- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Here’s a glance at the status of selected bills in the Mississippi Legislature. Tuesday was the first major deadline of the 2014 session. It was the final day for House and Senate committees to consider general bills filed in their own chamber. Surviving bills move to the full House or Senate for more debate.



TEACHER PAY RAISE: House Bill 504 would give raises to teachers up to $1,500 in the first two years and raises projected at $2,750 in the third and fourth years, depending on state revenue growth. Teachers with less than five years’ of experience would get the raises automatically, while those with more than five years of experience would have to meet three of 22 requirements.

PRISONS - House Bill 585 and Senate Bill 2784 propose several changes intended to make the prison system more efficient and less expensive. Among other things, they say anyone convicted of a violent offense would be required to serve at least 50 percent of a sentence, and anyone convicted of a nonviolent offense would have to serve at least 25 percent. The bills would give judges more flexibility to give alternative sentences, such as ordering treatment for drug users. They would, for the first time in Mississippi law, specify which crimes are classified as violent, for sentencing purposes.

SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION - Bills pending in the Senate would merge school districts in Greenwood and Leflore County, Winona and Montgomery County and Claiborne and Jefferson counties. Bills the House would merge districts in Durant and Holmes County, and Clarksdale and Coahoma County.

SUPERINTENDENTS AND SCHOOL BOARDS - House Bill 825 would require the roughly 60 districts with an elected superintendent to hold a referendum on switching to an appointed superintendent, while Senate Bill 2166 would require the change unless enough people signed a petition to force a referendum. House Bill 442 would require all school board members be elected starting in 2016.

PUBLIC RECORDS - House Bill 928 attempts to cap the cost of fulfilling public records requests.

ANY WILLING PROVIDER - House Bill 553 says health insurers would have to accept any medical provider who meets contract terms into their network.

INSURANCE INFO - House Bill 753 would require insurers to disclose how much they collect in premiums and how much they pay in claims in each ZIP code.

HURRICANE INSURANCE - House Bill 756 would regulate when insurers can charge homeowners a hurricane deductible.

MOVIE INCENTIVES - House Bill 733 would create a new state incentive program for motion picture production. A private company would have to invest at least $100 million over three years to qualify for the state assistance.

GUNS - House Bill 314 says weapons purchased in city- or county-sponsored buy-back programs would have to be put up for public auction rather than destroyed. It also would ban any state government official or employee from confiscating any legally held weapon or ammunition if the governor declares martial law.

MDMR REORGANIZATION - Senate Bill 2579 would require the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to perform a yearly audit. It also would set education and work experience requirements for those hired in the department’s top administrative jobs.

WELFARE DRUG TESTING - House Bill 49 would require anyone applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to fill out a questionnaire about possible use of illegal drugs. If the answers indicate possible use of such substances, the person would have to take a drug test. If drug use were found, the person would be required to undergo treatment. The bill, supported by Gov. Phil Bryant, passed the House on Jan. 15 and awaits consideration in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

RELIGIOUS PRACTICE - Senate Bill 2681 says government may not burden a person’s right to practice religion. It also would add “In God We Trust” to the state seal. It passed the Senate on Jan. 31 and moves to a House committee.



TEACHERS’ PAYCHECKS - House Bill 71, which has passed the House and Senate, is meant to ensure teachers get a full August paycheck, though local school board representatives question its legality.



YOUTH CONCUSSION - House Bill 48 will become law July 1. It will require public and private schools to evaluate student athletes for concussion after they’re shaken up during practice or competition. A player with a concussion would be banned from play until fully recovered.



SHORTER SCHOOL YEAR: House Bill 75 would have cut the number of required public school days to 175 from the current 180. House Education Committee members never voted on it after objections were raised

HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION: House Bill 36 would have increased homestead exemptions from $300 to $360 each year. The Ways and Means Committee passed, it, but the full House sent it back to the committee to die after leaders said the state couldn’t afford the $69 million price tag.

SPORTS RESTRICTIONS: Senate Bill 2576 would have cut sports seasons in half and restricted other extracurricular activities for students in F-rated school districts. It died on a 6-6 vote in the Senate Education Committee.



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