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When the state sales tax holiday rolls around in late July, parents will finally be able to buy pens, pencils and paper without forking over an extra 7 percent.

The inclusion of school supplies to the list of tax-free eligible items is one of Mississippi's new laws that will go into effect Monday.

Other new laws will require active shooter drills at every school in the state, reduce the time needed to renew a driver's license and offer high speed internet to rural citizens.

This year's sales tax holiday will be July 26-27. While the sales tax holiday has been around for 10 years, the state legislature never felt the need to include school supplies in the list of items exempt for sales tax.

That changed this spring when the legislature amended the law. The list of eligible school supplies includes backpacks, scissors, protractors, lunch boxes, dictionaries, paintbrushes and even chalk for the blackboard. The list is available at the state Department of Revenue website, dor.ms.gov

While parents will love the chance to save a little money, they might not like discussing the serious issue of active shooters with smaller children. But elementary students could have questions when schools start conducting emergency preparedness drills each spring and fall.

House Bill 1283 will require all schools to develop and conduct active shooter drills at least twice a year, within the first 60 days of each new semester. The bill will also require the state Office of Homeland Security to train and certify threat assessment officers, who will annually inspect each public school and provide a threat assessment and improvement plan to local law enforcement and the local school boards.

The bill also calls for all school personnel - from administrators all the way to cafeteria workers and custodians - to complete a refresher course on mental health and suicide prevention every two years.

The legislature also provided $3.3 million in additional funds to the Department of Public Safety. The money is earmarked for driver' services, in particular to reduce long line and closures a driver's license offices.

Over the last two weeks, DPS cited personnel shortages as the reason they were forced four times to close up to four offices statewide for the day.

The new law that could have the biggest impact will also take the longest for citizens to see the result. House Bill 366 give public electric cooperatives the ability to also offer high speed internet.

Most of the cooperatives in northeast Mississippi are taking a serious look. A handful are already taking steps to move forward. Tombigbee EPA (Tupelo and Fulton), Northeast EPA (Oxford) and Tallahatchie Valley EPA (Batesville) have already applied for federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It will likely be at least a year down the road before citizens will begin to see connections at their house. For rural customers, it will take several years.

william.moore@journalinc.com

Twitter:@WilliamMoore_DJ

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