Gov. Phil Bryant today signed into law legislation that enacts new rules for reporting cases of suspected sexual abuse against children.
The Child Protection Act (House Bill 16) requires immediate reporting of suspected abuse by healthcare practitioners, clergy members, teaching or childcare providers, law enforcement officers or commercial image processors when faced with a reasonable suspicion that a sex crime against a minor has occurred.
"This legislation provides the necessary tools for law enforcement to fight crimes against children," Bryant said. "This is a piece of legislation we have long fought for. The Child Protection Act sends a clear message that Mississippi will not tolerate such abuse and intends to go after the criminals who prey on children."
The measure also requires preservation of DNA evidence resulting from abortions performed on children under 14 years of age when there is a suspicion of sexual assault.
Bryant championed similar legislation while lieutenant governor. Although similar acts passed the Senate, they later died in the House. U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., was one of the legislation's lead authors when he served as a state senator. Nunnelee was present for Monday's bill signing.
"The passage of the child protection act is an important step in protecting the children of Mississippi," Rep. Nunnelee said. "I had introduced this act for several years, and it passed the Senate only to die in the House committee. Because of new leadership in the House, this bill passed the Legislature this year. I would like to thank Speaker Gunn and Chairman Gipson for their leadership as well as Lt. Gov. Reeves and Chairman Hobson. I also want to thank Gov. Bryant for signing this bill in to law. Protecting vulnerable children from those who would exploit them is one of the most important functions of government."