Lottery and aid to localities debated in special session

MGN Online

Mississippi lawmakers on Thursday debated creating a state lottery to fund state highways, plus diverting existing tax money to help city and county infrastructure, as a special session opened.

Posted: Aug 23, 2018 4:50 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers on Thursday debated creating a state lottery to fund state highways, plus diverting existing tax money to help city and county infrastructure, as a special session opened.

Gov. Phil Bryant, in a speech before the session started, argued that the problem was too urgent to wait, especially after he had to order the closure of county bridges earlier this year following safety inspections. The state reports that 437 county bridges statewide are closed for safety reasons.

"It's time to get this done," Bryant said. "We don't need to wait another week, another month."

Representatives voted 108-5 to pass House Bill 1 , which would divert 35 percent of the state's current tax on internet and catalog sales to cities and counties, an amount House leaders say will be worth $110 million a year in 2022 when fully phased in. It moves to the Senate for more debate.

Counties and cities would be given the money as long as they don't decrease the amount they're currently spending. Counties could spend the money only on roads and bridges, while cities could also spend money on water and sewer work. Each city would be guaranteed at least $10,000 a year. Mississippi's largest city, Jackson, would get more than $4 million yearly. Every county would get at least $270,000.

"This bill makes a major step forward in repairing infrastructure at the local level," said Rep. Trey Lamar, a Senatobia Republican who shepherded the bill.

The measure also authorizes the state to borrow up to $300 million mostly to be spent through an emergency bridge repair fund, earmarks proceeds from sports betting to state highways, and imposes additional yearly taxes of $75 on hybrid vehicles and $150 on electric vehicles.

Much of the debate in the House focused on $50 million in special projects that had been written into the bill, many in the districts of influential Republicans. Lamar removed those projects, saying he wanted to smooth debate, but made it clear leaders would likely put them back when House and Senate members meet later to resolve differences in the bill.

A bare majority of House members voted instead to split that money evenly between 82 counties, even though House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith, a Columbus Republican, said the provision would be stripped later.

Senators, meanwhile, began debating Senate Bill 2001 , which would create a state lottery and earmark the money for 10 years to the state Transportation Department. Transportation Committee Chairman Willie Simmons, a Cleveland Democrat, said the lottery is projected to provide about $40 million to the state in its first year and about $80 million in later years.

The bill creates a Mississippi Lottery Corp., which would be governed by a five-member board appointed by the governor. The board would hire a president of the corporation, subject to the governor's veto. Simmons' committee rejected amendments, including one to make the lottery corporation subject to the state public records act and to classify lottery corporation workers as state employees. Bryan also unsuccessfully pushed an amendment that would have required places that sell lottery tickets to display the national motto, "In God We Trust." Bryan said the governor likes the motto and is pushing for a lottery.

Opponents argued the lottery was bad public policy that just shifts spending around inside Mississippi's economy.

"It falls disproportionately on the poor," said Sen. Hob Bryan, an Amory Democrat.

Simmons said Mississippi residents spend $15 million a year on lottery tickets in Louisiana and $5 million a year in Arkansas.

Kenny Digby, director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention's lobbying group Christian Action Commission, walked around the Capitol on Thursday with a pair of blue jeans and two loaves of bread hanging from a string around his neck and shoulders. He said if Mississippi creates a lottery, some parents will spend money on lottery tickets.

"They should be buying bread and blue jeans," Digby said.

He said local churches and ministries will receive "an abundance" of requests to help those families with their basic needs.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 15523

Reported Deaths: 734
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds100625
Lauderdale73862
Madison72423
Scott65012
Neshoba64639
Jones62928
Forrest56438
DeSoto5427
Rankin4398
Holmes42928
Leake42712
Copiah3124
Jackson30813
Attala29817
Yazoo2814
Newton2714
Leflore26431
Lincoln26329
Harrison2587
Monroe25725
Oktibbeha23912
Lamar2385
Lowndes2119
Pearl River20931
Wayne2041
Pike20311
Adams19915
Noxubee1866
Washington1787
Warren17310
Covington1652
Jasper1634
Bolivar16211
Lee1536
Smith15211
Kemper14411
Clarke14418
Lafayette1364
Chickasaw13512
Coahoma1254
Carroll11711
Winston1171
Marion1159
Clay1124
Claiborne1112
Lawrence1021
Simpson1010
Tate941
Grenada943
Yalobusha935
Hancock9111
Wilkinson889
Itawamba877
Montgomery851
Sunflower843
Union835
Marshall833
Jefferson Davis773
Tippah7311
Panola713
Webster692
Calhoun654
Amite641
Humphreys607
Walthall560
Tunica553
Prentiss533
Perry503
Choctaw432
Jefferson421
Pontotoc353
Quitman330
Tishomingo320
Stone300
Franklin292
Tallahatchie271
George251
Alcorn171
Benton150
Greene131
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18018

Reported Deaths: 644
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2239116
Jefferson1837102
Montgomery171040
Tuscaloosa78315
Marshall6939
Franklin5567
Lee54833
Shelby51720
Tallapoosa42765
Butler41118
Chambers35525
Walker3542
Elmore3548
Madison3394
Baldwin2909
Morgan2801
Dallas2723
Etowah25711
DeKalb2483
Lowndes24612
Coffee2361
Sumter2247
Autauga2214
Houston2204
Bullock2095
Pike2030
Colbert1842
Hale1739
Russell1710
Marengo1706
Barbour1671
Lauderdale1642
Calhoun1603
Choctaw1538
Wilcox1487
Clarke1442
Cullman1430
Randolph1277
St. Clair1231
Marion12211
Pickens1164
Dale1150
Talladega1135
Limestone1060
Chilton1011
Greene944
Winston900
Macon824
Henry802
Covington801
Jackson782
Crenshaw753
Bibb751
Washington706
Escambia633
Blount621
Lawrence500
Geneva430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Monroe402
Perry390
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Unassigned00
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