Gov. Haley Barbour has vetoed a bill the Legislature passed that would have required motorists to have auto insurance before they could get a car tag.
In a letter to lawmakers, Barbour said, “I am supportive of the concept,” and “I believe this bill can be fixed...” but said he is concerned about the costs of establishing a system to check coverage, and that it might put too much of a burden on the Department of Public Safety. He also said the bill didn’t give state agencies enough time to analyze costs and set up a system.
Rep. Hank Zuber III, R-Ocean Springs, one of the bill’s main supporters, said he was disappointed and a little surprised Barbour vetoed the bill, which passed only after years of debate and work.
“(Barbour) never gave any indication to us that there were questions or problems with this bill,” Zuber said. “We supplied a fiscal note showing how this would pay for itself. We thought we had all the bases covered. I am very disappointed. This was good, sound policy that made sense. This is a strange process sometimes.”
Barbour said, “I am amenable to including this in the next special session” for lawmakers to tackle changes.”
Zuber said, “That’s not likely to happen.”
“We’re going to have redistricting going on, maybe looking at running for election twice,” Zuber said. “I just don’t see us taking it up again right now, or getting it passed again. I also don’t see us trying to override his veto.”
Mississippi has one of the highest rates in the nation of uninsured motorists, an estimated 28 percent compared with the national average of 16 percent. State law has for decades said motorists must carry at least minimum liability coverage, but for most of that time the law has had no teeth. Lawmakers strengthened the law in 2000, requiring motorists to show proof of insurance if stopped for other violations or in a wreck. But such cards can be forged or coverage can be allowed to lapse after the cards are issued.
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