Annexation attempts under fire

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A series of bills introduced in the Legislature this session would make annexation attempts like Tupelo’s current effort nearly impossible.
Of those seven measures, six require a majority vote by residents in the proposed area before a city can annex, and one forbids the use of municipal funds to seek annexation.
Two other bills impose stricter standards for cities after they annex – one requires them to provide services to new areas within 30 days; the other forbids a tax levy on new areas until after providing services.
But the bills’ chances of passing are “next to none,” admitted state Rep. Frank Hamilton, R-Hurley, who has submitted the same set of bills each year for nearly two decades.
He’s joined by about one dozen legislators, including state Rep. Mark DuVall, D-Mantachie, who have recently proposed limited municipal annexation powers. Since 2005 alone, some 50 such bill have been introduced. But all died before reaching the full House or Senate floors.
Tuesday is the deadline for bills introduced in the 2010 general session to get out of committee.
“We have run up against a very powerful lobbying from the Mississippi Municipal League, which have been opposed to this,” DuVall said. “They are made up of cities across the state, and they have been successful at lobbying.”
MML spokeswoman Shari Veazey did not immediately return a call for comment.
DuVall said Tupelo’s latest annexation efforts prompted his bills. He has introduced two of them since 2009, both of which would require elections before an annexation.
The bills “come out of concern from people in my district, in particular by the people in the proposed area to be annexed by Tupelo – Deer Park, Indian Hills,” DuVall said. “Those folks do not think it’s fair to have purchased a home or built a home outside the city of Tupelo, and then the city comes to annex them for revenue purposes without showing any benefit for police protection or water services or whatever.”
Tupelo wants to annex more than 16 square miles from rural areas ringing the city despite opposition from residents, the Lee County Board of Supervisors and the city of Saltillo. The case goes to court in March.
Hamilton, who lives in Jackson County on the Coast, shares many of DuVall’s concerns and says he’s fighting for the rural folks. Although his bills have failed for nearly 20 years, he said he won’t give up.
“I know previous bills filed by legislators eight or 10 times before the full floor has an opportunity to vote on them,” Hamilton said. “So, I’ll keep trying.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.