MS Legislative roundup: New laws in 2021, 2022

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, December 29, 2021

As the Mississippi State Legislature prepares to convene Jan. 4 for its 2022 regular session, hundreds of new laws have already gone into effect in 2021. One law from the 2021 session will take effect in July 2022, and no citizen-initiated ballot measures will appear on the November 2022 ballot.

During the January-April session, thousands of pieces of potential legislation will be introduced and discussed. Some will be dismissed, others advanced to specialized committees for study and further discussion, and others advanced to the other legislative chamber where the process will be repeated. Just as in every year, of the thousands of hopeful legislation introduced, a few hundred will become law.

One law passed by the Legislature in 2021 will take effect at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2022, on July 1 — The Mississippi Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2021. Senate Bill 2825 transfers law enforcement personnel and duties of the Mississippi Department of Transportation to the Motor Carrier Division of the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol.

The law also excludes transferred personnel from the MHP retirement system; increases weight limits for certain carriers from 84,000 pounds to 88,000 pounds, and adjusts penalties for excess weights; and authorizes issuance of State General Obligation Bonds to provide revenue for the Emergency Road and Bridge Repair Fund. All parts of the law will go into effect July 1, 2022, with the exception of weight limit changes and associated fines (and appeals), which will go into effect July 1, 2023.

Ballot measures

As of Dec. 27, 2021, zero statewide citizen-initiated ballot measures were certified to appear on the ballot in Mississippi on Nov. 8, 2022, according to BallotPedia.com.

Though the deadline for citizen initiatives targeting the 2022 ballot passed on Oct. 6, the State Legislature may refer measures to the ballot during the 2022 legislative session, set to run Jan. 4 to April 3.

One potential measure is the 2020 medical marijuana initiative. On May 14, 2021, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned Initiative 65. Its ruling stated that the initiative petition did not comply with signature distribution requirements in the state Constitution, and that no petition has been able to meet the requirements since redistricting in 2001.

The six justices wrote, “Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of [the constitutional signature distribution requirement] wrote a ballot initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress. To work in today’s reality, it will need amending — something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”

The 1992 constitutional amendment that granted the power of citizen initiative in Mississippi required signatures to be collected evenly from all five congressional districts that existed at the time. It mandated no more than one-fifth of the required signatures could be collected from any single congressional district. During 2001 redistricting after the 2000 census, however, the number of congressional districts in the state was reduced to four.

Sponsors of some initiatives meant for the 2022 ballot filed a lawsuit challenging the ruling.

Notable new laws of 2021

Of the hundreds of laws that went into effect in the state in 2021, here are a few of the notable ones:

• House Bill 1 provided that the official flag of the State of Mississippi shall be the design recommended by the commission to redesign the flag, approved by statewide election Nov. 3, 2020.

• SC 519 was a concurrent resolution from the Senate and House commending and congratulating the Brookhaven High School Panthers Boys Cross-Country team and coach Shannon Knott for their second consecutive Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A State Championship.

• HB 1333 authorized the Town of Wesson to allow operation of low-speed vehicles and golf carts on certain public roads and streets, requiring registration, proof of insurance and a driver license by operators. SB 2605 gave authorization to any municipality in the state.

• HB 1335 authorized the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors to include the sale of food at the Lincoln Civic Center as retail merchandise when processing payments.

• HB 852 gives certified teachers and assistant teachers with more than three years’ experience a salary increase of $1,000, while teachers with three or fewer years of experience will receive a pay raise of $1,100.

• HB 1263 requires the state to recognize occupational licenses from other states. Individuals who move to Mississippi and have a license, permit, certificate or other registration in good standing with another state will be able to receive an equivalent license to practice in Mississippi.

• HB 1135 allows home delivery of beer, liquor, wine or light spirits from local package stores or retailers who opt to participate. Buyers must prove they are at least 21 years old and delivery drivers must be at least 21.

• Senate Bill 2795 allows for more inmates to receive parole. For crimes committed after June 30, 1995, a person would have to serve at least 25 percent of their sentence or at least 10 years before becoming eligible.

• SB2536 requires any public educational institution to designate athletic teams according to the biological gender of its players. Teams designated for females are not open to male athletes.

• SB 2313 allows collegiate athletes to be compensated if their name, image or likeness is used in advertising. All eight Mississippi public universities and the state college board supported the bill.

• SB 2121 makes it illegal to share intimate photos or video of any person without their permission.

• SB 2569 makes illegal to sell, transfer, market or give away urine for the purpose of adulterating a human urine sample for testing.

• SB 2746 created “Hudson’s Law,” requiring health care providers to provide education information to new or expectant parents who receive a positive test for chromosomal disorder regarding their child, and to require the Department of Health to make such information available.

• HB 1062 provided that Daylight Saving Time will be the year-round standard of time for the state if federal law is amended to allow it.