2016 Legislative Tracking: Equality for All

Oppose

HB737 - Provides that clergy and other officials would not be required to perform a marriage ceremony if it goes against their religious belief.

Status: Died in Committee.

We strongly oppose HB737 because it opens the door for discrimination and limits the rights of groups that could be targeted by a religious objection. Does this mean that ministers could deny an interracial couple their right to marry, too?  


HB1523 - An act to create the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act

Status: Signed by the Governor.

This bill would provide protections for those who refuse to service and mistreat customers in public spaces on the basis of religion.  It would allow virtually anyone, including religious organizations, employers, businesses, foster care/adoption agencies, housing institutions, healthcare organizations, clergy, even governmental officials, to discriminate against other people in the name of religious liberty.  We oppose HB1523 because it would allow religion to be used for blatant discrimination. Instead of protecting religious freedom, this law would use freedom of religion to cover prejudice and to justify discrimination.  


HB1258 - Birth Gender Privacy Act

Status: Died in Committee.

This legislation prohibits transgender person from using a restroom facility opposite from their gender at birth unless they have medical proof of their transition.  All this bill would do is target transgender people for discrimination.  Transgender people are already living and working in Mississippi, and they should be treated with dignity and respect like everyone else.  We oppose HB1528.


HB548 - Would require residents convicted of a second misdemeanor DUI to get a special car tag to broadcast their offense.

Status: Died in Committee.

We adamantly reject the notion that law enforcement should target drivers with criminal records because of an unfair presumption that past criminal activity demonstrates a propensity for subsequent criminal behavior.  Not only do such practices deny those who have paid their debts of equal treatment, but they damage police-community relations and hinder the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society.


HB654 - Requires that officials documents to be in English language.

Status: Died in Committee.

Although the official language of the state of Mississippi is English, our state is made of up of diverse cultures and languages.  It is imperative that official documents should be able to be translated into other languages so that all of our citizens receive the fairness they deserve in all legal and governmental proceedings. To imply that a document is not legal because it is not written in English is a dangerous precedent to set and infringes on the rights of all Mississippians. 


HB591/SB2306 - Prohibits sanctuary cities.

Status: HB591 Died in Committee. SB2306 Died in Conference.

Any legislation that limits further home rule of municipalities in this state is detrimental to the growth of the state. This bill would prohibit municipalities from designating themselves as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants looking to establish a permanent resident status in the U.S.  It would create an unfunded mandate for those municipalities to execute federal law with already strained financial resources. We are opposed to this legislation.


HB519 - The "Mississippi Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act" designed to criminalize doctors who, in the process of performing an abortion, knowingly dismembers a fetus upon extraction. 

Status: Signed by the Governor.

Even though the legislation states that this act does not prevent abortions, it makes clear that this bill does not recognize abortion as a right, which goes against the central legal holding in Roe v. Wade. This bill is an overreach as a result of an overreaction to stories that have been refuted within the last year. At any given point in time, a doctor performing an abortion can be criminally charged with dismemberment and have an injunction placed upon them to halt further abortions.  That doctor would have to go before the State Board of Medical Licensure to prove their case no later than 30 days before any criminal proceedings occur. This is another tool to deny women in the state of Mississippi the right to control their own health care decisions, therefore putting Mississippi women at risk.


HB868 - Revise boundaries for Supreme Court Districts.

Status: Died in Senate Committee.

HB 868 is a bill that changes the makeup of Mississippi’s 1st Supreme Court District, known by many as the Central District, by adding Simpson County to the district. This piece of legislation is unconstitutional because it dilutes the Black Voting Age Population in the district, making it harder for Blacks to have representation on the Supreme Court, the Transportation Commission and the Public Service Commission.

The US Supreme Court defines voter dilution as, “…a certain electoral law, practice, or structure interacts with social and historical conditions to cause an inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by black and white voters to elect their preferred representatives.” It is obvious that race was a motivating factor in the purposeful crafting of this legislation, by stacking a majority white county into the Central District. The ACLU of MS vigorously opposes this attempt to undermine the citizens of Mississippi of their 15th Amendment Rights.


SB2167 - Would require increased qualifying fees for independent and party candidates.

Status: Signed by the Governor.

