1997 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Thames, Stogner
Senate Bill 2288
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 69-21-125, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO INCREASE THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE AGRICULTURAL AVIATION LICENSING LAW; TO AMEND SECTION 69-21-153, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT PENALTY EVALUATIONS AND ASSESSMENTS SHALL BE HANDLED DIRECTLY BY THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURAL AVIATION RATHER THAN THROUGH A REVIEWING OFFICER; TO PROVIDE THE ACCUSED WITH THE OPPORTUNITY FOR AN INFORMAL SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE; TO AMEND SECTION 69-21-155, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO SIMPLIFY THE HEARING PROCESS BY ALLOWING THE ACCUSED TO NOTIFY THE BOARD DIRECTLY OF HIS REQUEST FOR A HEARING; TO AMEND SECTIONS 69-21-157 AND 69-21-165, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY THERETO; TO AMEND SECTION 69-21-127, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO EXTEND THE REPEALER ON THE PROVISIONS OF LAW WHICH CREATE AND EMPOWER THE AGRICULTURAL AVIATION BOARD; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 69-21-125, Mississippi Code of 1972, is reenacted as follows:
69-21-125. (1) Violation of this article or the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder shall be a felony punishable by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) and not more than Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00), or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than five (5) years, or by both such fine and imprisonment. Each day's violation shall constitute a separate offense. All sums of money collected as a result of fines levied under this section shall be forwarded to the State Treasurer and disbursed upon requisitions signed by the Chairman of the Board of Agricultural Aviation to defray operating expenses of the board and for no other purpose; provided, however, all such funds shall be subject to audit by the State Auditor.
(2) In addition to the penalties herein provided, the board is hereby granted the authority to file in any court of competent jurisdiction injunctive proceedings against any person violating the provisions of this article or the rules and regulations promulgated hereunder.
(3) The Attorney General, district attorneys, and county attorneys of the state shall assist the Board of Agricultural Aviation upon their request to carry out the penalty section of this article.
SECTION 2. Section 69-21-153, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
69-21-153. (1) When any allegation or charge has been made against a person for violating the rules and regulations of the Board of Agricultural Aviation or Sections 69-21-101 through 69-21-127, * * * the Board of Agricultural Aviation * * * shall:
(a) Cause the complaint to be in writing and signed by the person making the charge;
(b) Insure that the complaint is filed in the office of the Board of Agricultural Aviation; * * *
(c) Cause the complaint to be investigated by an inspector of the Agricultural Aviation Board or the Bureau of Plant Industry; and
(d) Send a copy of the complaint and any supporting documents to the person accused along with a request for the accused to respond to the allegations within thirty (30) days. Such notification shall be accomplished by any of the methods provided for in Rule 4 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon receipt of the response and any supporting documents from the accused, the Board of Agricultural Aviation shall screen all information on file to determine the merit of the complaint or lack thereof.
(2) If the Board of Agricultural Aviation determines that the complaint lacks merit, it may recommend that the complaint be dismissed.
(3) If the Board of Agricultural Aviation determines that there are reasonable grounds to indicate that a violation has occurred or if the accused admits to the truth of the allegations upon which the complaint is based, the Board of Agricultural Aviation may recommend a fine not to exceed Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) for each violation.
(4)(a) In determining the amount of the penalty, the Board of Agricultural Aviation may consider the appropriateness of such penalty to the size of the business of the person charged, the effect on the person's ability to continue in business and the gravity of the violation. Whenever the Board of Agricultural Aviation finds that the violation occurred, despite the exercise of due care, if the violation did not cause significant harm to the public health or the environment, the Board of Agricultural Aviation may issue a warning in lieu of proposing a penalty.
(b) The accused shall have thirty days (30) from receipt of the recommendation of the Board of Agricultural Aviation within which to file with the Board of Agricultural Aviation a written request for an informal settlement conference. If the accused requests a conference as provided herein, the Board of Agricultural Aviation shall meet with the accused to discuss the proposed penalty and the possibility of an agreed settlement. If, in the judgment of the Board of Agricultural Aviation, a reasonable settlement is reached, the Board of Agricultural Aviation may revise its penalty recommendation accordingly.
(c) The accused shall have thirty (30) days from the receipt of the decision of the Board of Agricultural Aviation to request a hearing.
SECTION 3. Section 69-21-155, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
69-21-155. (1) The Board of Agricultural Aviation shall, within thirty (30) days of notification from the accused, schedule a hearing at a date, time and place to be determined by the Board of Agricultural Aviation. For good cause shown the board may grant a continuance or continuances of such hearings. Written notice of the date, time and place of such hearing shall be mailed to the accused by registered mail, return receipt requested, no less than fifteen (15) days before the time of the hearing.
(2) A duly qualified court reporter shall be in attendance and shall make a full and complete transcript of the proceedings. The hearing shall be closed unless the accused shall request a public hearing. The Board of Agricultural Aviation shall have the right and duty to impose reasonable restrictions as it may deem necessary or appropriate to insure an orderly, expeditious and impartial proceeding, and shall admit all relevant and material evidence except evidence which is unduly repetitious. Hearsay shall be admissible to the extent permitted by the board.
(3) For purposes of such hearing, the board is hereby empowered to require the attendance of witnesses, administer oaths and hear testimony, either oral or documentary, for and against the accused. The Board of Agricultural Aviation shall have the authority to issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of books, papers, records or other documentary evidence at a hearing. Subpoenas to be issued shall be delivered to the sheriff of the county where they are to be executed and the sheriff shall cause them to be served. In case of the failure of any person to comply with any subpoena issued by the board, the board or its authorized representative may invoke the aid of any court of general jurisdiction of this state. The court may thereupon order such person to comply with the requirements of the subpoena. Failure to comply with the order of the court may be treated as contempt thereof.
(4) At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board of Agricultural Aviation upon the majority vote of the members shall issue a written opinion incorporating its findings of facts and conclusions of law and any penalty that it may assess not to exceed Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) per violation. The executive officer shall notify the accused violator of the Board of Agricultural Aviation's decision.
SECTION 4. Section 69-21-157, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
69-21-157. Failure of the accused to request an informal settlement conference or a hearing or to respond to the complaint within thirty (30) days shall constitute a waiver of the right to a hearing, and any penalties assessed by the Board of Agricultural Aviation shall be due and payable as provided in Section 69-21-165.
SECTION 5. Section 69-21-165, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
69-21-165. (1) Any penalty assessed by the Board of Agricultural Aviation shall be due and payable within forty-five (45) days of the notification of the decision. All sums of money collected as a result of fines levied under this section shall be disbursed as provided in Section 69-21-125(1), Mississippi Code of 1972.
(2) In the event that the judgment is not paid within the forty-five (45) days, or within such additional time as the board may allow, the Board of Agricultural Aviation through its designated representative may file suit in the circuit court of the county where the defendant resides or in the case of a nonresident defendant in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County or any other court with appropriate jurisdiction to enforce the decision of the Board of Agricultural Aviation and recover reasonable attorney's fees and all court costs.
(3) A copy of the notification sent by the Board of Agricultural Aviation to the violator shall be sufficient proof as to the judgment of the * * * board.
SECTION 6. Section 69-21-127, Mississippi Code of 1972,
is amended as follows:
69-21-127. Sections 69-21-101 through 69-21-125, Mississippi Code of 1972, which create the State Board of Agricultural Aviation and prescribe its duties and powers, shall stand repealed as of December 31, 2002.
SECTION 7. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.