- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - People would be immune from civil or criminal penalties in Mississippi for making good-faith reports to law enforcement officers if they suspect others are planning terroristic acts, under a bill advancing in the Legislature.

The House voted 89-30 on Tuesday to pass House Bill 978, called the “Mississippi See Something, Say Something Act of 2016.” The bill heads to the Senate for more debate.

House Judiciary A Committee Chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, said it is modeled on laws in other states and it uses a definition of terrorism that comes from federal law.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant praised the House for advancing the proposal.

“We have seen too many examples of terror groups’ determination to strike here in the United States,” Bryant said in a statement. “Citizens who feel comfortable alerting law enforcement to activity they have a legitimate reason to believe is related to terrorism are an important tool in preventing these terrible attacks.”

Some lawmakers said they doubt such a law is needed.

“How many acts of terrorism have occurred in Mississippi?” Rep. Adrienne Wooten, D-Jackson, asked Gipson. “Are you aware of any?”

Gipson said he is not, but he pushed the House to pass the bill. “It will let our citizens be involved in the process,” Gipson said.

Wooten responded: “Based off of your responses, the bill really isn’t needed.”

Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, tried unsuccessfully to change the bill to give people civil or criminal immunity for reporting acts of bullying in schools.

“Terrorism comes in a lot of forms,” Hines said. He said children who are bullied in school could see people who hit them or steal their lunch money as terrorists.

Gipson opposed Hines’ proposal, saying other state laws can be used in bullying cases.

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Online: House Bill 978 (http://bit.ly/1Swe4OV ).

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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