More law enforcement officers would be out on Mississippi
and Montana roadways if lawmakers in the two states give their blessings to
An effort in the Montana House would provide more money to
put additional Highway Patrol officers on the road and pay higher salaries to
keep them from defecting to other agencies.
The number of uniformed patrol officers in the state has
declined by 6 percent in the past 30 years to just over 200, even as Montana’s
population grew 32 percent, The Associated Press reported.
Low pay and long hours were cited as the main reasons many
officers left the force.
A bill offered by Rep. Larry Jent, D-Bozeman, would generate
an estimated $6.5 million each year by adding a $5 fee to motor vehicle
registrations. About $3.4 million of that would be used in fiscal year 2007 to
increase patrol salaries and to hire 20 more officers to increase the patrol’s
presence on Montana highways, with the rest going for as many as 50 new
officers in coming years.
The bill – HB35 – would open up as many as 14 positions
within the patrol by removing a state mandate requiring the agency to leave
jobs unfilled to stay within its budget. The bill is in the House State
The Mississippi Senate on Jan. 26 unanimously approved a
bill to increase the number of state troopers.
The bill would appropriate $3 million to equip and train at
least 50 new troopers.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol has 533 troopers, but 149 are
eligible for retirement in the coming year.
There has been only one graduating class of new troopers in
the past three years.
“Safety of our
citizens is of the utmost importance to all Mississippians,” Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck
said in a written statement. “We must continue to do whatever it takes to
guarantee that our communities, highways and roads are safe for all Mississippi
The measure – SB2429 – is headed to the House for