Hill speaks to Exchange Club of Picayune

Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 7, 2017

Picayune native and state senator Angela Hill is working to help keep families together and ensure stiffer punishments to those who abuse cats and dogs.

Hill has been in office since 2012, and in those five years she said her goal has always been to address issues she feels are important.

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While speaking with members of the Exchange Club of Picayune during the club’s Wednesday meeting, Hill said she was able to pass a bill that provides the option for judges to put children with family members when the Department of Human Services becomes involved. At times that department’s involvement may begin with a complaint, leading to the children in that family being put into foster care, instead of being placed with a qualified family member due to the requirement for the temporary guardian to undergo training.

A bill she said passed recently gives courts the option to place those children with a family member instead of foster care without that training, but in order to get it passed she had to include the wording “may” instead of “shall,” leading to instances of children still being placed in foster care even though a qualified family member is there. However, Hill said that local Youth Court Judge Richelle Lumpkin has been taking advantage of the option to place children with their family even before the bill passed.

“I’ve been trying to fight to keep these families together,” Hill said.

Another hurdle she was able to overcome involved restrictions barring parents from being able to obtain copies of their child’s youth court records, preventing them from being able to review them for accuracy. A number of judges in the state objected to her efforts to allow parents access to those records. A compromise resulted in the requirement for the parent to hire an attorney in order to obtain those records.

Prior to that bill, Mississippi was the only state in the nation restricting a parent’s access to those records.

This coming legislative session, Hill said she intends to continue her fight to make acts of torture or extreme mistreatment of cats and dogs a felony, and find an alternative punishment when someone falls behind on their child support payments.

Currently, acts of cruelty to a dog or cat are a misdemeanor, even if multiple animals are involved or if the animal was severely mistreated.

Also, if a person becomes delinquent on their child support payments, the current punishment is to suspend their driver’s license, which Hill said restricts that person’s ability to work. Instead, she is polling constituents to find an alternative punishment, such as charging interest on the delinquent payments. By not suspending their driver’s license, those individuals can continue to drive and therefore work.

Hill is also looking into streamlining the state’s skilled profession licensing process. She said she has noticed the process to obtain a nursing, cosmetology or any other license is complicated and delayed. Her plan is to allow other agencies or departments to conduct the necessary background checks, such as law enforcement agencies.