Will the state's image change?

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
December 1, 2002
The ink was barely dry on Mississippi's new tort reform law when the national accolades began pouring in. Will the new law really help change Mississippi's destructive legal climate and, importantly, bring new luster to its tarnished national image?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which ran full-page newspaper ads about the harmful effects of the state's broken liability system, hailed the legislative act as "a step in the right direction." Although a cautious one.
Given the 83-day special session and its cost, I'm thinking that about the last thing legislators want to face when they go back to Jackson in January is tort reform.
After all, 2003 is a political year when everyone from the governor on down will be under intense voter scrutiny.
Curbing abuses
The Washington, D.C.-based American Tort Reform Association also applauded the Mississippi Legislature.
Amid the accolades came this rocket from David Baria, president of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association. He is not a happy camper and took issue with our use of the phrase "powerful trial lawyers lobby."
Bent lawmakers
My goodness.
Does that sound like the powerful trial lawyers lob…, oops, I mean, does that sound like someone who is accepting the legislative action with grace and dignity?
Actually, Baria's argument is not really with the media. In the end, the Mississippi House voted 108 to 12 and the Senate voted 43 to 6 for the reforms. And did I mention that 2003 is an election year?
Overall, legislators finally passed a good bill. After so many days of frustration and so few of meaningful action and at a cost of $1.6 million, the final vote should have been unanimous in both chambers. If not for the trial lawyers …
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck's Senate  with solid support from Sens. Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian, Terry Burton, D-Newton, and most of their colleagues  stood firm for pro-business interests.
One interesting twist to all of this is emergence of a small but hardy band of House conservatives who worked diligently to restore public confidence in the civil justice system. One of that group's leaders is state Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian.
Snowden believes the 40-plus members of the bipartisan Mississippi Legislative Conservative Coalition proved to be key players in the process of getting good legislation and will continue to exert a growing positive influence in 2003 and beyond.
In short, Mississippi's image will change when we change it. I hope we've made a start.

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