Mississippi Division
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2004 MSPBA Legislative Report

State death benefits for the beneficiaries of Mississippi law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty has been doubled once again during the 2004 legislative session. In addition, reserve and part time officers will now be entitled to the same death and scholarship benefits as full time officers.

Shortly after the tragedy of 9-11 MSPBA reviewed the death benefits for officers killed in the line of duty in Mississippi. This revealed to us, that of 8 or 9 Southeastern States having a one time death benefit, Mississippi was by far the lowest, with a benefit of only $10,000.00. The State of Louisiana, being next to the lowest, had a base benefit of $25,000.00 with an additional $10,000.00 for each minor child. Some states in the region were found to have benefits as high as $75,000.00.

In response to the information learned from the review , PBA proposed legislation in the 2002 legislative session to double the death benefit to $20,000.00. It was found that the balance of the trust fund from which these benefits are paid was approximately $110,000.00, and there was no source of revenue to replenish the fund as benefits were paid out. Obviously, the fund desperately needed a designated source of revenue, and not be dependent upon money appropriated from the state’s general fund. This problem was resolved by the initial idea and effort of Representative Eric Robinson of Quitman, Ms, and became reality with the help and support of many others in both the House and Senate. Rep. Robinson proposed that a 50 cent assessment be place on all citations and criminal fines within the state and that the proceeds of the assessment be deposited into the trust fund. An initial analysis revealed that such an assessment would provide an estimated $250,000.00 revenue per year to the fund. Rep Robinson, amended an existing bill in the House, to incorporated the language of the assessment.  At the conclusion of the 2002 legislative session both the bill to double the death benefit and the bill to create the assessment had passed and were enacted July 1, 2002.

At the beginning of the 2004 legislative session we reviewed the death benefit trust fund balance, which had now grown to over $464,000.00. In light of this, PBA requested legislation be introduced to increase the death benefit to $40,000.00 . This amount is equitable to the average benefit in the Southeastern states, which was our ultimate goal. Legislation has now passed both the House and Senate and signed into law by the governor to provide these benefits.. The new benefit will take effect July 1, 2004. The legislation also expands coverage by providing that reserve and part time officers receive the same death and scholarship benefits as provided to full time officers.

HB965 Introduced by Representative Eric Robinson of Quitman and SB2475 introduced by Senator Gray Tollison of Oxford were to provide due process to municipal officers in administrative actions. These bills simply provided that:
�?� Prior to suspension without pay or termination of a municipal officer, they be served with notice, in writing of such pending action and the reason therefore.
�?� That they have 10 days to appeal such action.
�?� That if appealed they be given a fair and impartial hearing before being suspended without pay or terminated.
�?� That they be allowed representation at such hearing, at their own expense.

Some municipal leaders attempted, but failed to amend the Senate bill to a point which would have rendered it meaningless. The bill passed the senate, only to die in a House committee, as did the HB965, largely due to objections by the municipal association.

SB2487 introduced by Senator Gray Tollison of Oxford , SB2997 introduced by Senator Travis Little and HB696 introduced by Representative Steve Holland of Plantersville would have provided for officers temporarily disabled due to in line of duty injuries, to be paid 100% of their base salary for up to twelve months. This bill died in committee in both the Senate and House. The demise of this bill was due to a number of issues, largely that the State Workers Compensation Division does not maintain specific information needed for us establish a reasonable cost estimate and the current economic conditions.

No retirement bill was initiated by PBA in this session due to a determination of the current economic effects on the retirement system as a whole. There is little in any question that such a bill would not be passed out of committee due to these circumstances. Essentially there is a time of action and a time for restraint. On this issue it was time for restraint.

HB361, was initiated in the House that would have placed the PBA Division President on the Standards and Training Board. It is the view of this association, that it would be proper and informative to the board, for someone directly accountable to the rank and file officers bring forth their prospective relative to training needs and weaknesses. This bill died in House committee.

SB2417 introduced by Senator Robert Huggins of Greenwood passed the Senate and House and has been signed into law . This bill raises the amount of money that can be paid to “Part Time Officers” from $500.00 a month to $1,075.00 a month or $250.00 per week.

HB1194 introduced by Representative Greg Snowden of Meridian has passed and been signed into law. Effective July 1,2004 it requires all municipal officers to attend 8 hours of annual training. As of July 1, 2007 the required hours will increase to 16 and in 2009 will increase to 24 hours.

SB2601 introduced by Senator Videt Carmichael of Meridian, has passed into law, coming effective 07/01/04. The bill amends state code section 99-3-28 to include certified jail officers and counselors for adolescent offender programs. Under this statue they now have the same protection as certified law enforcement officers and teachers in that a warrant for their arrest must be issued by a circuit court judge, if based on a criminal violation alleged to have occurred while in the performance of their official duties.

Mississippi News
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proposes a supplemental pay stipend of $600 per month to certified law enforcement officers who have been working in such capacity for at least one year.