/House approves altered lottery bill, Senate OKs online sales tax; everybody goes home until Monday

House approves altered lottery bill, Senate OKs online sales tax; everybody goes home until Monday

The Senate and the House of Representatives adjourned Friday to rest for the weekend. All agenda items were moving along, albeit slowly, through the legislative process. The state Capitol will host legislators Monday as they work to pass the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act and enact a lottery. This act, which redirects some state use tax funds to local governments to support infrastructure needs, and issues $300 million of debt to finance transportation needs at both the local and state levels, is still being considered by lawmakers. Both the use tax bond and lottery bills passed both chambers, though in different forms. One chamber must accept changes made by the other chamber on Monday. This conference will attempt to resolve differences between the two chambers. The most discussion during the special session was around the implementation of a lottery. The Senate had little to no discussion on Thursday night and the House approved the amended Senate lottery proposal by a vote 71-43 on Friday. Many of the same concerns were raised by the Senate on Thursday night by the Democratic House members, including concern over the bill’s rushed process and unanswered questions. They also criticized the lack of transparency practices and confusion about key elements. Bob Evans, D.Monticello said that this bill is too important to not be debated. It’s not the right way to accomplish something that will have a lasting impact on this state. This is not what the body is supposed do. I was unsure how I would vote but due to the lack of discussion, I’m going against it.” Voice votes were given to several amendments that unexpectedly passed. Some of these amendments were proposed by Democrats, including Rep. David Baria who is running against Sen. Roger Wicker for the U.S. Senate. These amendments were: * Relaxing restrictions on video lottery machines that can be played at truck stops or gas stations. This is contrary to Governor Roger Wicker’s stated desire to tighten those restrictions. It also serves as a scare tactic for the powerful casino lobby. * Directing lottery revenues exceeding $80 million annually to the pre-kindergarten fund, The Early Childhood Learning Collaborative. * Depositing lottery revenues into the Education Enhancement Fund to provide funding for the existing Classroom Supply Fund. * The bill’s name will be changed to the “Alyce G. Clarke Mississippi Lottery Law.” This is named after Rep. Alyce Clarke (D-Jackson), who unsuccessfully attempted to create a state lottery in 16 consecutive sessions. The Gaming Committee meeting was held earlier in the day and Republican leaders declined to consider amendments to House bill. They also limited the time that floor debate could be conducted according to rules. A controversial Senate proposal was approved by the House that would exempt the group chosen by the governor to supervise the lottery from state public records and meetings laws. Bryant stated that he supported the move. Because of the 500 closed county bridges across the state due to safety concerns, the Legislature is currently in session. Derrick Surrette is the executive director of Mississippi Association of Supervisors. He said that the plan to help counties with these bridges was not a quick fix but would provide some relief. The $250 million fund, which can be accessed by issuing bonds and taking out debt, will allow counties to get the money they need quickly if the legislation becomes law. The Mississippi Transportation Commission will manage the money, with the input of a committee made up of members from the private sector such as the Mississippi Manufacturers Association or the Mississippi Economic Council. Although the money may be available by this fall, some county leaders were concerned that the Transportation Commission would instead focus on fixing state infrastructure needs. If the program is approved, it will provide more $100 million per annum to local governments if fully implemented in four years. The program will also generate about $100 million annually from a lottery or other items for state transportation. The Mississippi Department of Transportation stated earlier that an additional $400 million is required each year to address problems in the state’s transportation system. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today.