George W. Bush came to Mississippi last Wednesday with a lot on his agenda.
Expectations of the presidential visit were stratospheric in Madison, a bastion of Republican voters, and excitement ran high throughout the metro Jackson area.
While Bush’s visit to our state was primarily a political fund-raising mission for Congressman Chip Pickering’s reelection campaign, important issues about business, industry and economic development in Mississippi were also brought to the forefront. Bush tackled the tort reform issue, and we were glad to see him do that.
Civil justice in Mississippi is out of balance. Attempts to fix the system are mired in extremist rhetoric and accusations among the medical and business communities and the state’s trial lawyers. A reasonable political solution is doubtful. Whatever happens during an expected special legislative session in the next month or so to address tort reform is likely to leave fundamental issues unresolved.
At some point, reason must return to our debate about jury awards, frivolous lawsuits, court access, malpractice insurance rates, personal responsibility and what we should expect from our health care and legal institutions.
The problems wrapped up in the tort reform situation are complex. Solutions will not come easily. Progress will take compromise. But something has to be done — soon.
The excitement of a presidential visit dies quickly. We hope though that President Bush’s trip to Mississippi and his concerns about tort reform will help push us closer to some sort of resolution.