A bill that would create an unelected governing body within Mississippi’s capital passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday night after nearly five hours of rigorous debates.
The bill received 76 yea votes and 36 nay votes.
Representative Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, authored House Bill 1020 which would enact a court system within the Capitol Complex Improvement District that would operate separately from the Hinds County Court.
Instead of holding special elections for these new judges, they will be appointed by Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Justice Michael K. Randolph. Prosecutors would be appointed by the state’s attorney general. The courts would have exclusive jurisdiction over cases in which the state government is a party.
HB 1020 would also expand the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) from under 10 square miles to over 26. Capitol Police would have exclusive jurisdiction over the land mass if the legislation is passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Tate Reeves.
The legislation has been subject of mixed reviews from various government officials and advocacy groups. Some leaders have praised the bill for its initiative in curbing crime in the capital city while others deem it an unconstitutional attempt to take power away from Jackson voters.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, an avid critic of the bill, compared the concept of expanding a police force and creating a new court system that do not answer to city leaders is a form of racially-motivated colonization of Mississippi’s capital city.
“They’re talking about a court system in which the judges would not be elected by Jackson residents. They would be appointed by the Supreme Court. A police force that has no accountability to the residents of Jackson,” Lumumba said. “It reminds me of apartheid. They are looking to colonize Jackson, not only in terms of putting their military force over Jackson, but also dictating who has province over decision making.”
Representative Lee Yancey, R-Brandon, argued that the bill was created because many in the legislature felt an obligation to intervene to try to reduce crime in Jackson and make the city a safer place. Yancey said that the legislation is not racially-motivated.
“It’s terrible the way things are in Mississippi now. You basically have a white Republican Party and a Black Democrat Party, and no longer can you have a debate about policy. Every single thing is about race… I understand that people who are of African American race have a perspective that I don’t have and I try to put myself in their shoes,” Yancey said on The Gallo Show. “The fact of the matter is, people are scared to go to the city of Jackson because of the crime rate, because of the murders, because of the carjackings, and something has to be done.”