220It was time to get it back to a level playing field, not only because of things like jobs and economic development but also for the sake of the system itself, to establish the rule of law and to put predictability back into the system,” Ross said.

The wide-ranging limits, passed in special session, narrowed rules on out-of-state claimants using Mississippi courts and, among other things, set a ceiling of $500,000 in noneconomic damages plaintiffs can receive. Ross attributed the changes to voters’ decisions in the 2003 elections, which also put Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican and an advocate for the limits, in office.

&#8220It was a major issue in the statewide races,” he said of tort reform. &#8220It was a major issue in the legislative races. The people of Mississippi overwhelmingly said we want it done, and they did it by electing people who were in favor of it.”

Another major legislative accomplishment since the 2003 elections has been holding the state’s spending essentially level, Ross said.

&#8220It wasn’t that we didn’t have much money,” Ross said. &#8220We had more money than ever. The economy was growing. We just weren’t living within our means. But by holding spending level for about two years we allowed the revenue to catch up.”

Ross also mentioned two laws he authored during this year’s legislative session: one increasing people’s latitude to defend themselves against intruders to their homes, autos or workplaces and another tightening restrictions on and providing for potentially greater tracking of convicted sex offenders in cases in which children have been victims.

Among the duties of the lieutenant governor is to preside over the Senate, of which Ross has been a member since 1998.

No other candidates have announced for statewide office.