This legislation seeks to raise the qualifying fees for elective office.  The raising of fees is intended to limit how many people can qualify to run for a position in government, thus limiting participation in the democratic process.  We are opposed to this legislation.


SB2238 - Would prohibit Division of Medicaid from reimbursing Planned Parenthood for family planning services.

Status: Headed to Governor.

We oppose SB2238 because it creates undue burdens on a woman's ability to access healthcare in Mississippi. Government should not interfere with a woman's right to make informed decisions about her own healthcare.


HB519 - Designed to criminalize doctors who perform an abortion

Status: Signed by the Governor.

At any given time, a doctor performing an abortion can be criminally charged with dismemberment and have an injunction placed upon them to halt further abortions. We oppose this legislation because it limits the reproductive rights of women by setting the stage for abortions to halt altogether in the state.


Support

HB972 - The "Mississippi Student Safety Act" would prevent certain student restraint and seclusion procedures in schools.

Status: Died in Committee.

We support HB972 because it establishes minimum safety standards for the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.  Mississippi is one of few states that lacks a statewide policy restricting and reducing the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and learning environments. This Act addresses that and helps to keep our students safe.  


HB624 & SB2738 - Establishes Mississippi Civil Rights Act, an inclusive, non-discrimination law.

Status: Died In Committee.

Currently in the state of Mississippi, there is no state law which explicitly protects individuals from discrimination in housing, employment, and or the use public accommodations.  We support HB624 & SB2738 because it prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  All people are created equal and deserve to be treated as equals under the law. This legislation provides that protection that all Mississippians deserve.


HB121HB796HB864SB2513SB2681 - Early Voting

Status: HB121, HB864, SB2513, SB2681 All Died in Committee; HB796 Died in Senate Committee.

This legislation allows for early voting 21 days prior to any given election in Mississippi. SB2681 furthers access by allowing online voter registration. We support this legislation because giving voters more access to participate in the process strengthens our democracy. 


HB809SB2647 - Create online voter registration system in Mississippi.

Status: HB809 Signed by the Governor. SB2647 Died in Committee.

This legislation would create an online voter registration system for Mississippi citizens. HB809 was amended to allow voters to update existing registrations online.  


HB638HB1167SB2070 - Allows mothers to be free from discrimination while helping nurture their children.

Status: HB638 and HB1167 Died in Committee; SB2070 Headed to the Governor.

Providing more accommodations for breastfeeding mothers should be encouraged in a society that promotes the general welfare of its citizens, especially those most vulnerable - our children.

 


2016 Legislative Tracking: Freedom of Speech & Expression

Oppose

HB49 - Prohibits school employees from participating in or promoting political activity or events while acting in their official capacities.

Status: Died in Committee

HB49 is as an attempt to silence and intimidate teachers through a proposed law banning political activity during schools hours and imposing a penalty of $10,000. A school teacher has the right to identify and express his or her own point of view in the classroom as long as it is indicated clearly that it is the teacher's own. Where parents, as individuals, or parent or other community groups raise the question of suitability of any material, out of concern for maturity level, morality, patriotism, literary merit, etc., the decision as to its acceptability should be vested in a representative professional committee.

HB958 - Similar to HB49

Status: Died in Committee.

This bill is an attempt to silence and intimidate education professionals. This legislation prohibits all political activity during school hours, including sporting events and other extracurricular activities at elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, community colleges and institutions of higher learning. It even prohibits these professionals discussing issues with their elected representatives, whether or not those issues are related to a political campaign. We oppose this bill because the highlighted overreach is a restriction of the First Amendment.


HB840 - An act to make the Holy Bible the state book of MS.

Status: Died in Committee.

This bill violates the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as it promotes one religion over others. It fails to recognize the diversity of Mississippi citizens.


HB578 & SB2078 - See Something, Say Something Act; Provides civil and criminal immunity for anyone who makes a report of suspicious activity.

Status: HB578 Signed by the Governor; SB2078: Died in Committee.

Extending criminal or civil immunity from the law will likely lead to violations of privacy, racial and religious profiling, and interference with constitutionally-protected activities. In other states, this legislation leads to more dead ends than substantial intelligence gathering.  What is even more troubling is that anyone who is not a law enforcement professional and has no professional training or background can determine what “suspicious behavior” is.  There must be a balance of power between accuser and accused. HB 578 and SB 2078 disrupt that balance by limiting an individual’s right to seek legal redress for false accusations. The ACLU of Mississippi opposes HB 578 and SB 2078.


