Busy April Fools’ Day for State Legislature

The Mississippi Legislature had a busy day and passed several bills despite some significant opposition to several of them.  Below are the bills that have been sent to Gov. Phil Bryant for signature with some comments from Twitter.

Senate Bill 2681, Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, received significant opposition and was labeled as discriminatory.  A similar bill in Arizona raised national attention but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer.  Mississippi Center for Public Policy (MCPP) had several interesting comments:

SB 2681 wasn’t passed without some objections:

Remarkably, House Bill 1400, which prohibits abortion after 20-weeks, passed both the House and Senate and Gov. Bryant is ready to sign into law:

What some are calling a compromise, House Bill 504, Teacher Pay Raise, will provide for pay raises based on meritorious achievement.  Few are entirely satisfied but many are thankful to have passed something including Mississippi Delta Sen. Derrick Simmons:

Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula authored and pushed forward Senate Bill 2579, Marine Resources and Accountability and Reorganization Act, to reform the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) after widespread corruption was discovered recently in the organization.

For more information:

 

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Religious Freedom Restoration Act Passes in Miss. Senate

In addition to adding “In God We Trust” to the state seal as previously passed, Mississippi Senate Bill 2681 affirms the right of individuals to exercise their religion. Exercise of religion is defined as “the practice or observance of religion” and includes “the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief.”

The ACLU claims  that the bill is “simply a license to discriminate” and special interest groups label the bill as “anti-gay” even though SB 2681 names no specific groups.  The discourse has been amplified recently by the Arizona State Legislature’s passage of a similar bill, Arizona Senate Bill 1062, which was subsequently vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

Gov. Phil Bryant has remained neutral on the current discussion.  Mississippi House Bill 929, “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” appears to be the companion legislation to SB 2681 but HB 929 died in committee in early February 2014.  According to the Sun Herald, the Mississippi House Judiciary Committee B is considering SB 2681 and may remove parts that allow people to refuse service to others based on religious beliefs.  As modified, it appears the bill will prevent the state from burdening an individual with respect to religious freedom but does not protect individuals from being burdened by other private entities.

For more information: