Verification bill axed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tea Party activists, other like-minded conservatives, and a growing number of independent voters have been very vocal in demanding that our representatives in Washington be responsible with our tax dollars. Vigilance should also be focused on local and state leaders.

A glaring example of fiscal irresponsibility and backroom governing in Mississippi politics was highlighted by House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Rep. Willie Bailey, D-Greenville, personally killing Senate Bill 2065 by pocketing the bill and not allowing a vote by the committee.

S.B. 2065 passed the Senate 51-0 and would have required state agencies that administer social services to verify the legal status of applicants for programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and the Women, Infants, and Children program. A screening mechanism that is already utilized by 14 other states, and is under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security, would have ensured that these services were used by citizens and qualified legal immigrants for whom they were intended, and not utilized by illegal immigrants. Any bill that unanimously passes one body in our legislature should at least warrant a committee vote in the other chamber.

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While our state is facing a financial crisis with budget cuts of over $450 million, we should unmask and hold accountable the person who is ultimately responsible for the fate of this bill.

House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, owes his position of power to a coalition that includes advocates for people who are in our country illegally. Rep. Jim Evans, D-Jackson, is the president of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, an advocacy organization for illegal immigrants. He, along with some of his colleagues who have powerful committee chairmanships in the House, have successfully blocked most legislation intended to protect our citizens from the consequences of illegal immigration.

Speaker McCoy appointed Rep. Bailey to his Judiciary B chairmanship and chose not to instruct him to allow a committee vote on this bill. There is no doubt that S.B. 2065 would have passed by an overwhelming margin if it had reached the House floor. Two other related bills that passed with wide margins in the Senate were killed in the same manner.

So, the responsibility starts and ends with the speaker and legislation like S.B. 2065 will not become law until the House leadership is changed or the speaker listens to the people.

Dr. Rodney Hunt