February 27, 2006

TO THE MISSISSIPPI STATE SENATE: GOVERNOR’S VETO MESSAGE FOR SENATE BILL 2418

I am returning Senate Bill 2418: “AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 63-1-46, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO INCREASE REINSTATEMENT FEES FOR SUSPENDED DRIVERS' LICENSES; TO PROVIDE FOR THE DISPOSITION OF THE ADDITIONAL REVENUE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES” without my approval, and assign the following reasons for my veto.

After full consideration, I am vetoing Senate Bill 2418, which increases the fees to reinstate suspended drivers licenses and directs a portion of the increases to fund overtime pay for highway patrol officers. I respect the Legislature’s attempt to address the serious problem of insufficient pay for law enforcement officers, but this legislation is the wrong solution.

State law enforcement officers, whether they are highway patrol officers, members of the Bureau of Investigations, or narcotics agents, need and deserve a pay raise. These men and women risk their lives day and night to protect our families and our communities, yet many have not had a pay raise in six years. I have proposed that these law enforcement officers, along with the rest of our state employees, receive a pay raise in the coming fiscal year through the normal appropriations process. I am pleased the vast majority of both the House and Senate agree with that proposal.

However, Senate Bill 2418 relies on increased fees generated by traffic tickets to fund additional pay for highway patrol officers. The legislation doubles from $25 to $50 the fee required to reinstate a driver’s license which has been suspended, revoked, or cancelled. The bill also increases from $75 to $200 the additional fee required to reinstate a driver’s license which has been suspended, revoked under the provisions of the Mississippi Implied Consent Law or as a result of a conviction of a violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Law. For these situations to occur, a law enforcement officer must first issue a citation.

It is inappropriate for law enforcement salaries to be dependant upon fees resulting from traffic tickets. Such a salary system creates a perception among the public that highway patrol officers stop motorists and write tickets for the sole purpose of increasing their pay. This perception would not be fair to the Highway Patrol and neither would the salary structure.

Another flaw with Senate Bill 2418 is that it discriminates among law enforcement officers. Some state law enforcement officers would benefit; many others would not. The policy of my Administration is for all state law enforcement to work together in support of local law enforcement efforts. However, even though all city, county, and state law enforcement officers generate the revenue which is earmarked in Senate Bill 2418, the legislation directs the funding for overtime pay to only one segment of state law enforcement. This would be bad for morale and maintaining teamwork as well as inappropriate.

All state law enforcement, including the Highway Safety Patrol, should know if they work overtime hours, they will receive overtime pay. In the midst of Hurricane Katrina, and in the months which followed, highway patrol officers worked many overtime hours side by side with other state and local law enforcement officers and under the President’s disaster declaration, the federal government is paying 100% of these emergency protective services. I am pleased more than $4 million in overtime work will be paid to state law enforcement officers from federal funds. But there are many other instances when overtime hours are needed and the federal government does not pick up the cost. Whenever that happens, the state must pay what is required to ensure the safety of our citizens, and the need should not be dependent upon people paying a fee to reinstate their drivers’ licenses.

For these reasons, I urge the members of the Legislature to sustain the veto and reject Senate Bill 2418.

Respectfully submitted,


Haley Barbour
Governor

 

 


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Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741