Teacher pay raises, school safety and criminal penalties are among the topics addressed by new Mississippi state laws that went into effect with the start of July.
Several laws will have a direct effect on the Mississippi school system. Under the new bills, teachers will get a $1,500 pay raise, school administrators are banned from using corporal punishment on any student with a disability or special-education plan and all public schools are now required to conduct active-shooter drills.
Other safety issues addressed include church protection, terror threats and guns in courthouses. Retired law enforcement officers may now work in church security or in security for other houses of worship and be immune from civil lawsuits in that security role. Terrorist threats are defined as a felony and are now punishable by up to 10 years in prison. One House bill clarifies an existing law that guns may be banned in courtrooms, jury rooms, witness rooms and judges' chambers but may not be banned in hallways, on courthouse grounds or in other areas open to the public in or around a courthouse.
According to the new laws, Mississippi criminal offenders who are either accused or convicted of a crime will not be disqualified from receiving a license to work unless the conviction is in direct relation to that specific job and will not automatically have their driver's license suspended for non repayment of fines or drug possession. Intervention courts are also being created to handle cases involving veterans, drugs and mental health issues.
Anyone who owns, leases, operates or maintains a commercial property in Mississippi are now released from liability for any injury on the property caused by another person unless the owner did something to incite the action.
Another law prevents charges from being filed against trafficking victims under the age of 18. The minor would instead be taken into protective custody and receive counseling, as well as help from trained foster parents.
A task force has also been created to study the salaries of county officials and make long-term recommendations, and pay raises for county supervisors, chancery clerks, tax collectors, tax assessors and other county officials is set to take effect in January.
Other laws also took effect on Monday, July 1. Siblings can now sell vehicles to each other without being charged sales tax. The state of Mississippi is banned from investing in companies that boycott Israel. The cost of a marriage license has been increased from $20 to $35.
In addition to the new laws, a federal judge has temporarily blocked the "heartbeat bill," which would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, from taking effect. The state is appealing the judge's decision.
Brent Walker is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.