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10 unusual bills proposed in Mississippi’s 2023 legislative session

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The 2023 legislative session has kicked off in Mississippi, with lawmakers proposing several odd bills that may become effective this year.

Here’s a list of 10 unusual bills proposed by state legislators:

Name the blueberry as the state fruit

House Bill 1027, authored by Representative Jill Ford, R-Madison, proposes that the Mississippi legislature should “designate the blueberry as the state fruit of Mississippi.”

The blueberry, which is native to the southeastern portion of the U.S., is a massive fruit crop across Mississippi as over 2,000 acres are used for growing blueberries alone.

Designate the Mississippi Opal as the state gemstone

Two bills proposing that the Mississippi Opal be named the state’s gemstone have been filed in the legislature.

The Mississippi Opal is the only gem naturally produced within the state’s geographical boundaries. The gemstone was first discovered during geological mapping of the Catahoula Formation in Claiborne County by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Geology.

Representative Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, authored House Bill 772, creating “an act to designate the Mississippi Opal as the official state gemstone.” In the Senate, Lydia Chassaniol, R-Wiggins, authored Senate Bill 2138, which has similar wording to the House’s bill.

Enact stiffer penalties for pecan theft

Pecan farmers in Mississippi are looking to crack down on pecan thefts, with one legislator aiming to “revise the criminal and civil penalties for violating the provisions of the pecan harvesting law.”

Senate Bill 2523 would place tougher penalties on those who steal pecans during harvesting season, which spans from September 1 to January 31. Those found guilty of stealing pecans would be subject to the penalties of petty larceny or grand larceny.

In addition, SB 2523 would require “restitution to be made to the owner of the severed pecans,” whether it be through money or pecans. A similar bill made it through the Senate during the 2021 and 2022 sessions before dying on the calendar in the House. 

Allow deer hunters to wear fluorescent pink vests

Legislation that would allow hunters to wear fluorescent pink vests as an alternative to fluorescent orange during deer hunting season has been filed in the House.

If passed, House Bill 373 would enable hunters to wear at least 500 square inches of solid unbroken fluorescent pink or orange. The bill also states that the new vest color would apply when hunting wild hogs during any open gun season on deer. The requirement would not apply to a hunter while they are in a fully enclosed deer stand.

Increase fines for littering

One Mississippi legislator is aiming to decrease the amount of littering in the state by requiring those found guilty of the crime to perform trash pick-up as a condition of conviction.

As stated in House Bill 45, the legislation would require convicted individuals to pick up trash, litter, rubbish, cigarette, or cigar stubs, or any other thing or substance on roads, highways, or any private property.

Additionally, those convicted would be fined between $250 and $500 for the first offense. If an individual is convicted a second time, they will receive a fine between $1,000 and $2,000. Upon conviction for a third or subsequent offense, the individual will be fined at least $3,000.

The bill also requires a total of $150 for each conviction to be set aside, with half of the funds to be given to the Statewide Litter Prevention Fund and the additional amount to go to the Law Enforcement Officers Monument Fund. Once the monument is constructed, $75 will be deposited with the Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board to be used for the scholarship program for children of deceased or disabled law enforcement officers and firemen.

Require the identification of secondhand mattresses

Several legislators have discussed a concern about consumers unknowingly purchasing used mattresses in Mississippi.

According to Senate Bill 2247, individuals selling secondhand mattresses would be required to attach a specified tag indicating that the mattress had been used or contained secondhand materials.

The bill states that each mattress containing used material must have a white cloth tag permanently secured to it that is no less than six square inches in size, will not flake, and is indelibly stamped or printed in English stating what materials are used in filling the mattress, that the mattress or material is secondhand, and indicated the original date of manufacture of the mattress.

Those found guilty of a first offense will be fined $50. For a second offense, the individual will be fined $500. Each offender convicted for a third or subsequent offense will be fined $2,500.

Celebrate National Therapy Animal Day in Mississippi

Thousands of therapy animals are used to help Mississippians across the state daily, with Representative Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, proposing that legislators declare April 30, 2023, National Therapy Animal Day.

House Concurrent Resolution 2 proposes that the legislature would team with Pet Partners to celebrate the day in Mississippi. According to the bill, Pet Partners is a national leader in demonstrating and promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted therapy, activities, and education.

Establish a legal framework for the sale of pet insurance:

Pet lovers may be able to purchase insurance for their animals in Mississippi with the help of House Bill 1191.

The bill, which was also authored by Zuber, would “establish the legal framework by which pet insurance may be sold in this state.”

Mississippi Sweet Potato Council car tags

Supporters of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council may have the option once again to opt-in for a distinctive motor vehicle license tag stating their affiliation with the organization with Senate Bill 2666.

The bill would allow any Mississippi resident that owns a vehicle to purchase the license tag for $30 after July 1, 2023.

Require high school students to pass citizenship test

Mississippi high school students may need to brush up on their U.S. history if Senate Bill 2057 or SB 2065 passes, as both bills would require graduates to pass the Naturalization Test used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In SB 2057, students would need to correctly answer at least 60 of the 100 listed questions to receive a diploma. Students who do not obtain a passing score would be allowed to retake the test until the individual receives the required score. If passed, the requirement would begin for the 2023 to 2024 school year.

As for SB 2065, each student would be required to correctly answer 80 percent of the questions listed on the test. The bill states that individuals may take the test at any time after enrolling in Grade 11 and may retake the test three times.

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