By Jeff Amy/The Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The process for injured Mississippi workers getting insurance payments will become more restrictive. Dyslexic students will be able to transfer to other public or private schools and have the state pay for it. And AT&T will be relieved of obligations to hook up phone service to certain customers.
Those are among the new Mississippi laws that come into force Sunday, with the start of the state’s 2012-2013 budget year.
Gov. Phil Bryant signed more than 400 bills passed by the 2012 Legislature. Some became law with his signature. Others pertaining to changes in voting and elections await approval from the U.S. Justice Department. But many take effect July 1.
Here’s a look at some new high-profile laws:
— House Bill 1031 requires early dyslexia screening. If a dyslexic student in grades 1 through 6 is in a school that lacks programs specifically to help with the reading disorder, the new law will allow the student to transfer to a different public school or district that offers the services, or to get a scholarship to a private school that offers them. Bryant, who suffered from dyslexia and repeated the third grade, told students that “It can be treated. You can overcome this” when he signed the bill.
— Senate Bill 2851 eliminates the three-day waiting period for a marriage license in Mississippi and eliminates the requirement that the bride and groom each undergo a premarital blood test for syphilis. Tourism officials sought the change, saying same-day licenses could make Natchez, the Gulf Coast and other scenic spots more attractive for out-of-state couples who want elaborate destination weddings.
— Senate Bill 2776 changes the state’s system of rating schools to give each school and school district a letter grade ranging from A to F. The current system ranks schools and districts from star to failing. Bryant says the bill improves “the clarity of our school accreditation system.”
— Senate Bill 2576 revises the state’s workers’ compensation law in favor of employers. It says no payment will be owed a worker found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when an on-the-job injury occurs. It also allows a partial reduction in payments to any worker who is injured on the job but had pre-existing conditions such as a bad back.
— House Bill 825 removes most of the remaining regulatory authority that the Public Service Commission has over AT&T. The PSC loses authority to set rates for 30,000 local-only landlines. AT&T would no longer be required to serve as company of last resort for landline customers in its traditional territory, and would no longer have to file service and financial data with the commission. The bill retains the commission’s authority over consumer complaints, as well as some other regulatory provisions.
— House Bill 1095 allows the College Board to waive out-of-state tuition for students at Mississippi’s eight public universities. The board has already approved a waiver program for some students at Jackson State University.
— Senate Bill 2917 requires state agencies to not buy or lease new vehicles in the 2012-2013 budget year and requires agencies with large vehicle fleets to reduce them over several years. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who shepherded the measure, calls it “one key effort … to limit new spending.”
— House Bill 1094 requires scrap metal dealers to stop buying manhole covers unless they’re being sold by a government or a manufacturer.
— House Bill 447 requires each school board to conduct a comprehensive annual evaluation of the district’s superintendent.
— House Bill 86 names a portion of Interstate 55 in Copiah County for famous bluesman Robert Johnson.
— House Bill 852 exempts churches from paying sales taxes on their utility bills.