By Talbert Toole
The Mississippi Legislature passed several bills in its 2019 session, which ended March 29, that included legislation regarding human trafficking, teacher pay and criminal justice.
All the bills passed in the session go into effect today with exception of one—the “heartbeat” abortion bill.
The “heartbeat” bill (Senate Bill 2116) was signed into law on March 21 by Gov. Phil Bryant; however, on May 24, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued a preliminary injunction blocking the controversial piece of legislation.
The bill would have banned abortions beginning at 6 weeks, which is considered to be when a heartbeat can be detected. If a baby’s heartbeat can be detected and the pregnancy does not risk “death of the pregnant woman … substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” it is not legal.
SB 2116 also states if a physician performs an abortion when the heartbeat is present, he or she will be subject to license revocation or disciplinary action.
The current injunction by Reeves aligns with another lawsuit the state is facing regarding its past bill on 15-week abortions.
Mississippi is one of many states throughout the country that have recently tried to pass legislation on abortion in order to overturn Roe V. Wade at the U.S. Supreme Court level.
On May 21, three days prior to Reeve’s injunction, many LOU members gathered on the Square to march against the “heartbeat” bill. The march entitled “Stop Abortion Bans” coincided with the national march that took place at the same time in Washington, D.C.
Cristen Hemmins, chair of the Lafayette County Democratic Party, led the march against the bill. She said women will die if laws like the ‘”heartbeat” bill are passed.
“Reproductive rights are healthcare. Abortion rights are healthcare. Women are people, too,” she said at the May march.
Below is a list of bills passed and signed by Gov. Bryant that go into law today:
CRIMINAL JUSTICE — House Bill 1352 eases penalties on some Mississippians accused or convicted of crimes. It stops the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for nonpayment of fines or for simple drug possession. It also creates “intervention courts” to handle cases involving veterans, drugs and mental health issues.
JOB LICENSING — Senate Bill 2781, named the “Fresh Start Act of 2019,” says a criminal conviction does not disqualify people from receiving a job license unless the conviction was directly related to the job for which the license is required. Groups that issue job licenses are banned from using phrases such as “moral turpitude.”
TEACHER PAY — Senate Bill 2770 authorizes a $1,500 pay raise for teachers.
PROPERTY OWNER LIABILITY — Senate Bill 2901, called the “Landowners Protection Act,” says that anyone who owns, leases, operates, or maintains a commercial property in Mississippi will not be liable for any injury on the property caused by another person, unless the person in charge of the property did something that “impelled” the harmful action. Supporters say the new law will provide financial protection for property owners or managers, while critics say it could lead to negligence.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIMS — House Bill 571 prevents charges from being filed against trafficking victims who are younger than 18. The minor would be taken into protective custody and counseling would be provided. Foster parents would be trained to help trafficking victims.
MARRIAGE LICENSES — Senate Bill 2043 increases the cost of a marriage license from $20 to $35.
TERROR THREATS — Senate Bill 2141 creates a new felony of making a terrorist threat. It is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
GUNS IN COURTHOUSES — House Bill 1581 clarifies an existing law about guns in courthouses to say that guns may be banned in courtrooms, jury rooms, witness rooms and judges’ chambers but may not be banned in hallways, courthouse grounds or other areas in or around a courthouse that are generally open to the public.
CHURCH PROTECTION — House Bill 390 says retired law enforcement officers may work in security for churches or other houses of worship and may be immune from civil lawsuits in that role.
SCHOOL SAFETY — House Bill 1283 requires public schools to conduct active-shooter drills.
CORPORAL PUNISHMENT — House Bill 1182 bans corporal punishment for any student who has a disability or a special-education plan.
COUNTY OFFICIALS’ PAY — Senate Bill 2827 creates a task force to study salaries of county officials and to make long-term recommendations. This part of the law takes effect on July 1. Other parts of the same law will authorize pay raises for county supervisors, chancery clerks, circuit clerks, tax collectors, tax assessors and other county officials, beginning in January.
VEHICLE SALES TAX — Senate Bill 2229 says no sales tax is charged when a vehicle is sold from one sibling to another.
ISRAEL — House Bill 761 bans the state of Mississippi from investing in companies that boycott Israel.
In addition, the SB 2603 bill, “movie incentives,” which extends a program that allows Mississippi to offer rebates to motion picture production companies that work in the state, has already been in effect when it was signed in April.