Bomgar tackling transparency, the economy and Justice system in 2018
Mississippi House District 58 Rep. Joel Bomgar has a lot in store for the 2018 legislative session.
This year, Bomgar is focusing on government transparency, the state’s economy, employment, and changing recourse for those who have been through the criminal justice system.
“One particularly good bill that I helped with in committee helped reunite families in the child welfare system,” he said. “In some instances, parents were losing custody of their children, without any showing of harm, simply due to a drug test.”
Bomgar said he and other legislators closed that particular loophole, ensuring children and their families remain intact when it is clear parents are caring for their children.
Bomgar said that some progress was made on re-entry issues for ex-felons during the 2017 session.
“By expanding parole eligibility for these people, we have increased our workforce, saved taxpayer dollars, and promoted public safety. I anticipate that we will continue expanding alternative sentencing options as well as looking at innovative ways to move low-risk nonviolent offenders into productive work environments,” he said.
Another one of Bomgar’s important accomplishments during the 2017 legislative session dealt with civil asset forfeiture.
Civil asset forfeiture is known as a controversial legal process in which law enforcement officers take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing.
“I serve on the judiciary committee, and we worked last year to establish a task force addressing this issue,” Bomgar said. “I was able to be a part of that process as we worked to establish protections for Mississippi property owners. The bill brings transparency to the process by requiring reports of forfeitures and that a warrant be issued before any seized property can be held by the state.”
This year, Bomgar is looking to revisit many of the same issues from the last legislative session.
“One of the top concerns for my constituents is transparency in government,” Bomgar said. “My goal is to lead the way by posting every single vote that I take online with a simple explanation of the bill and why I voted the way I did. I’ve done this for my first two years, and that will continue in 2018.”
Bomgar said he also provides weekly email updates on the current legislative session, and all are welcome to sign up at joelbomgar.com.
“I want to make it easy for voters to know what their legislature is doing. I’m also completely accessible and open to any concerns or questions constituents might have. My cell phone number is publicly available, 601-207-0813, as is my personal email, firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Another one of Bomgar’s goals this year is to improve the state’s economy and workforce and expand economic opportunities in the state.
“All of my research on that front thus far is online at www.outoflastplace.com,” he said. “We’ve made some progress, but there’s still a large number of people in the state who can’t get jobs, many because of barriers the state creates to employment.”
As a member of the judiciary committee, Bomgar said he and other legislators have been working on bills that will remove state-imposed employment barriers to help people get jobs.”
Another one of Bomgar’s priorities that he is focusing on again during this legislative session is improving the transitional process for those formerly incarcerated.
“We all benefit when these people are employed and working, and I think we will continue making strides to get these people working to improve our state’s economy,” he said.
Specifically, Bomgar and legislators are reviewing options that will make getting driver’s licenses more accessible, easing some licensing restrictions and opening up more alternative sentencing options that require employment.
Occupational licensing restrictions is another one of Bomgar’s main issues he hopes to tackle during the 2018 legislative session.
“In the future, I would like to address the many occupational licensing restrictions that make it difficult for individuals to enter the workforce. In some instances, these regulations make it impossible for individuals to enter their field of choice.”
The state imposes these licensing requirements on over 60 occupations, according to Bomgar.
“For instance, if an individual was convicted of a nonviolent offense over 10 years ago and has repaid their debt to society, the laws of this state could prevent them from going to work as a social worker, even if their offense posed no danger to public safety and they’ve been a model citizen since then.”
Bomgar hopes to reevaluate the need for those provisions and expand opportunities to re-enter the workforce.
“There are barriers. There’s an inability to get driver’s licenses with outstanding fees and fines, but you need a driver’s license to get a job to pay off those fines.”
Bomgar said he and fellow legislators are hoping to make progress on that this coming year.
“Getting people’s driver’s licenses back immediately when they’re released from correctional custody is huge. You can’t get a job or to a job without a photo ID and a car. We’re a rural state, so if you can’t drive, you can’t get a job. That’s a big focus of 2018.”