HB786 - Would create the Mississippi Protection Act.

Status: Signed by the Governor.

This bill is in reaction to the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina when a white male entered a black church and killed nine church members in 2015. We are opposed to this legislation because it would provide immunity to armed church groups and could be abused, especially in demonstrations of free speech and expression.


HB758 - Adds agency, commission or board to the law prohibiting a county or municipality from adopting an ordinance or regulation restricting possession, carrying, transportation, sale, transfer or ownership of firearms or ammunition.

Status: Died in Senate Committee.


HB458 - Would bring forward all the code sections pertaining to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

Status: Died in Conference.

This  bill attaches a reverse repealer, a measure that will force the bill to a conference committee where three members of the House and three members of the Senate, appointed by the Speaker and Lieutenant Governor, could make changes. This is problematic because it would allow details to be worked out in private while giving the public a last-minute opportunity to engage. Considering that the only problem we see with MAEP is that it has been historically underfunded thus hindering students' right to a quality public education, we are opposed to this legislation.


HB91 (along with HB36, HB164, HB206, HB212, HB218, HB223, HB1010, HB1015, SB2159, Sb2436) - All of these bills are connected by one theme: school choice - the ability for parents to move their children out of one school into a school more preferable to them.

Status: All died in Committee.

The language in this bill is vague; however, our concern is the amount of resources that will have to be expended and the long-term effect on the public school system in Mississippi.


Support

SB2533 - Revises Open Records Law by allowing information provided by third parties to public bodies be released 21 days after notification. 

Status: Signed by the Governor.

We support this legislation as it provides for timely release of records after a proper review and consent.


HB799 - Would prohibit altering of precinct boundaries for a certain time.

Status: Died on Senate Calendar

We support this legislation because it sets a time limit on when precincts can be changed. Local governments would have seven years from the previous U.S. Census to make such a change and only during that time.  Since pre-clearance with the U.S. Department of Justice is no longer required, this would be an effective way to limit changes that could cause confusion and lead to a decline in voter participation.


SB2485 - Would prohibit drones near and above correctional facilities.

Status: Died in House Committee


SB2081 - Would make technical correction to clarify the meaning ascribed to public meetings for purposes of the Open Meetings Act.

Status: Approved by the Governor.

 


2016 Legislative Tracking: Criminal Justice Reform

Oppose

SB2237 - Would keep secret those involved in executions, including the execution team, lethal injection drug providers. 

Status: Due from Governor.

We oppose SB2237 as it deprives a citizen of the meaningful due process rights guaranteed by the constitution. If Mississippi continues to sentence and execute death row prisoners, the process must remain transparent and the government accountable to the people of this State, in whose name it is carrying out this ultimate and irreversible punishment.  To be fully accountable, Mississippi must provide the public and the courts information about the process to ensure it is humane and in compliance with state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution. Mississippi should not hide behind a curtain of secrecy when carrying out executions, preventing the courts, the public and counsel for the condemned from obtaining basic details regarding the state’s execution process.


HB647: Provides that anyone who fails to pay a fine or appear in municipal court shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Status: Died in Committee.

We oppose HB647 because it completely ignores the spotlight that has been cast on modern-day debtors’ prisons within our state, at best. At worst, HB647 is an unabashed attempt to encourage the continued criminalization of poverty, in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. Debtors’ prisons exact terrible human costs.  Poor people who are jailed or face the constant threat of jail for unpaid legal financial obligations have been separated from their families, lost jobs, and suffered impacts on their health and housing.  In March 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report on Ferguson, Missouri that shined a light on law enforcement and municipal court practices that treated poor residents of color as revenue sources to be tapped rather than people to be protected and served with detrimental impact on police-community relations.  In 2015, too many Mississippians face similar treatment.


HB 1399 - Requires municipal governments to provide police officers with body-worn cameras, requires police officers to wear cameras while on patrol, and makes an officer’s failure to wear the camera a misdemeanor offense.

Status: Died in Committee.

