Children’s bills dominate first committee deadline

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We are fast approaching the first committee deadline for the session, and my colleagues and I are working hard to make sure important measures pass on to the full House for debate.

After February 3, any bill not passed by committee will die.

Among the bills I am working on this session are several directed at children’s well-being. Officials from the Department of Human Services, law enforcement officers and various child advocacy groups are very interested in these measures. I am happy to help them become law.

House Bill 1215 creates a “Bill of Rights” for children who are called upon to testify in court. A child’s experience in court is often a traumatizing, fearful moment in his or her life. Establishing a set of protocols on how children should be treated during the testimony process will help make sure that those who are in their tender years are protected from court-related emotional trauma as much as possible.

The measure also details the proper behavior of any adult that is accompanying the child. This bill is in the Judiciary A Committee.

Two other measures, House Bills 586 and 588, provide guidance on how school officials must proceed when they discover a child has been abused.

Child abuse, child sex abuse, child neglect and sexual abuse against a minor are all required under the law to be reported to law enforcement. House Bill 586 prohibits those responsible for doing the reporting from handing off that responsibility to someone else.

House Bill 588 seeks to further clarify the reporting requirements as mandated in other statutes. I hope my colleagues see fit to pass both of these measures. No one should be too busy to pick up the phone or contact the correct supervisor in person when a child has been hurt. Implementation of these requirements should cut down dramatically on breaks in the “chain of responsibility” that occasionally result in no reports being made.

Regrettably, there are still areas of our state where facilities for mental health patients are either not available or are too crowded to take in some patients when necessary. In these instances, the only place to take a patient who is considered to be in danger of hurting either themselves or others is in the custody of law enforcement.

This means that at any time in Mississippi, a number of mental health patients are awaiting treatment from behind the bars of a jail. In keeping with the processing protocols which require all inmates to be entered into the jail docket, these patients are often listed in the docket book along with various criminals who have also been booked in.

I have filed House Bill 497 which will prohibit the listing of these mental health patients in the public jail docket. Individuals who suffer from mental illness should be offered the same privacy protections as any person who suffers from any other disease. Just like you and I expect our medical information to be kept private and personal, these individuals should expect no less respect. This measure has been sent to Judiciary A.

House Bill 351, which I co-sponsored, has passed out of committee and is on its way to the House. This measure directs the Department of Public Safety to create rules and regulations necessary to provide retired law enforcement officers with special gun permits denoting their status. Those of us who sponsored the bill recognize our retired law enforcement personnel are professionals who are certainly most capable of controlling their weapons and using them correctly. We hope our House colleagues agree.

I look forward to hearing from you, and welcome you to come visit us at the Capitol. It is always good to see a friendly face from home. Last week, I had the pleasure of welcoming Christy Burns with Corinth Tourism, Pam Verdung with the American Cancer Society, Jim Nanney and Eddie Howard with Alcorn County Electric and Sandy Mitchell with the conservation district.

Please feel free to contact me on these or any other measures before the Legislature. Please call me at (662) 287-1620, email nbain@house.ms.gov, message me on FaceBook at Nicholas Ryan Bain or follow me on Twitter @StateRepBain.

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