When it comes to limiting the governor's ability to make pardons, many lawmakers say it's not a matter of if, but when and how it will be done.

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Mississippi Lawmakers Considering How to Limit Pardoning Power

By Daniel Cherry | Published 23 Jan 2012 07:16pm | comments

Mississippi lawmakers might soon call on voters to pass a constitutional amendment limiting the governor's pardoning power. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how legislators are considering their options.

Pardon is still the hot word throughout Mississippi, especially in the state Capitol. Republican Senator Michael Watson, Chairman of the Senate Constitution Committee, spoke yesterday at a press forum in Jackson. He says he was surprised by former governor Haley Barbour's nearly 200 pardons.

"If he can make a decision where some folks would say, 'Man what were you thinking?' It tells me that could happen again so that's something that we need to reign in, I think, and I think the legislature as a whole has gained that opinion as well. I think you'll see something happen, it be legislatively or a constitutional amendment."

Governor Phil Bryant asked Senator Watson to review options for a possible constitutional amendment that would augment the governor's pardoning powers. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney attended the forum to find out more about moving forward on the issue. He says whatever path is taken, lawmakers should take their time.

"I think it's something that we should tread very carefully around. I think the ability to pardon needs to be looked at very carefully without a knee-jerk reaction."

One option Senator Watson says is likely is to amend the state constitution to create a clemency board. The board would make recommendations to the governor as to who to pardon and the governor could then choose from that list. Another scenario would be to pass a bill that's already filed in the legislature prohibiting offenders convicted of heinous crimes from serving in the Governor's Mansion as trusties. Democratic Representative Bobby Moak has filed his own bill that would require public input before a pardon could be issued.

"We're not trying to do away with clemency period in the constitution. We just think these issues have brought forth a real concern that citizens have and we need to deal with those in a different way."

Governor Phil Bryant has already said he doesn't plan on issuing any pardons during his term.

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