Regarding the Lafayette County Utility Authority bill

Published 12:38 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I wanted to clarify events relating to the local & private legislation requested by the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors to create the Lafayette County Utility District that originally sought to oversee broadband, natural gas, water, waste water, storm water and sanitation. I agree this legislation is needed to prepare for future growth in the county and that’s why I authored the bill.

The 2018 legislative session started on January 2, 2018. I introduced the legislation on March 7, 2018 after the Supervisors requested the legislation by Resolution a few days before. It was brought up in the Local & Private Committee on March 21, 2018 in an amended version removing broadband and natural gas and putting in an appeal process from decisions of the Utility District Board to the Supervisors.

I advocated for the bill and was able to get the bill passed out of two committees (Local & Private on March 21 and Finance on March 24, 2018), even though some Senators opposed the bill in both committees.

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Unfortunately, there was confusion locally and at the Capitol about the purpose of and need for the utility district as well as some legislators having bad experiences with their own County Utility District that led some to oppose the bill. The bill requires a 3/5 vote to pass the full Senate because it allows the issuance of revenue bonds. Similar legislation was introduced by Rep. Jim Beckett in the House.

The House Local & Private Committee never brought the House version of the bill up for consideration.

Based on all of this information and my experience, I determined that it would be best to wait until next session to garner more support and clarify concerns about the bill instead of the bill possibly being killed on the floor.

When a bill dies on the floor, it can make it more difficult to get it passed in the future.  Moreover, this bill was also being considered in the last days of the legislative session when we were finalizing the budget and general bills and there was just not enough time to educate members of the legislature and organizations such as the homebuilders, realtors and others about the need for the utility district in Lafayette County.  The session ended on March 28.

If the Supervisors choose to request this local & private legislation again, I believe the best chance to pass this bill is to use the rest of the year to educate and emphasize the important need for this bill to the legislature and other interested parties and to come back in January and work together to get it passed.

It would be helpful if we could get resolutions from water associations, the local realtors, the local homebuilders, the Economic Development Foundation and any other interested parties supporting the legislation as well.

Gray Tollison

District 9 Representative

Oxford, Miss