New laws took effect July 1; one allows armed ‘school guardians’

Published 9:12 am Wednesday, July 19, 2023

A variety of new Mississippi laws took effect on July 1, tackling issues from absentee voting to baby drop-off boxes. 

Senate Bill 2079 permits trained and licensed school employees to carry concealed firearms on campuses. The identities of these “school guardians” will remain confidential.

In a significant health policy shift, Senate Bill 2212 extends postpartum Medicaid coverage from the previous two months to a full year. The change follows last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a Mississippi abortion case that prompted conservative lawmakers across the country to reconsider their positions on Medicaid expansion.

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Thanks to the lobbying efforts of fourth graders from Madison County, the blueberry is now Mississippi’s official state fruit under House Bill 1027. On the tech front, Senate Bill 2346 imposes an 18-year age verification requirement on certain websites or apps with substantial pornography content.

Several health care-related laws have also been enacted. House Bill 722 no longer classifies fentanyl testing materials as illegal drug paraphernalia. 

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 2696 encourages adoption by offering an income tax credit of up to $10,000 for adopting a Mississippi child and $5,000 for those adopted from outside the state. 

The gender-affirming health care ban for transgender individuals younger than 18 under House Bill 1125 has been in effect since Gov. Tate Reeves signed it into law on Feb. 28.

Controversy surrounds House Bill 1020, expanding the role of the state-run Capitol Police department and establishing a new court with appointed judges. Critics suggest it is an attempt to seize local control from Jackson, a majority black and Democrat-run city, while supporters argue it enhances public safety.

Among the other laws taking effect this month are increased transparency for foster parents (House Bill 510), expedited processing of sexual assault evidence kits (House Bill 485), lowering the minimum age for real estate contracts to 18 (Senate Bill 2073), authorization for pet insurance sales (Senate Bill 2228), and harsher penalties for pecan theft (Senate Bill 2523).

House Bill 1671, which expands a tax credit from $3.5 million a year to $10 million for people or businesses donating to pregnancy centers, has been retroactively in effect since Jan. 1. The establishment of safe drop-off boxes for babies up to 45 days old, under House Bill 1318, became law when Reeves signed it on April 19. 

One piece of legislation – Senate Bill 2358, which imposes limits on the handling of absentee ballots –  is currently under legal challenge for potentially disenfranchising disabled voters.

Lastly, the Mississippi Opal was declared the state gemstone when Senate Bill 2138 was signed into law by Reeves on March 3.