The Commercial Appeal

New laws covering a range of issues

- By Emily Wagster Pettus Associated Press

JACKSON — In addition to the new law more clearly defining that people have the right to openly carry guns in many public places, several other new laws go into effect in Mississipp­i Monday.

One of the laws seeks to change education by allowing formation of charter schools, which receive public money but are free from many government regulation­s. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant says charter schools could offer innovative ways to improve education in a state that perpetuall­y ranks low in math and reading scores.

The state also is establishi­ng grants to help schools hire security officers, and it is requiring each school district to

adopt a policy about allowing a “limited public forum” at assemblies and other events to let students express their religious beliefs.

Another new law in Mississipp­i says a physician must be present when a woman takes abortionin­ducing drugs, and the woman must have a follow-up physical examinatio­n two weeks later. Until now, the practice has been for a woman who gets a medical abortion to take the first pill at the medical clinic then to take the two subsequent rounds of pills on two subsequent days in another place, usually at home.

At the state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organizati­on, women who receive this type of abortion have been advised to have a checkup t hree weeks later, either at the clinic or another medical facility, to ensure that they’re no longer pregnant. Physicians there say some women can still get a false positive test two weeks later because of lingering hormones. Clinic owner Diane Derzis said the new law will be burdensome for patients who have to return for extra office visits and for clinic physicians who have to handle more appointmen­ts.

Another new law says the Department of Human Services can hire private vendors to collect overdue child support.

Critics say the last time Mississipp­i tried this on a broad scale, in the 1990s, it was a disaster. Supporters of privatizat­ion say about $1 billion in overdue child support payments are owed to custodial parents. The current state-run collection system is underfunde­d and inefficien­t, they say.

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