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Notable Mississippi laws that are now in effect

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The Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson (Photo by SuperTalk Mississippi News)

The 2022 legislative session was filled with the passing of numerous bills that will provide important changes across Mississippi, with a large amount expected to go into effect today.

Here are some of the most notable bills that are now state law:

K-12 Career Pathway

The Comprehensive Career and Technical Education Reform Act (HB 1388) will provide a detailed list of industry certifications to K-12 students in Mississippi through a career coaching program to ensure they are aligned with a career or technical program that best suits them. Along with improving career pathway education for students in primary and secondary schools, the bill will require the MDE to work in conjunction with the Mississippi Community College Board for post-secondary education requirements.

Teacher Pay Raise

The “START Act of 2022” (HB 530) will distribute over $246 million to Mississippi public school teachers, raising the base teacher salary by an average of $5,140.

It also includes additional raises for qualifying teachers:

  • Provide extra pay bumps at five-year intervals. At years 5, 10, 15, and 20, teachers would receive raises based on their level of education. Class A teachers (baccalaureate) would receive $1,325, Class AA teachers (master’s degree) would receive $1,525, Class AAA (specialist) would receive $1,525, and Class AAAA (doctoral) would receive $1,625.
  • At 25 years of service, teachers would receive a pay increase of $2,500.
  • Provide a raise of $2,000 to teacher assistants.
Tax Cut

The “Mississippi Tax Freedom Act of 2022” (HB 531) will phase in $525 million in tax cuts over the next four years. It will also allow filers, by 2023, to exempt more income tax from taxation than any other state with a personal income tax, eliminate the 4% tax bracket, and drop the 5% bracket to 4.7% for 2024, 4.4% for 2025, and 4.0% for 2026.

Equal Pay

The “Mississippi Equal Pay for Equal Work Act” (HB 770) defines terms such as “employee,” “employer,” “wage,” “rate,” and “unpaid wages,” further protecting every individual from experiencing unequal pay in a position of equal work. Mississippi is the final state in the nation to implement a state law regarding the enforcement of equal pay despite the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Election Spending

Funding elections with private money in Mississippi is now against the law as House Bill 1365 goes into effect, preventing any agency or local official from taking donations from an individual or nongovernmental entity for the purpose of funding election-related expenses or voter education, voter outreach, or voter registration programs.

“Parker’s Law”

“Parker’s Law” (HB 607) will crack down on drug distribution in Mississippi by labeling fentanyl delivery resulting in death a first-degree murder. Now, those charged with “fentanyl delivery resulting in death” will face at least 20 years in prison.

State Song

House Bill 453 creates a Mississippi State Songs Committee for the purpose of designating “numerous state songs so that Mississippians may enjoy state songs that are appropriate for all occasions, events, and daily activities.” One of the first songs to be chosen as the state’s official song in the contemporary genre was Steve Azar’s “One Mississippi.”

Private Property

Pre-existing laws surrounding private property taken by eminent domain will be solidified into state law by House Bill 1769. The bill codifies Article 3, Section 17A of the Mississippi Constitution and verifies Initiative 31, a ballot initiative passed into the state constitution in 2011. It also prohibits the transferring of private property to any person, nongovernmental entity, public-private partnership, corporation, or other business entity for ten years after its acquisition.

“Buddy’s Law”

“Buddy’s Law” (SB 2245) requires that a child who injures a dog or cat be subjected to a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and counseling. Additional sections require that the parent or guardian pay the cost of any evaluation, counseling, and treatment that the child is sentenced to by the court. Children who commit minor acts of harm to a dog or cat, however, will not be required to undergo a mental health evaluation unless determined otherwise by a judge.

State Officials Pay Raise

Increases ranging from 22% to 67% are detailed within House Bill 1426, with the smallest raise totaling approximately $17,000 for the transportation and public service commissioners and the largest raise set to be $60,000 for both the state auditor and the insurance commissioner.

Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund

The “Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund” (HB 606) creates an appropriation to aid in providing funding for the improvement of Mississippi’s parks, wetlands, and outdoors. Funding will derive from an appropriation with a cap of $20 million, excluding federal funds, but there is no minimum amount that must be allocated by legislators.

Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking

With Senate Bill 2246, a search warrant can be authorized upon oral testimony for the investigation of sex offenses against children involving a computer and other computer crimes. This means that a search warrant can be obtained quickly by criminal investigators through an electronic signature process.

As for Senate Bill 2321, a civil cause for action can be created in Mississippi for those who engage in human trafficking or intentionally and knowingly benefit from participation in human trafficking.

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