JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The NAACP is eyeing legal action against the slew of Jackson-related bills coming out of this legislative session.
According to the NAACP, legislation focused on Jackson has been a “direct and racialized attack on Black Mississippians,” specifically House Bill 1020 and Senate Bill 2889.
“This is very much a tactic that the state and other southern states have used for years to try to take away power from Black communities,” said Abre’ Conner, director of the NAACP’s Center for Environmental and Climate Justice.
Both of the bills have undergone amendments throughout the legislative process. The Senate version of 2889 would have given ownership of Jackson’s water system to a nine-member regional authority board. It has since been amended to a leasehold instead of complete ownership.
Opponents of 1020 have called it a racist bill given its original language, allowing for the creation of a separate court system within the CCID with unelected judges.
The Senate removed that provision and gave Capitol police the same jurisdiction as the Jackson Police Department.
“Any version of these bills that move forward we believe are still a threat to the rights of Jackson residents are a threat to them being able to control their water system,” said Conner.
If the Senate version of 1020 is passed and made law, the legal fight forward could be difficult.
“If it looks like the Senate bill, I think we see the law implemented without delay. You’ve lost the key ammunition that this was motivated on the basis of race,” said Matt Steffey, a professor at Mississippi College’s School of Law.
For legislation concerning Jackson’s water, that’s also an uphill battle.
“Absent an unconstitutional racially discriminatory motive, it is going to be difficult to say that the state can’t dictate municipal activities in this manner. After all, municipalities are creatures of state law,” said Steffey.
Both of the bills have until March 8 to be brought up for floor debate.