Close this search box.

Shooter Drill Opt-Outs, Criminalizing Sextortion, Medical Cannabis Research: #MSLeg Roundup

A bearded, bald man wearing suit and tie holds backpack straps at his chest and faces the left
Mississippi House Rep. Zachary Grady, R-D'Iberville, introduced a bill on the House floor on March 13, 2024, that would require all Mississippi K-12 schools to implement active shooter drills and simulations. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

All Mississippi K-12 schools may soon have to implement active-shooter drills and active-shooter simulations through “evidence-based programs” under House Bill 1379 if it becomes law.

Schools must inform students’ families at least 24 hours before having an active-shooter drill, but no later than 24 hours after the drill. A student’s parents or guardians could choose whether their child participates in the drill, the bill says.

“This bill would also provide mapping data to local law enforcement to be able to respond more effectively in the event that this would occur,” Rep. Zachary Grady, R-D’Iberville, said on the House floor on March 13.

Students in grades 6 through 12 must also undergo at least one hour of violence prevention training each year, the bill says.

“The State Department of Education shall ensure the availability of alternative safety education for students who are opted out, or otherwise exempted from participating in practice active shooter drills, be appropriate for students with mental health needs, mobility restrictions, sensory needs, developmental or physical disabilities and auditory or visual limitations,” H.B. 1379 says.

The House passed the bill 119-0 on March 13, and the Senate unanimously passed an amended version of the bill on April 10, returning it to the House for concurrence.

INSPIRE Act Killed and Revived

The Senate killed the House’s efforts to reform the state’s education-funding formula through the INSPIRE Act by letting House Bill 1453 die in the Senate Education and Appropriations committees on April 2. The House amended the Senate’s own version of a school-funding formula update to replace its text with the text of the INSPIRE Act using a strike-all amendment, prompting the Senate to kill its own bill on April 9.

Then, House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Roberson, R-Starkville, made another strike-all amendment that replaced the language of another bill, Senate Bill 2693, with the House’s INSPIRE Act text on April 10 to keep the effort alive.

Official headshot of Representative Rob Roberson
House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Roberson, pictured, has led efforts to pass the INSPIRE Act to fund the state’s public education system. Photo courtesy Mississippi Senate

The Senate’s original version of S.B. 2693 would have established a “performance-based accreditation system” for all non-charter public elementary and secondary schools.

The House passed the amended S.B. 2693 by 104-16 vote on April 10 and sent the bill back to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate approves the amendment and Gov. Tate Reeves signs the bill into law, the INSPIRE Act would give schools about $240 million more in the upcoming year.

Guidelines for Driver’s Education

Driver’s education courses in school districts that teach grades 9 through 12 would have more specific guidelines for the program under Senate Bill 2695.

The driver’s education course would have to include at least 24 hours of classroom instruction and at least six hours of behind-the-wheel education. Students would not have to have a learner’s permit or driver’s license to drive a car while an instructor is in the passenger seat.

S.B. 2695 says the state superintendent of public education and the commissioner of public safety would recommend rules and regulations for the State Board of Education to oversee the program.

“The purpose of this is to outline what type of instruction is going to be given across the state,” Sen. Chad McMahan, R-Tupelo, said on the Senate floor on March 13.

The Senate passed the bill by a 52-0 vote on March 13. The House unanimously approved an amended version of the bill on April 9 but with a reverse repealer that prompted the Senate to initiate a conference committee to work out an agreement on a final bill between the two chambers.

Sexual Extortion Could Become A Crime

Sexual extortion against adults and minors is a step closer to becoming a crime in Mississippi under a bill the House and Senate approved.

Sexual extortion, or sextortion, is when a perpetrator asks a person to send them a nude photo, and after receiving the picture, the perpetrator threatens to publicly share the image if the person does not send them money or comply with the perpetrator’s requests.

House Bill 1196 says offenders who extort adults would have to serve no more than five years in prison after the first offense, no more than 10 years after the second and no more than 20 years after the third.

A teen boy in a blue and orange football uniform and black tar smeared on his cheeks
Walker Montgomery, pictured, was 16 years old when he died by suicide after online extortors threatened to release a video of him if he did not send them money, his dad says. Photo courtesy Brian Montgomery

The House unanimously passed the bill on Feb. 28 and the Senate unanimously approved an amended version of the bill on April 8 that defined adult as a person 18 years or older and minor as a person under the age of 18 at the time of the offense. The Senate also added that the act should be called “Walker’s Law” in honor of 16-year-old Walker Montgomery whose father said he died by suicide after online extortors threatened to share a video of him if he did not send them $1,000.

H.B. 1196 heads back to the House to approve or deny the amendments. If the House passes the amended version of the bill, Gov. Tate Reeves will have the chance to sign it into law.

Purple Alert One Step Closer to Becoming Law

Local law enforcement could issue a Purple Alert in emergency situations for a missing person who has a mental, physical or emotional disability that is not Alzheimer’s, dementia or caused by substance abuse under a bill the House and Senate passed.

House Bill 873 says the Purple Alert would only notify residents in “the geographic areas where the person could reasonably be.” Children and adults are covered under the bill.

The House unanimously passed the bill on Feb. 20, and the Senate also unanimously approved it on April 8. H.B. 873 heads to Gov. Tate Reeves’ desk.

Medical-Cannabis Research Program Becomes Law

Mississippi will soon have a medical-cannabis research program at the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Cannabis Research and Education under a bill Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law on April 8.

The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Research Program will use federal, state and private funds to research the health effects and risks of using cannabis products in various forms such as smoking, vaping, ingesting, applying topically and combustion. Researchers will test medical cannabis from Mississippi cultivators on Mississippi medical-cannabis patients who volunteer for the program.

Under the bill, the state would develop the Medical Cannabis Research Advisory Board to oversee and guide the research.

“This sets up a research facility that’ll actually be able to take up cohorts of patients with similar disease structures, try to identify what therapies they’ve been on, the effectiveness of those, so that eventually down the road we can set parameters for recommendations of cannabis for patients with certain illnesses,” Sen. Kevin Blackwell said on the Senate floor on March 14 when introducing the bill.

Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill

Transgender and nonbinary people would be forced to use public restrooms that correspond with their assigned sex at birth regardless of how they identify under Senate Bill 2753.

The bill would restrict transgender people in college dormitories, locker rooms, changing rooms and restrooms; it adds that public buildings should have sex-segregated bathrooms or a single bathroom that anyone could use. It says people should use bathrooms that align with their sex at birth to protect the “privacy and safety” of citizens.

“We’re going to make sure boys go to boys’ bathrooms, girls go to girls’ bathrooms,” Rep. Joey Hood, R-Ackman, said on the House floor on April 10.

An individual could sue someone for not following the law’s requirements if the bill became law.

Mississippi House Rep. Zakiya Summer, D-Jackson, said S.B. 2753 reminded her of Jim Crow-era laws when people of color had to use separate bathrooms.

“It reminded me of what my ancestors had to deal with at a time when they couldn’t go in the bathroom, either, and they wouldn’t dare stick their toe in a pool,” she said on the House floor on April 10.

The bill now goes to conference for the two chambers to work out an agreement on a final bill.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.