Reeves vetoed a similar bill from the 2021 session.

A variety of bills appeared before the Mississippi Senate last week, including Senate Bill 2097 which was presented by State Sen. Daniel Sparks.

On Thursday, before the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act was taken up on the floor, Senator Sparks introduced the bill which would enact a pilot program where the Mississippi Real Estate Commission would use staff lawyers from the Attorney General’s office as hearing officers when dealing with certain complaints.

The bill passed by a vote of 49-1 with one Senator voting present and one absent. Senator Brice Wiggins (R) was the lone lawmaker voting against the bill.

SB 2624, a similar bill to SB 2097, was passed in 2021, but was vetoed by Governor Tate Reeves.

The Governor contends that SB 2624 completely removed the Mississippi Real Estate Commission from the disciplinary process of a person charged with a violation and confers upon the hearing officer the full disciplinary authority of the Commission.

The Governor was unwilling to remove the Commission from final disciplinary authority.

“While I am troubled that the Commission has failed to adopt comprehensive written policies and procedures to ensure consistent procedural due process is followed in connection with the handling of complaints and disciplinary proceedings, I am unwilling at this time to remove final disciplinary authority from the Commission,” Reeves wrote in the veto message.

Despite the Governor’s concerns, the current version of the bill in this 2022 session – SB 2097 – has retained the phrase, “The administrative hearing officers shall have the same powers and authority in conducting hearings and rendering decisions as granted to the commission in this section.”

Further, Governor Reeves argued that while it may be appropriate to apply the clear and convincing standard of proof to alleged violations implicating charges of fraud or intentional misconduct, “this heightened standard of proof should not be applied to alleged negligence-based violations of Commission rules or procedures.”

The 2021 version stated “the clear and convincing standard of proof” would be used to examine all factors at a hearing. A change was made in the 2022 version which now says “the preponderance of evidence standard of proof” will be used at the hearing.

In his veto message, the Governor encouraged all stakeholders to come together for a discussion of these and other issues in order to reach a solution prior to the 2022 Legislative session. Whether the current version of the bill will pass Reeves’ conditions for signing it should the House also pass the bill remains to be seen.

You can read the full veto letter from the 2021 Session by the Governor below.

Bill 2624 Veto Message by yallpolitics on Scribd