Glance at bills in the Mississippi Legislature

By The Associated Press

Here’s a glance at the status of selected bills in the Mississippi Legislature. Wednesday was the deadline for floor action in the House and Senate to act on general bills and constitutional amendments already passed by the opposite chamber. The three-month session is scheduled to end April 2.

***

ALIVE

ANIMAL CRUELTY — Senate Bill 2821 says the first offense of cruelty to dogs or cats would remain a misdemeanor, but the alleged offender would undergo testing at his or her own expense to screen for mental illness. Conviction for a first offense would carry a $2,500 fine or up to six months in jail. An offender could face a felony charge on a second offense. Punishment for a felony conviction would be a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. The bill has passed both chambers in different forms; it has been sent back to the Senate for more work.

TEACHER CONDUCT — House Bill 641 would provide specific reasons for suspending or revoking the license of a teacher or school administrator for sexual misconduct with a student. The bill has passed both chambers in different forms; the House has asked the Senate to negotiate on the bill.

NATHAN’S LAW — Senate Bill 2472 would increase the penalty for passing school buses. The bill was changed in the House to make a suspended driver’s license part of the punishment for second and subsequent offenses. It returns to the Senate for more work.

INSURANCE DATABASE — House Bill 620 would create a computer database state troopers could use to verify whether motorists have insurance when they are pulled over for other reasons.

***

ALIVE AND IN HOUSE-SENATE NEGOTIATIONS

IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT — Senate Bill 2179 would allow a law enforcement officer to check a person’s immigration status if the officer thinks the person might be in the United States illegally.

***

ALIVE AND HEADED TO THE GOVERNOR

FAKE BATH SALTS — House Bill 1205 would outlaw fake bath salts and other products containing toxic chemicals that some people are using to get a psychotic high.

‘BASTARD’ — Senate Bill 2986 would remove the words “bastard” and “bastardy” from state laws dealing with paternity proceedings for children of unmarried parents.

UNDERAGE DRINKING — Senate Bill 2597 would set penalties for people who host parties where minors consume alcohol.

SEX EDUCATION — House Bill 999 would allow each school district to develop its own sex education curriculum to allow either the current state policy of abstinence only or an “abstinence plus” option.

HOMESCHOOLED STUDENTS — House Bill 636 would require homeschooled students who are transferring into public schools to be tested to ensure they’re enrolled at the proper grade level.

***

SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR

OPEN MEETINGS — Senate Bill 2289 says that starting July 1, individual officials could face fines of $500 to $1,000 for improperly closing meetings that should be open to the public. Under current law, taxpayers have been footing the bill for the fines. It says that starting July 1, a person could be charged $100 per incident for improperly denying someone access to public records. Current law says there’s a $100 fine, but doesn’t specify that it’s for each incident.

PAYDAY LENDING — House Bill 455, which becomes law Jan. 1, will give consumers longer to pay off loans from check cashing businesses and will reduce some finance charges. It also gives payday lenders at least three more years to stay in business in Mississippi.

FETICIDE — House Bill 2615 would clarify the state law related to injury or death of a fetus. Under the bill, a serious but nonfatal physical injury would be a felony. The bill says a minor injury to a fetus would be a misdemeanor.

***

DEAD

TEXTING BAN — Senate Bill 2793 would’ve banned texting while driving, despite several lawmakers’ concerns about how such a measure would be enforced.