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Final Days: Lawmakers work to finish budget, bills

Rep. Nick Bain (R-Corinth) bows his head during prayer prior to the start of a Legislative session.

Staff photo by Zack Steen

BY ZACK STEEN

zsteen@dailycorinthian.com

The current Legislative session is almost over.

With a scheduled final day of April 7, lawmakers are hurriedly working to finish the budget and bond bills for the new year that begins July 1.

Rep. Nick Bain (R-Corinth) said all indication points to the last day of session happening on Friday.

"The next few days are critical," he said from the Capitol on Monday. "Teacher pay, criminal justice and the budget and bond bills will keep us busy."

Senators approved a plan to give teachers an extra $500 a year over two years, for a total of $1,000. The House upped the ante last week, voting for $2,000 a year over two years, for a total of $4,000. The final plan is likely to fall somewhere in between.

Working within the requirement of a balanced budget, legislators will have to decide how much they want to spend on teachers' raises and how much, if any, they want to spend on pay raises for other state government employees.

Strict Abortion

Late last week Gov. Phil Bryant signed one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation.

The new measure bans most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected or about six weeks into pregnancy.

Bain, Rep. Lester "Bubba" Carpenter (R-Burnsville), Rep. Tracy Arnold (R-Booneville) and Rep. Jody Steverson (R-Ripley), along with Sen. Rita Potts Parks (R-Corinth) all voted for the passage of the historic measure.

Mississippi is one of several states that have considered bills this year to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is found.The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights called the new measure "cruel and clearly unconstitutional" and said it would sue Mississippi to try to block the law from taking effect on July 1. A federal judge in 2018 struck down a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, saying it is unconstitutional. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi.

The law that Bryant signed Thursday says a physician who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected could face revocation of his or her Mississippi medical license. It also says abortions could be allowed after a fetal heartbeat is found if a pregnancy endangers a woman's life or one of her major bodily functions. The House and Senate both rejected efforts to allow exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Landowners rights

A bill co-sponsored by Parks that would make it harder for people to sue property owners for some injuries is headed to Bryant for his signature or veto.

Senate Bill 2901 is a measure, known as the Landowners Protection Act. The bill says a person who owns, leases, operates or manages property could not be held liable for injuries caused by a third party on the property unless there's proof that the person in charge knew about possible harm and let it happen.

Opponents warn the bill will make it nearly impossible to hold property owners accountable for letting crime or danger fester.

School safety

A bill aimed at making school safer is being sent to Bryant to sign into law.

The bill will include mandatory twice-yearly active shooter drills, a threat-reporting mechanism and more funds for school resource officers.

(Capitol Connections by staff writer Zack Steen will appear in the Daily Corinthian throughout the 2019 Mississippi Legislature session.)

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)