Legislative Restoration of Rights in Post-Barbour Pardons Session

May 30th, 2013 by Perry

Last year I wondered if there was any impact of the controversy resulting from Governor Haley Barbour’s pardons on legislative action to return suffrage to those convicted of a felony crime: Did Barbour pardons impact legislative suffrage bills?

Looking back over the legislative sessions during the Barbour Administration I noted a decline in such legislation but no substantial impact in 2012 following the pardons.  The year following his pardons had nearly the same number of suffrage restoration bills and legislators sponsoring them as the year before his pardons, except there were no successfully passed and approved suffrage bills post-pardons and six pre-pardons (but there were also no successfully passed and approved suffrage bills in 2009, two years before his pardons).

I won’t restate the entire post from last year, you can go back and look at it, but here is are the updated numbers and chart with 2013’s legislative session included:

Year - Bills - Legislators - Approved
2004 - 48 - 37 - 35
2005 - 24 - 20 - 13
2006 - 16 - 12 - 07
2007 - 28 - 20 - 10
2008 - 27 - 21 - 08
2009 - 20 - 17 - 00
2010 - 08 - 07 - 07
2011 - 10 - 09 - 06
2012 - 10 - 08 - 00
2013 - 08 - 07 - 01

Here are details on the bills introduced in 2013:

HB1601 by Lester Carpenter (R) - James Lee Dunn (Alcorn County) Receiving Stolen Property - Died in Committee

HB1602 by Bill Pigott (R) - Joseph Herring (Lamar County) Embezzlement - Died in Committee

HB1603 by Nolan Mettetal (R) - Randall Lamar Bolton (Panola County) Grand Larceny - Died in Committee

HB1608 by Bill Pigott (R) - Ashley Harvey (Walthall County) Receiving Stolen Property - Died in Committee

HB1609 by Randall Patterson (D) - Michael Timothy Wood, Sr. (Jackson County) Grand Larceny - Died in Committee

HB1703 by Clara Burnett (D) - Jessie Mae Dotson (Tunica County) Uttering Forgery - Passed and Approved without Governor’s Signature* (House Vote - Senate Vote)

HB1704 by Preston Sullivan (D) - Charles L. Bone (Chickasaw County) Theft - Died in Committee

HB1724 by Steve Holland (D) - Terry Lee Bates (Lee County) Theft - Died in Committee

I’m not critical of these legislators.  While I don’t know the circumstances of each case, I believe in redemption and believe the opportunity for mercy and grace exists in the public sector through the due process of law in all three branches of our government including legislative restoration of rights and executive pardons. This information is a somewhat dispassionate look at the facts.

I would note that three of the loudest Democratic critics of Governor Barbour’s pardons - Bobby Moak, David Baria, Earle Banks - all voted for restoration of rights in the one bill which was approved this past session. To be fair, “uttering forgery” and “murder” are not the same, but the criticisms against Barbour’s pardons were not directed only at the worst crimes. Barbour was criticized in general for his actions which included pardons for “uttering forgery” - the crime behind the restoration of rights bill that Moak, Baria and Banks voted for last session.

*You may remember from civics class that the when a bill is passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the President of the United States may sign it, veto it, or do nothing and the act dies (pocket veto). In Mississippi, the final option is reversed. A governor may sign it, veto it, or do nothing and the act passes. That is what happened in this case. It became approved without Governor Phil Bryant’s signature.

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