Y’all Politics brings you a Bill of the Day from the Mississippi Legislature that just may pique your interest.

There has been much debate over whether local school districts have the authority granted by the Legislature as a political subdivision of this state to impose public health mandates on their own volition. That question raged last summer ahead of the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Given that there exists no prohibition for school boards to mandate such public health recommendations, it appears school districts have felt comfortable, legally speaking, with enacting such mandates. However, the will of the Legislature remains unclear on the matter.

State Senator Melanie Sojourner (R) is seeking to clear that up for parents, school employees and the general public.

She has filed SB 2850 which would prohibit school districts and other political subdivisions from requiring COVID vaccines and masks. The bill would also prohibit discrimination based on a person’s vaccination status and provide that a school district of other political subdivision cannot require a person to take the vaccine or wear a face covering.

Sojourner’s bill would make the following an “unlawful discriminatory practice”:

  • Withholding or denying a person any local or state services, goods, facilities, advantages, privileges, licensing, educational opportunities, health care access or employment opportunities based on the person’s vaccination status or failure or refusal to wear a face covering;
  • Refusing employment to a person, barring a person from employment, or discriminating against a person in compensation or in a term, condition, or privilege of employment based on the person’s vaccination status or failure or refusal to wear a face covering;
  • Excluding, limiting, segregating, refusing to serve or otherwise discriminating against a person based on the person’s vaccination status or failure or refusal to wear a face covering.

While this would appear to align with a majority of Mississippians and surely clarify the will of the Legislature in these matters, Senator Sojourner’s bill has been double referred to the Senate Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee and the Senate Education Committee, imposing a huge hurdle for a presumably popular policy position in the state. The bill would have to pass out of both committees before it could be considered by the full chamber.

You can read the full version of the bill here.