Mississippi’s new laws cover Medicaid for moms, voting, pecan theft, online porn and more

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    JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi is enacting dozens of new laws, including those to increase support for mothers of newborns, tighten restrictions on voting, designate a state fruit and set punishments for stealing pecans.

    One of the Mississippi laws that is set to take effect Saturday is being challenged in federal court. It would expand the role of the state-run Capitol Police department and creating a new court with appointed judges.

    Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and those who supported House Bill 1020 said they are trying to improve public safety. Opponents said Reeves and the majority-white and Republican-controlled Legislature are trying to take local control from Jackson, which is majority-Black and governed by Democrats.

    Most laws created this year have gone into effect, or are kicking in this weekend.

    MISSISSIPPI LAWS THAT TAKE EFFECT JULY 1

    ABSENTEE BALLOTS — Senate Bill 2358 prohibits handling large numbers of absentee ballots. A lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Mississippi and other plaintiffs seeks to block the law, arguing that it could disenfranchise voters who have disabilities by preventing them from receiving help from people they trust.

    POSTPARTUM MEDICAID — Senate Bill 2212 ensures an entire year of Medicaid coverage for women after they give birth. Mississippi usually allowed two months of postpartum Medicaid coverage. The state allowed a full year of coverage after the COVID-19 public health emergency started in 2020, although many patients said the state did little to let them know coverage continued after two months. The longer coverage was approved after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal protections for abortion in a ruling on a Mississippi case last year. Conservative lawmakers across the country have pivoted on Medicaid expansion as part of an anti-abortion agenda.

    STATE FRUIT — House Bill 1027 designates the blueberry as Mississippi’s official state fruit. Fourth graders from Madison County lobbied for law.

    SCHOOL GUARDIANS — Senate Bill 2079 authorizes school employees to carry concealed guns on campus if they have a concealed-carry license, complete firearms training from a law enforcement agency and are trained in CPR and first aid. Identities of so-called “school guardians” are exempt from public disclosure.

    ONLINE PORN — Senate Bill 2346 requires people to verify they are at least 18 before using websites or apps where at least one-third of the content consists of pornography. An adult entertainment group is suing over a similar law in Louisiana. House Bill 1315 says vendors providing online resources or databases to K-12 schools must block access to pornography.

    FENTANYL TESTING — House Bill 722 specifies that fentanyl testing materials are no longer considered illegal drug paraphernalia.

    ADOPTION — Senate Bill 2696 creates an income tax credit of up to $10,000 for adopting a child who lives in Mississippi and $5,000 for a adopting a child from outside the state.

    FOSTER FAMILIES — House Bill 510 is designed to increase transparency for foster parents and make employees from the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services more readily available to them.

    SEXUAL ASSAULT EVIDENCE — House Bill 485 is intended to set faster timelines for law enforcement agencies to process evidence kits from sexual assault cases. One section of the bill becomes law July 1, and other sections become law Dec. 1.

    REAL ESTATE — Senate Bill 2073 allows people to enter contracts to purchase real estate at age 18; the previous minimum age was 21, unless the minor was emancipated.

    PET INSURANCE — Senate Bill 2228 authorizes the sale of pet insurance.

    PECAN THEFT — Senate Bill 2523 increases the penalties for stealing pecans that are being grown as crops. Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson says thieves have taken loads of pecans from some farmers.

    LAWS THAT TOOK EFFECT EARLIER

    GENDER-AFFIRMING CARE — House Bill 1125 bans gender-affirming health care for transgender people younger than 18. It became law when Reeves signed it Feb. 28.

    PREGNANCY CENTERS — House Bill 1671 expands a tax credit from $3.5 million a year to $10 million a year statewide for people or businesses who donate to centers that provide diapers, clothing and other assistance for pregnant women. The law is retroactive to Jan. 1.

    BABY DROP-OFF — House Bill 1318 allows cities and counties to establish safe drop-off boxes for babies who are up to 45 days old. The bill became law when Reeves signed it April 19.

    STATE GEMSTONE — Senate Bill 2138 designates the Mississippi Opal as the state gemstone. It became law when Reeves signed it March 3.

    LAWS THAT TAKE EFFECT JAN. 1, 2024

    ELECTIONS — House Bill 1310 authorizes the secretary of state to conduct audits of election results. It also speeds up the process for local election commissioners to remove the names of inactive voters from the voter rolls. Critics say the “use-it-or-lose-it” approach endangers the rights of people who want to vote in some but not all elections.

    CAMPAIGN FINANCE — House Bill 1306 bans candidates for running for office if they have failed to file all required campaign finance reports within the previous five years. It also says fraudulently requesting or submitting an application for an absentee ballot is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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    Cover Photo: Cassandra Welchlin, executive director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, speaks during a news conference about the group’s push for legislators to extend postpartum Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson. A Mississippi law that takes effect Saturday, July 1, 2023, authorizes a full year of postpartum Medicaid coverage. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

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