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Mississippi Lawmakers Rush To Meet A Crucial Deadline

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 11 Feb 2014 06:51pm | comments

Community colleges and universities could be asked to play a bigger role in preventing pregnancy among older teens. In 2012 nearly 70-percent of all teenage births in Mississippi were to 18-and-19-year olds.  MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the house also passed a bill to increase access to community college.

A bill to require community colleges and public universities to study ways to prevent older teens from becoming pregnant has passed the senate

Senator Sally Doty of Brookhaven says the schools have access to an age group when a majority of teenage pregnancies happen.

"Especially community colleges because they are geographically placed all over the state. And do so many programs within those local communities, we think they are especially important in reaching out to those groups and defining what might be appropriate for the prevention of teen pregnancy," Doty said.

The bill also sparked a skirmish over abortion when an amendment was proposed that would prevent counseling about abortion services.

That amendment failed by just one vote.

For the first time Mississippi lawmakers are considering paying tuition for Mississippi high school students to go to community colleges.

The house also approved a pilot program to pay community college tuition for recent Mississippi high school graduates who are not covered by other financial aid is advancing.

Representative Gregory Holloway of Hazelhurst says the support will fill the gap between existing financial aid and tuition.

"It would help with the cost of tuition. And if they don't have enough aid to cover the general expenses this would help take care of that situation for them<' Holloway said.

Officials estimate it would cost less than $4.5 million a year more to pay outstanding tuition for the system's 75,000 students.

Mississippi lawmakers are also looking to set new rules that prevent cities and counties from destroying weapons purchased in buyback programs.

One bill would require towns and counties to pass new gun buy back programs, and auction any guns to a federally qualified fire arms dealer.

House Judiciary A chairman Mark Baker of Brandon says the guns could only be destroy if they are deemed junk.

"One of the concerns was that taxpayers money was being used for guns and then those gun were then turned around even though they had value and being destroy. That is like throwing the tax payers money away," Baker said.

Baker says if an agency acquired private dollars they could freely destroy the weapons.

The House also approved part of Governor's Phil Bryant's public safety agenda...which establishes strike forces.

These are law enforcement groups that target high crime areas in three sections of the state.
Speaking in support of the bill representative Chuck Espy of Clarksdale says crime has increased in his city because previous intervention plans expired.

"They are calling over and over again to their elected officials to say 'when I go to bed at night I sleep on the floor'. I thought people were making these things up. But at night my wife and my children and myself, we actually slept on the floor one night," Espy said.

However, others expressed concern about the forces riding rough shod over local authorities or targeting minority communities.

The house also passed a bill to prevent confiscation of weapons or ammunition if martial law is declared.

Thursday is the deadline for each chamber to pass their own bills or they die.

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