JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A new law taking effect with the new year is designed to bring more transparency to financial operations of publicly owned hospitals in Mississippi.
Senate Bill 2407 (http://bit.ly/1M3GVSK ), which was filed in response to pension problems at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, requires boards of community hospitals to keep most of their meetings open to the public. The boards can hold closed meetings to discuss patient information, competitive business matters or employment contracts for physicians and other workers.
The new law also says that that by Jan. 1, community hospitals must create a website, or use an existing one, to post financial reports, audits, budgets and other documents related to how they spend public money.
Problems with the Singing River pension existed for months before becoming publicly known, partly because the hospital board was meeting in private.
Other new laws in Mississippi:
JUDGES: House Bill 703 (http://bit.ly/1YlDo8n ) creates four new circuit judgeships and three new chancery judgeships. The new judges were elected in November and take office in January. The new circuit judges are in the 12th District in Forrest and Perry counties; the 13th District in Covington, Jasper, Simpson and Smith counties; the 15th District in Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion and Pearl River counties; and the 20th District in Madison and Rankin counties. The new chancery judges are in the 4th District in Amite, Franklin, Pike and Walthall counties; the 11th District in Holmes, Leake, Madison and Yazoo counties; and the 20th District in Rankin County.
PUBLIC SAFETY SALARIES: Senate Bill 2500 (http://bit.ly/1YlEz7K ) provides pay raises for Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol troopers and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents, starting Jan. 1.
COAHOMA COUNTY SCHOOLS: Senate Bill 2303 (http://bit.ly/1YlyKrc ) says the superintendent of Coahoma County schools is appointed, rather than elected, starting Jan. 1.
HOLMES COUNTY-DURANT SCHOOLS: House Bill 572 (http://bit.ly/1YlyCYE ) says a commission studying possible consolidation of the Holmes County and Durant school districts is to report its findings by Jan. 1 to the governor, the Legislature and the state Board of Education.
AUTISM INSURANCE: House Bill 885 (http://bit.ly/1Cf8lT1 ) says that starting Jan. 1, health insurance policies in Mississippi must cover screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder. It also prohibits insurers from dropping coverage because a person is diagnosed or treated for autism.
CANCER DRUGS: House Bill 952 (http://bit.ly/1YlApgi ) says that starting Jan. 1, health plans may not charge higher co-payments, deductibles or co-insurance amounts for anti-cancer medication that a patient administers to himself than for anti-cancer medication that is administered by a health care provider.
CONCEALED-CARRY PERMITS: Senate Bill 2394 (http://bit.ly/1AjNws4 ) says that starting Jan. 1, the commissioner of public safety must set rules for putting the words "retired law enforcement officer" on concealed-carry gun permits issued to honorably retired officers, including prison guards.
HIRING VETERANS: House Bill 33 (http://bit.ly/1YlCdG7 ) provides a tax credit of up to $2,000 for any business that hires an honorably discharged veteran who served in the U.S. military on or after Sept. 11, 2001, and who has been unemployed for at least six months immediately before being hired by that business. The business could receive the credit for up to five years, and the program is limited to $1 million in credits statewide.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.