Border fence funding bill falters in Mississippi

Published 2:45 pm Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mississippi lawmakers killed a tea party proposal on Tuesday that would have raised money for a border fence between the United States and Mexico.

The bill would have established a $5 transaction fee on money wired to locations outside the United States, plus a 1 percent fee for any out-of-country wire transfer over $500. The money would have been put into a fund to build a border fence. Mississippi does not share a border with Mexico.

Senate Judiciary A Committee Chairman Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, said Tuesday he filed the bill at the request of tea party groups.

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“The tea party groups in DeSoto County and here in central Mississippi were very, very hip on it,” Fillingane said Tuesday.

Fillingane said his committee wasn’t considering the bill before a Tuesday deadline because there were too many questions about how a border fence fund would be administered. If the federal government paid for a complete fence, for example, Fillingane said the bill didn’t specify what would happen with the money generated by the wire-transfer fees in Mississippi.

Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant has been courting tea party voters as he runs for governor this year.

Mark Mayfield, a board member of the Mississippi Tea Party, said the border fence funding bill was important but was not the group’s biggest issue this session. Instead, he said members are pushing lawmakers to agree on the final version of a separate bill that would allow a law enforcement officer to check a person’s immigration status if the officer thinks the person might be in the country illegally.

The enforcement bill has passed the House and Senate in different forms and is likely headed to negotiations between the two chambers.

“The Mississippi Tea Party is a strong supporter of border security and of enforcing existing laws against illegal immigration,” Mayfield said in a phone interview.

Tuesday was the first big deadline of the 2011 Mississippi legislative session. It was the final day for House and Senate bills to consider general bills originating in their own chamber. The border fence bill is among hundreds that died.

Bills that survived the deadline are moving to the full House and Senate for more work.

The bills are Senate Bill 2255 and 2719.