Governor Phil Bryant signed several important pieces of legislation this past week as the Mississippi Legislature winds up its 2019 session.

   One of those was the Mississippi School Safety Act. This Act requires every school district to develop and conduct active shooter drills within 60 days of each new semester. The new law, going into effect on July 1, 2019, will also require school districts to train personnel so they may conduct initial mental health screenings of students who experience stress or are in danger of harm.

   The bill was sponsored by Representative Mark Baker.

   “My wife is an English teacher at Brandon High School; I am deeply connected to the issue of school safety. As I travel around Mississippi, I’m talking to more and more parents like me who are determined to be proactive when it comes to protecting our schools from violent threats,” Baker said.  “I’m proud of the track record I have in the Legislature toward protecting our children.”

   Baker, who represents House District 74, is a candidate for state Attorney General.

   A second piece of legislation the Governor has signed into law is the Landowner Protection Act. This is Senate Bill 2901, limiting the liability of a landowner in the event an invitee is injured on the property through no fault of the landowner. The bill also seeks to define “fault” for purposes of this legislation.

   The legislation was backed by a diverse array of business and community groups seeking to reform landowner liability, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Mississippi Economic Council, the Business and Industry Policy Education Committee (BIPEC) and the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

   “By bringing Mississippi’s landowner liability in line with national norms, this act creates a better environment for business development and expansion,” Rep. Mark Baker who shepherded the bill through the House added.  “It also contains reasonable provisions for situations where a plaintiff can demonstrate where a landowner would logically be liable.”  

    A third bill signed into law by the Governor is the Mississippi Human Trafficking Bill. Prior to this law, underage girls (or boys) victimized by human traffickers and exploited for sexual purposes could be charged with prostitution. Under this law a minor victimized in a human trafficking case may not be charged with prostitution.  In addition to training law enforcement in ways to better access and interface with human trafficking victims, the law requires that foster parents be provided similar training.

   “Like most Mississippians with children, especially daughters, I am deeply touched and encouraged by how citizens and elected officials of all parties and backgrounds joined together to ensure passage of these critical protections,” said David McRae, a Jackson businessman and candidate for State Treasurer. “The Bible tells us that we should treat the ‘least among us,’ our children, as the greatest gifts from God.  This historic change in our legal code reflects that timeless, divine truth, and our society will be much better for it.

   “As a husband and a father, I’m glad the law will finally recognize that young women, often under the age of 18, are indeed the victims of human trafficking and not part of the problem,” McRae said.  “They will no longer be subject to arrest as if they were in partnership with the perpetrators, and that’s great news for victims of this despicable crime.”

   One of the bills still making its way to the Governor’s desk is Senate Bill 2770, the Teacher Pay Raise. Before the session began in January, Gov. Bryant asked for a $1,000 teacher pay raise. This became $500 per year over two year, with legislators arguing this wasn’t enough. An amendment to increase the $1,000 to $4,000 was defeated.

  Last week the amount of the pay increase seemed to be centered around $1,500 as the bill went into Conference after a 46-2 Senate vote. A similar bill, with a different amount had already passed through the House.

  Educator groups are calling for a $4,000 pay increase.

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