Transgender Mississippians can now face lawsuits for using bathrooms that match their gender identities, public schools have a new funding formula, squatted vehicles are illegal and machine gun conversion devices are now banned under just some of the hundreds of new laws that took effect in Mississippi on July 1.

Below is a rundown of many of the laws that took effect in Mississippi this month.

Presumptive Medicaid Eligibility For Pregnancy

Pregnant people who have low incomes will now be able to gain access to Medicaid coverage through presumptive eligibility while the Division of Medicaid considers their applications to the official program under House Bill 539.

“We are not a healthy state,” Sen. Nicole Boyd, R-Oxford, said on the Senate floor on Feb. 29. “According to all leading health care experts, the most critical mechanism to prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes and risk is to get adequate prenatal care.”

Mississippi state Sen. Nicole Boyd, R-Oxford, listens to a discussion during a Joint Legislative Budget Committee meeting
“We are not a healthy state. According to all leading health care experts, the most critical mechanism to prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes and risk is to get adequate prenatal care,” Mississippi Sen. Nicole Boyd, R-Oxford, said. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

Gov. Tate Reeves signed the bill into law on March 12.

Squatted Vehicles Banned

“Squatted vehicles,” defined in state law as “vehicles whose front fenders have been raised four (4) or more inches greater than the rear fenders,” are now illegal in Mississippi.

Gov. Reeves signed House Bill 349, the bill banning squatted vehicles, into law on April 25.

In social-media posts, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety said the ban is about making the roads safer.

“This legislation addresses the issue of ‘squatted vehicles' – trucks or vehicles with front fenders raised 4 inches or more higher than the rear fenders. Violating this law will result in a misdemeanor, substantial fines, and potential license suspension,” MDPS said. “The main goal of this new law is to keep everyone safe on the roads and encourage safe and smart driving habits. Modifying vehicles in ways that affect visibility isn't just risky for the driver but for everyone sharing the road.”

Dry Counties Could Vote to Sell Alcohol

Residents in dry counties can now hold elections for voters to determine whether the county should sell alcohol under a new law that Gov. Tate Reeves signed on May 8.

At least 20% of a county’s residents will have to sign a petition to put alcohol sales on the ballot under House Bill 1161. The ballot would have two options: “For the legal sale of alcoholic beverages” and “against the legal sale of alcoholic beverages.”

More than two dozen counties in Mississippi are currently dry.

Inheritance Rights For Children Born Through IVF

Children conceived through assisted reproductive technology, like in-vitro fertilization, after one biological parent dies will now have inheritance rights under House Bill 1542, which Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law on May 13.

Rep. Dana McLean, R-Columbus, had been trying to get the bill on the books since 2019 when voters first elected her to serve the constituents of District 39.

“Children born through IVF of course inherit from both parents, but not after one of the parents is deceased,” McLean told the Crirec on May 2, before the new law took effect.

A woman sits at at table and reads through a stack of papers
Mississippi State Rep. Dana McLean, R-Columbus, said she has worked since she first entered office in 2019 to get a bill passed protecting inheritance rights for children conceived through IVF after a parent dies. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Before the passage of the final bill, House and Senate leaders stripped out language that would have also protected the right to IVF in Mississippi. Some Republican and Democratic lawmakers sought to ensure the procedure was protected in Mississippi after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that put it in jeopardy there.

Victim Notifications For Parole Hearings, Release

The Mississippi Parole Board must now notify a victim or victim’s family of an incarcerated offender’s impending release at least 15 days ahead of time under a bill Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law on April 30.

House Bill 844 says the victim or victim’s family members will be able to attend a hearing before the board decides whether to release the offender on parole no later than 30 days before the person is released from prison.

The new law says that if an offender committed a violent crime, “the board shall, within thirty (30) days prior to the scheduled hearing, solicit the written or oral recommendations of the Attorney General, the attorney who prosecuted the case, the judge who presided over the case, the chief of police of the municipality where the offender was convicted and the sheriff of the county where the offender was convicted.”

Machine-Gun Conversion Banned

People who own, manufacture or sell machine-gun conversion devices could be charged with a felony under a new law.

Under House Bill 903, which Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law on April 30, people who make or own devices that convert semi-automatic guns into fully automatic machine guns could serve up to 10 years in prison and pay $3,000 in fines.

