Local lawmakers speak candidly on Religious Freedom Bill

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The 2014 Legislative Session meant three months of overhauling the criminal justice system, aiming at ways to decrease overpopulated prison, and implementing a teacher pay raise. However, what kept lawmakers in limbo were two issues: texting and driving, and the religious freedom bill.

"All it does is it puts "In God we Trust" in our state seal, which I feel like is fairly unoffensive to most Mississippians. That's a hard one to address, it really is," said Joey Fillingane, Dist. 41 Senator.

According to Fillingane, if business owners or churches didn't appreciate the sexual orientation or religious beliefs of a person, they couldn't turn that person down with the new bill.

"Absolutely not, the federal law supercedes state law," said Fillingane.

If the bill aligns with a federal law already in place, and if they federal law could trump the state law at any given moment as Fillingane said, the public could wonder the point of the bill.

"It's not gonna do much, really. Mostly, it's just a political statement," said Fillingane.

Another topic was Texting while Driving ban.

"Towards the end of the evening there was a procedural hold put on it ended up killing the bill, so it'll come up next year and we'll take it up again, I'm assuming," said Toby Barker, House District 102.

Representative Larry Byrd said he feared if the bill was signed into law, it would only worsen accidents involving texting while driving.

"I see folks now when I'm driving down the road and they're looking at their phones and they're like this. If we make that illegal, they'll try to conceal it and make it look like this and that's just a personal concern that I have," said Byrd.

Although the texting while driving ban bill died on Wednesday, it is expected to be brought up in the next legislative session.