The ACLU recognizes the potential that police body cameras have to increase police transparency. With good policies in place, recording of police-civilian encounters will promote police accountability, deter misconduct, and provide objective evidence to help resolve civilian complaints against police without significantly infringing on privacy. However, without such protections body cameras can do more harm than good. We oppose HB1399 because it lacks any law enforcement guidelines or limitations for when police must record encounters, who can access to such footage, nor does it provide privacy protections for those recorded.

 

Support

SB2656 - Would require written consent to search during contact with law enforcement officer.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports HB2656 because it allows for transparency and accountability on both sides of the badge during routine traffic stops.  Requiring consent makes sense for everyone.  It can protect civilians from overly aggressive law enforcement officials who demand consent. Likewise, it an protect officers in court from false claims that a civilian had not consented to a search.  This bill would improve public safety and it protects citizens' constitutional right to refuse an unwarranted search.


HB 1314 & SB 2620 - Would legislatively remedy the resurgence of modern-day debtors’ prisons in Mississippi – evidenced by federal class actions against two of its largest cities.

Status: Died in Committee

We support HB1314 and SB2620 because these bills would bring Mississippi law in line with constitutional requirements concerning the right to pre-jailing ability-to-pay hearings and to counsel prior to the imprisonment of people for nonpayment of fines.

This legislation (1) makes clear that judges are not required to jail people for failure to pay fines and that judges have the discretion to modify payments when appropriate, (2) clarifies that people have the right to an attorney before they are imprisoned for failure to pay a fine, and (3) lays out the process by which people can be imprisoned for failure to pay fines (for example, if they have the money to pay but willfully refuse to pay fines).


HB 669 & SB 2490 – Require that law enforcement officers employed by agencies which provide body-word cameras, operate the cameras and store the footage according to guidelines designed to ensure transparency and accountability while protecting privacy concerns.

Status: Died in Committee

We support HB669 & SB2490. Body-worn cameras are a win-win, helping to protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time guarding against false accusations of abuse. These bills contain clear guidelines to govern the use of body cameras that will both ensure consistent use of the devices and protect the privacy of citizens. Without these state-wide regulations, body-worn cameras fail to promote accountability and risk widening the gulf of mistrust between communities and law enforcement. 


SB2337 & HB1001 - Would require uniform statewide training for School Resource Officers (SROs)

Status: Died in Committee

We support SB2337 and HB1001.  In an effort to combat the issue of schools scaling up police presence with the implementation of School Resource Officers and the tendency for these officers to criminalize typical adolescent behavior, these bills create a safe school environment for all and reduced reliance on the criminal justice system.  They would require all SROs to complete training prior to being permitted to serve in a school and provide them with the tools necessary to ensure safety, while respecting the rights of students and the overall school climate.


HB1328 - Would give justice court judges the authority to expunge misdemeanor convictions.

Status: Signed By Governor.

We support this legislation because it extends opportunities for citizens by reducing those collateral consequences that could impact their overall well-being. 


HB 1410 – would create a task force to address the lack of transparency in civil asset forfeiture.

Status: Due from Governor.

The ACLU of Mississippi supports HB 1410 because policing for profit is intolerable, even more so when the law enforcement agencies aren’t transparent about what they’re taking from people and how they’re spending the revenue generated. For years, law enforcement agencies in the state have taken innocent people’s cash and property to fund their departments, even if the rightful owner isn’t convicted of a crime. Our government agencies, especially those with the greatest authority (law enforcement), have a duty to be transparent, and the people of Mississippi deserve no less.

We encourage the legislature do more than merely address the lack of transparency and make substantive reforms to asset forfeiture laws. Created during the heyday of the war on drugs, asset forfeiture laws were meant to target “kingpins” but have been perverted into an ongoing attack on poor and middle-class Mississippians. It is our hope that meaningful reform will follow. 


SB2512 - Would require new private prisons to show that their facility can result in a recidivism rate that is 10% less than the recidivism rate for DOC facilities.

Status: Died in House Committee.

We support this legislation because it is an outcome-focused approach to private prison bidding that would ensure a return on the state's corrections spending investment.


SB2791 - Would clarify the list of offenses that make offenders convicted between 1995-2014 ineligible for parole.

Status: Died in Conference.

We support SB2791 because it has the potential to expend HB 585 parole reforms to people sent to prison prior to HB 585 becoming law in July 2014.

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