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Infrastructure plan headed to conference as legislative session winds down

BONDS: The Mississippi Legislature will have to work out a compromise on an infrastructure plan. Photo by the Mississippi Department of Transportation

With the legislative session winding down, only a few bills remain for legislators as they try to put the finishing touches on a budget and a few bills before heading home for the season.

Here are some bills that are still alive and others that have died in the Legislature:

Still alive

Senate Bill 3046, the Building Roads, Improving Development and Growing the Economy or BRIDGE Act, would provide more money for infrastructure needs. The House has removed several of the more controversial parts of the measure that would've stripped authority and money from the Mississippi Department of Transportation's three elected commissioners and given it to the governor. The House also added an amendment that would send 15 percent of the state's use tax revenue for infrastructure projects for cities and counties.

In 2017, use tax revenues added up to $310 million, with $234 million going to the general fund and the rest ($76 million) going to several special funds including the Education Enhancement Fund that also receives money from sales tax revenues. Diverting 15 percent of use tax revenue for infrastructure projects would add up to only $46 million.

The House version would also create the Small Municipalities and Limited Population Counties Fund with $10 million in bond money to be administered by the Mississippi Development Authority, which would hand out grants up to $250,000 apiece to small municipalities and counties (10,000 population or less). The state would also increase bond debt from $29 million to $32 million help repair rural water systems and spend $4 million in bonds to repair seawalls in the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Rankin and Madison counties.

There are several road projects included in the bill such as Kemper (State Highway 16), Madison (Reunion Parkway), DeSoto (Holly Springs Road) and Rankin (East Metro Corridor and Gunter Road) counties. The bill would also provide funding through bonds to build a landing dock for Bolivar County on the Mississippi River and improve Greenville's water and sewer system.

The bill also has a small tax increase, but not one for gasoline. The only tax increase is a levy of $150 annually on owners of electric vehicles in addition to registration fees, with hybrid vehicle owners assessed $75 annually.

The bill is headed for conference between the House and the Senate to work out a compromise.

House Bill 1040 would require Mississippi law enforcement agencies to be compliant with the requirements of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Incident-Based Reporting System. This is an expanded database that helps agencies get a better picture of crime statistics. The House has declined to concur with the Senate changes to the bill and it is headed to conference for a compromise.

House Concurrent Resolution 33, sponsored by state Rep. Hank Zuber (R-Ocean Springs), is a change to Legislature rules that would limit the introduction of general (non-revenue) bills to even-numbered years. This would reduce the amount of time required for the Legislature to meet.

Dead bills

House Bill 1554 would've provided $1 million in bonds to build a children's museum in Meridian. Among the other museums built with state money in recent years include $24.5 million for the the Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport and $2.5 million for a Tammy Wynette museum in Tremont. The bill died in the Senate Finance Committee on March 13.

HB 1631 would've provided $50 million in bonds and $45 million to the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District to build a controversial flood control lake, known as the "One Lake" Project. The lake would be located on the Pearl River south of the Ross Barnett Reservoir. The bill was killed by the Senate Finance Committee on March 13.

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