“There’s a proliferation of glock switches and auto sears which are turning regular pistols into machine guns that can fire up to 30 rounds in 2.6 seconds,” Rep. Kevin Felsher, R-Biloxi, said on the House floor on Feb. 27. “Currently, it is only a federal offense to possess a modified weapon without an appropriate license or stamp. So criminals in possession of these modified firearms can currently not be charged at a state and local level.”

Runoff Election Timelines Changed

Mississippi will now host its primary runoff elections four weeks after a primary election instead of the current three weeks.

Gov. Reeves signed Senate Bill 2144 into law on May 13.

Anti-Trans Bathroom Ban Becomes Law

Transgender and nonbinary people are now required by law to use public bathrooms that correspond with their assigned sex at birth under the SAFER Act.

“There are only two (2) sexes, and every individual is either male or female,” Senate Bill 2753 says. “‘Sex’ is objective and fixed.”

The new law, which Gov. Tate Reeves signed on May 13, says people must use single-sex restrooms, locker rooms, changing facilities or college dormitories that align with their gender assigned at birth regardless of their gender identities. All public buildings in Mississippi must have sex-segregated bathrooms or a unisex restroom under the bill.

“This probably, to a lot of our constituents and to a lot of people in this chamber, is probably the most important bill that we brought up,” Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, said on the Senate floor on May 2.

Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, asks for the next item to be brought up on the senate floor
“This probably, to a lot of our constituents and to a lot of people in this chamber, is probably the most important bill that we brought up,” Mississippi Senate President Pro Tempore Dean Kirby, a Republican, said on May 2, 2024, as the chamber passed an anti-trans bill banning transgender people from using public restrooms, locker rooms and dormitories that match their gender identities. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Under the law, Mississippians could sue others who use a restroom or facility that did not represent their assigned sex at birth. The person filing the lawsuit would not be able to receive any compensation under the bill, however.

The SAFER Act is the latest in a volley of anti-trans legislation the governor has signed into law in recent years, including a 2021 ban on transgender students participating in school sports teams that match their gender identity and a 2023 ban on puberty blockers and other treatment for trans minors.

Prior-Authorization Reform

Health insurance companies are now required to provide patients with more transparency and speedier access to some treatments after a prior-authorization reform bill became law with Senate Bill 2140.

Gov. Tate Reeves let it become law without his signature after a deadline passed on Feb. 29. The legislation had support from more than two-thirds of the House and Senate—veto-proof majorities.

Insurance companies now must provide lists of procedures and medications that require prior authorization and post the list online with prior-authorization statistics.

The House and Senate passed an earlier prior-authorization reform bill in 2023, but Reeves vetoed the legislation. Lawmakers did not try to override his earlier veto.

Sign Language Counted As Foreign Language

High-school students will now be able to take sign-language classes to fulfill their foreign language requirement under a bill Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law on April 15.

The State Board of Education will have to create a sign-language curriculum to supply to schools under Senate Bill 2339.

“Whatever language a child or young adult might choose to become proficient in, whether that be sign language or a language from another country, it will be beneficial to their learning and their ability to communicate with other people and, hopefully, advance their education,” Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch,said on the House floor on March 6.

Mandatory Driver’s Education

Public schools will be required to create and implement a driver’s-education program for high-school students throughout the state.

“Beginning July 1, 2026, the Department of Public Safety shall establish a Driver Education and Training Program to be taught throughout the state and made available for homeschool students and adults who have not otherwise taken a driver's education course,” Senate Bill 2695 says. “Upon completion of the course, each participant shall be issued a Certificate of Completion, and a record of the certificate shall be delivered to the Mississippi Driver Service Bureau.”

Starting in July 2027, anyone seeking a driver’s license for the first time will be required to show proof that they “successfully completed a Driver Education and Training Program certified by the State Board of Education or the Department of Public Safety.”

Gov. Reeves signed the bill into law on May 10.

New Student Funding Formula

Mississippi has replaced its 27-year-old school-funding formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, with a new one that prioritizes more equitable funding for certain student populations, such as those with learning disabilities and those in impoverished districts.

Since its adoption in 1997, the Legislature only ever funded MAEP twice.

Kent McCarty standing at a microphone in front of the mississippi House floor while other representatives watch and listen while he explains school funding
Mississippi House Education Committee Vice Chairman Kent McCarty, R-Hattiesburg, explained the Mississippi Student Funding Formula, a new plan that would give districts a boost in funding for students who can be more expensive to educate, to the House on Friday, April 26, 2024. He is seen here explaining an earlier version of the formula known as the INSPIRE Act on March 6, 2024. The House and Senate both passed the Mississippi Student Funding Formula on April 27, 2024, sending it to Gov. Tate Reeves’ desk. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

Gov. Reeves signed the new Mississippi Student Funding Formula, which is based on an earlier House plan called the INSPIRE Act, on May 8.

