2005 Regular Session
By: Representative Fleming
AN ACT TO AUTHORIZE MUNICIPALITIES TO ADOPT ORDINANCES PROHIBITING HOUSING DISCRIMINATION; TO PROVIDE FOR REMEDIES TO AGGRIEVED PERSONS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The purpose of this act is to authorize municipalities to adopt ordinances that prohibit housing discrimination and are consistent with federal laws prohibiting housing discrimination. It is also the purpose of this act to authorize municipalities to provide remedies to persons aggrieved by housing discrimination.
SECTION 2. (1) The governing authorities of municipalities may adopt ordinances prohibiting housing discrimination and affording remedies to persons aggrieved by acts of housing discrimination if the ordinances are not inconsistent with federal law.
(2) For the purpose of enforcing any ordinance adopted in accordance with this section, the governing authorities of municipalities may:
(a) Appoint an administrative body or board consisting of not more than seven (7) members who may receive complaints, subpoena information, investigate complaints, conciliate complaints and conduct hearings on complaints of housing discrimination;
(b) Expend monies from its general fund to pay for salaries of board members and support personnel, expenses, supplies and other costs incurred in connection with the enforcement of its ordinance prohibiting housing discrimination; and
(c) Receive financial and other assistance from agencies, governmental entities and nonprofit organizations designed to promote enforcement of laws prohibiting housing discrimination.
SECTION 3. (1) A municipality adopting an ordinance and appointing an administrative body or board under Section 2 of this act may by ordinance authorize the board to award persons aggrieved by acts of housing discrimination any or all of the following:
(a) Actual damages;
(b) Compensatory damages not exceeding Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00);
(c) Reasonable attorney's fees;
(d) Injunctive relief;
(e) Punitive damages not exceeding Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) if the conduct complained of constitutes gross negligence, bad faith or was exercised with malicious intent.
(2) In addition to the remedies stated in subsection (1) of this section, the municipality may by ordinance authorize the board to assess ordinance violators with administrative costs and fees in an amount not exceeding the sum of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) and civil penalties as follows:
(a) A fine in an amount not exceeding Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) for any party adjudged to be first-time offenders;
(b) A fine in an amount not exceeding Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) for any party adjudged to have violated any federal, state or local law prohibiting housing discrimination within the five-year period immediately preceding the subject violation; and
(c) A fine in an amount not exceeding Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00) if the violating party is adjudged to be a habitual violator. For purposes of this section, a habitual violator is any firm, individual, corporation, nonprofit entity, partnership, entity or group of same, adjudged to have violated any federal, state or local law prohibiting housing discrimination on two (2) or more separate occasions.
SECTION 4. (1) The orders of an administrative body or board appointed by a municipality for the purpose of enforcing ordinances prohibiting housing discrimination shall be binding and subject to enforcement unless appealed in like manner as judgments and orders entered by the courts of this state.
(2) A party aggrieved by a final order of an administrative body or board appointed by the municipality to enforce its ordinance prohibiting housing discrimination may appeal the order to the circuit court by filing a written notice of appeal and request for transcription of the proceedings with the board's clerk or secretary within ten (10) days of entry of the order. Upon receipt of the notice of appeal, the administrative body or board shall cause its proceedings to be transcribed and shall file same with the clerk of the circuit court within forty-five (45) days and shall notify the parties that the transcript has been filed. Subsequent to the filing of the transcript, the parties may file briefs in accordance with the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the circuit court may proceed to hear and determine the appeal. However, the court's determination of the appeal is limited to whether substantial evidence supports the board's order.
(3) Review of a decision or order entered by the circuit court reviewing the administrative body's order may be made by appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court in accordance with the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure. Review by the Mississippi Supreme Court shall be limited to a determination whether substantial evidence supported the administrative board's order.
SECTION 5. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.