Governor Tate Reeves is debating on whether or not he will sign arguably the most controversial bill of the 2023 legislative session as he plans to make an announcement by the end of the week.
During a Wednesday press conference, Reeves made it known that he is continuing to mull over House Bill 1020 and that he is seeking to do what is best to restore safety and security in the state’s capital city.
“I would anticipate a final decision coming by the end of the week,” Reeves said. “Law and order are critical in any growing community. Jackson has so much potential. I’ve lived in Jackson for almost one-third of my life and I want what’s best for Jackson. For us to continue to see young kids getting in the streets, for us to continue to see property crimes here that are causing businesses to leave — we’ve got to make sure that we have law and order.”
The legislation, authored by Representative Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, would create an inferior court within the city of Jackson’s Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) with four judges appointed by the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and two prosecutors appointed by Attorney General Lynn Fitch.
In addition, Capitol Police will have jurisdiction over an expanded CCID, and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety will be tasked with providing body cameras for Capital Police officers.
Those in favor of HB 1020 say that the bill’s intent is to curb crime while reducing backlogs in Mississippi’s capital city. Meanwhile, opponents continue to argue that the legislation is not only unconstitutional but an attempt by white lawmakers to control the Blackest major city in the U.S.
“I can’t sit here and give you a dissertation on when we recognize racism, but I can tell you when we do,” House Minority Leader Robert Johnson said during a recent appearance on The Gallo Show. “All judges shall be elected. It doesn’t matter where they are, and this bill still has appointed judges. Now, some people referred back to the fact that the Supreme Court has appointed judges for Jackson before, but even that’s unconstitutional. Nobody’s ever challenged it, but it is.”
Johnson also took issue with his colleagues working to increase Capitol Police’s presence in Jackson as he deems the state-funded entity an illegitimate police force.
“I don’t agree with expanding a police force that’s really not a police force,” Johnson continued. “If Capitol Police arrests somebody, they have to call the sheriff’s department or JPD to take them somewhere to hold them. If somebody calls 911, they can’t get to the Capitol Police force because they don’t have access to 911.”
If signed into law, Johnson said that HB 1020 is destined to face litigation.