“It’s clear. It’s concise. It gets money to our districts to help our students,” Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar said during debate.

Read more about the new formula here.

Medical-Cannabis Research Program

​​Mississippi will now have a medical-cannabis research program at the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Cannabis Research and Education.

The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Research Program, which Gov. Reeves signed into law on April 8, 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 law, the state will 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.

Sextortion Ban Becomes Law, Age Verification Halted

Sexual extortion is now a crime in Mississippi under House Bill 1196, and offenders can serve five to 20 years for breaking the law.

Sexual extortion, or sextortion, is when a perpetrator asks a person for nude photos, and after receiving the photos, the perpetrator threatens to share the photos with the public if the person does not comply with the perpetrator’s requests.

Walker Montgomery died by suicide at age 16 after online extortionists threatened to release a video of the teenage if he did not send them $1,000, his father says.

A teen boy in a blue and orange football uniform and black tar smeared on his cheeks
Online extorters threatened to release nude videos of 16-year-old Walker Montgomery if he did not send them $1,000. Montgomery died by suicide on Dec. 1, 2022. Photo courtesy Brian Montgomery

Minors would not be able to create online accounts with digital service providers like social media platforms without their parents’ permission under a bill that a federal judge blocked on July 1.

Tech industry group NetChoice, which represents Google, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, filed a lawsuit against the state on June 7, saying the law would go against the Constitution by limiting online speech for minors.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in a court filing that age verification for online activities could help prevent “sex trafficking, sexual abuse, child pornography, targeted harassment, sextortion, incitement to suicide and self-harm, and other harmful and often illegal conduct against children.”

PERS Board Powers Limited

The Legislature limited the powers of the board that oversees Mississippi’s Public Employees Retirement System under a bill that Gov. Tate Reeves allowed to become law without his signature on May 9.

The Mississippi House and Senate each passed the bill after the board decided to increase the local government’s retirement contribution to an employee’s paycheck by 5% over three years. The board was planning to increase the employer contribution rate to 22.4% after three years.

“We’re very angry at them for trying to increase payroll, and they have no understanding of what a burden this will be on everybody,” Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said on the Senate floor on April 26. “They don’t think it’s a good idea to assess payroll. It’s the only thing they can do under the law, and they’re required to do it under the law.”

Senate Bill 3231 prohibits the PERS board from increasing the state and local government’s contribution rate for taxes.

“Our review showed significant actuarial errors every year,” Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann told reporters on May 3. “That means the numbers weren’t right, and over the last 15 years they were off about $114 million from the average.”

Other Bills Died Without Becoming Law

As always, most bills introduced during the 2024 legislative session died, including major efforts such as Medicaid expansion. The following table contains a list of legislation the Crirec covered during the 2024 legislative session, including bills that became law and bills that failed.

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For a full list of the hundreds of bills that became law on July 1, follow this link.

Reporter Heather Harrison graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in Communication in 2023. She worked at The Reflector student newspaper for three years, starting as a staff writer, then the news editor before becoming the editor-in-chief. During her time at The Reflector, Heather won 13 awards for her multi-media journalism work.

In her free time, Heather likes to walk her dog, Finley, read books, and listen to Taylor Swift. Heather lives in Starkville, where she has spent the past four years. She is a Hazlehurst, Mississippi, native.

Award-winning News Editor Ashton Pittman, a native of the South Mississippi Pine Belt, studied journalism and political science at the University of Southern Mississippi. Previously the state reporter at the Jackson Free Press, he drove national headlines and conversations with award-winning reporting about segregation academies. He has won numerous awards, including Outstanding New Journalist in the South, for his work covering immigration raids, abortion battles and even former Gov. Phil Bryant’s unusual work with “The Bad Boys of Brexit" at the Jackson Free Press. In 2021, as a Crirec reporter, he was named the Diamond Journalist of the Year for seven southern U.S. states in the Society of Professional Journalists Diamond Awards. A trained photojournalist, Ashton lives in South Mississippi with his husband, William, and their two pit bulls, Dorothy and Dru. Follow on Twitter @ashtonpittman. Send tips to [email protected].