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Mississippi House back at work after partisan rift

JACKSON — The Mississippi House worked several hours Monday after resolving a partisan fight that halted debate for two days late last week.

Representatives passed dozens of bills, mostly without any hint of division or rancor. It was a stark contrast to Thursday and Friday, when Democrats filibustered by having bills read aloud because Black Caucus members said Republicans, who hold a three-fifths supermajority, were ignoring their proposals.

Before legislators went home for the weekend, Republican Speaker Philip Gunn and Democratic leaders reached an agreement to restart work Monday. The House faces a Thursday deadline to consider about 200 general bills. Measures that survive will move to the Senate for more work.

Representatives voted 116-3 Monday to pass House Bill 1011, which would create a Division of Child Protective Services to oversee Mississippi’s troubled foster-care system. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant requested the change, and in December he chose a state Supreme Court justice, David Chandler, to lead the new division. Chandler left the court to take the job.

“I have every confidence in our governor and … Chandler to move the ball on this issue,” Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, told the House.

Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, urged the House to support the bill.

“Anytime a child is abused or neglected inside a system that is supposed to take care of him or her, we have a problem,” Hines said.

Two gun bills passed with Republican support and Democratic opposition.

The House voted 78-42 to pass House Bill 571, which would allow anyone with a concealed-carry permit to take a gun inside any state courthouse but not in courtrooms. House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, said the bill is needed because some judges have written orders to prohibit people from having guns in courthouse parking lots, hallways and lobbies.

Gipson said people don’t need to have guns in courtrooms because, “Tempers do flare.” However, he said people with permits should be able to defend themselves by having guns in other parts of courthouses.

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, tried unsuccessfully to get an amendment that said guns would not be allowed in courthouses in Lee County, where his mother is a justice court judge.

“I want my mama to stay safe, and I want all of her colleagues around to stay safe,” Holland said.

Representatives also voted 75-46 to pass House Bill 782, to have the state defy presidential orders dealing with firearms. Gipson said it would apply to orders from any president.

Rep. Adrienne Wooten, D-Jackson, responded to Gipson: “Don’t insult my intelligence like that.”

She said the bill is aimed squarely at defying President Barack Obama.

Both gun bills were held for the possibility of more House debate before they can go to the Senate.

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