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House Debates Controversial Bill Twice Before Passing

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House Debates Controversial Bill Twice Before Passing
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Rep. Baria Presenting Amendment, Rep. Baker Standing background
Desare Frazier

Mississippi legislators in the House take up a controversial measure twice this week that some call an immunity bill for businesses. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

House Republican Mark Baker of Brandon says Senate Bill 2901 clarifies when property owners are liable for serious crimes committed on their property. The measure requires that victims prove three felonies occurred at the location within three years that resulted in someone being charged. Also the victim must prove there was an atmosphere of violence. At issue says Baker, is crime in Jackson.

"The failures of the City of Jackson to protect its citizens, to put that burden on landowners simply means the landowners are going to leave, they can't afford the insurance . They can't afford to do business," said Baker.

House Democrat David Baria of Bay St. Louis says the bill, called the Landowner's Protection Act, doesn't solve crime. He says it removes incentives for businesses to put security measures in place. Baria says he's received letters from law enforcement officers around the state who don't support the bill. Baria offered an amendment he says would add the current law.

"The standard is right now that if a premises owner knew or should have known that there might be violence on the premises then they have to take reasonable steps to make their premises safe," said Baria.

Baria says reasonable steps are lighting, cameras and even security guards. He says businesses aren't liable when those measures are taken. Baria's amendment failed. He says it's a pro insurance company bill that will prevent lawyers from seeking damages for victims. Representative Mark Baker says businesses need relief.

"We want business owners to do one more thing, one more thing, one more thing. Business owners need to do one more thing. What they're trying to do is stay in business," said Baker.

The bill passed and goes back to the Senate for review.