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Abortion bill from Currie still alive

The current legislative session has moved swiftly in Jackson, and most of the bills presented since January have been quietly waylaid. But several measures authored by local lawmakers remain viable — including proposals dealing with abortion, alcohol sales and the statewide opioid crisis.

Five pieces of legislation written by Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, who represents Copiah, Lawrence and Lincoln counties, are still working their way through the Statehouse.

Four of her remaining measures were recently transmitted to the Senate. They are:

• House Bill 1510, which is known as “The Gestational Age Act.” Among other things, it prohibits abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation.

“Right now, the law allows abortions up to 20 weeks, which is halfway through a pregnancy. Last year, about 200 abortions occurred after 15 weeks of pregnancy in Mississippi, and that’s 200 lives we could potentially save,” Currie said.

Mississippi already bans most abortions after 20 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, which is tied with North Carolina for the nation’s earliest ban according to the Guttmacher Institute, a group which opposes abortion restrictions. Other states with 20-week bans start counting pregnancy two weeks later.

The move comes as abortion opponents nationwide are probing whether the U.S. Supreme Court will approve laws that limit abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, the dividing line that the high court set in its 1973 ruling saying that women have the right to terminate pregnancies.

• House Bill 415, which revises the definition of the term “Qualified Resort Area” under the Local Option Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. If enacted, it would allow the Brookhaven Country Club to serve alcohol during times and dates that would otherwise be prohibited.

A similar bill made its way to the governor’s desk last year but was vetoed.

“In order for the country club to be successful and hold events, they’ve got to be able to serve alcohol. This bill is just the simplest way to get that done,” Currie said.

• House Bill 419, which, among other things, turns the Rivers McGraw Mental Health Diversion Pilot Program Act into the Rivers McGraw Mental Health Court Act and allows mental health courts to be established throughout the state.

• House Bill 1133, which creates the Mississippi Travel and Tourism Council and provides for the membership and duties of the council.

Currie is also the author of House Bill 434, which was recently referred to the House Appropriations Committee. That measure makes an appropriation to the Administrative Office of Courts for the purpose of providing funding for mental health courts for the fiscal year 2019.

Meanwhile, six measures written by Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, who represents Copiah, Lawrence, Lincoln and Walthall counties, have been transmitted to the House of Representatives for consideration. They are:

• Senate Bill 2041, which revises the qualifications for a resident license as a Mississippi real estate broker. Among other things, it states that applicants must hold a license as an active real estate salesperson for 36 months immediately prior to applying for the broker’s examination.

• Senate Bill 2599, which clarifies the offense for texting while driving. It outlaws any use of a wireless communication device except for placing or receiving a call while a motor vehicle is in motion, unless the operator is using a voice operated or hands-free device.

• Senate Bill 2609, which authorizes and directs the State Department of Education to provide clerical, administrative, human resources, payroll and purchasing support for the Mississippi School of the Arts, the Mississippi School of the Blind and the Mississippi School of the Deaf. If signed into law, the measure would take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

• Senate Bill 2618, which is identical to Currie’s HB 415. It simply revises the definition of the term “Qualified Resort Area” under the Local Option Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.

• Senate Bill 2668, which, among other things, provides the order of priority by which a financial institution must grant access to a safe deposit box upon the death of the lessee. The order of precedence, as outline by the measure, would be: the personal representative named in the lessee’s will if an estate has not been opened, then the successor of the deceased safe deposit box lessee if an estate has not been opened.

• Senate Bill 2840, which is known as “The Opioid Crisis Intervention Act.” It expands the types of drug violations for which a person may not be prosecuted when complying with the Mississippi Medical Emergency Good Samaritan Act and provides that telemedicine providers shall be allowed to provide treatment for substance use disorders, including medication-assisted treatment.

Lastly, House Bill 1359 — authored by Rep. Vince Mangold, R-Brookhaven, who represents Franklin, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Lincoln and Pike counties — was recently referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. The measure excludes amounts paid by an agricultural disaster program as compensation to an agricultural producer, cattle farmer or cattle rancher who has suffered a loss as the result of a disaster or emergency from being taxed.