State Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd

State Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd is a Republican legislator from Oxford.

TUPELO • The Mississippi Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill filed by a Northeast Mississippi lawmaker that would allow people with communication disorders to use a special car tag decal to ease potential encounters with law enforcement.

The primary author for Senate Bill 2764 is freshman state Sen. Nicole Boyd, a Republican from Oxford, who has long said she would try and introduce legislation that would improve the lives of citizens with developmental disorders.

The intent of the special decals is to alert law enforcement of a potential encounter with some who may have some difficulty communicating.

The bill now heads to the Mississippi House of Representatives, where the Speaker of the House will assign the bill to a committee. In order for the bill to become law, it must pass the full House. Boyd told the Daily Journal in a telephone interview that she was pleased the legislation passed the full Senate.

“We are moving forward and hopefully we can gather enough support in the House,” Boyd said on Thursday.

The legislation requires that applicants submit a certification from a licensed doctor or psychologist attesting that a person will have a communications disorder for at least the next five years. To obtain the decal, residents must submit an application to their county tax collector.

Any health information contained in the application would be confidential and not disclosed to the general public.

The legislation would also require new law enforcement officials undergo six hours of initial certification training to detect behavioral disorders in an individual and one hour for any continuing education training.

Boyd said she believes many lawmakers supported this training.

“The behavioral component will train officers to recognize behavioral characteristics that distinguish conditions such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, or any other mental or medical condition that may present with atypical developmental symptoms which could be perceived by an untrained person as suspicious and which could impede effective communication with a law enforcement officer,” the bill reads.

In the Senate, the bill initially passed both the Transportation and Finance Committee. State Sens. Daniel Sparks and Michael McLendon are co-authors of the legislation.

Lawmakers have until March 31 to report general bills that have originated in another chamber of the Legislature from a committee.

taylor.vance@journalinc.com

Twitter: @taylor_vance28

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