Local lawmakers discuss Landowners Protection Act

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - We're continuing coverage of a pair of bills that are stirring up controversy at the state capitol.

Senate Bill 2901 and House Bill 337, known as the Landowners Protection Act, would reduce the liability of business owners when someone is injured on their property, unless there's proof they knew about the potential harm.

"It's still in discussion in the House. I think the Senate has passed a version, but it's a long way from being finalized," said Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden.

Under current Mississippi law, lawmakers say an 'atmosphere of violence' has to be proved when suing a business for an injury that takes place there. This bill would narrow the definition of an 'atmosphere of violence', requiring a felony conviction in the prior three years.

"We don't want any sort of reform to go too far and make it unsafe for our citizens, but by the same token we want to have people feel like they can come in and develop and do business in Mississippi," said Snowden.

Opponents of the bill say this will lead to a rise in crime because property owners will no longer feel the need to invest in security measures like installing surveillance, hiring security and lighting. Snowden says he believes there's a middle ground.

"You want them to be incentivized to do that, but then again you don't want them to be held responsible for something that's not really their fault," said Snowden.

Lawmakers have yet to set a date for a vote on the House bill.

"Well we do want to give incentives to developers and to new businesses to come into Mississippi, and if we make the legal climate too difficult it's hard for them to do that," said Snowden.