By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann will maintain his ability to pre-approve 16th Section leases entered into by local school boards.
Senate Education Committee on Thursday rejected House-passed legislation that would have stripped the secretary of state of his authority to pre-approve 16th Section leases.
Hosemann described the Senate Education Committee action as “a unanimous vote across all party lines to not allow Mississippi to go backward 40 years.”
Hosemann was referring to the 1970s and ’80s – before court rulings and before legislative reforms of 16th Section lands – when local school boards provided people “sweet-heart deals” in which they paid little for the use of the land, which is owned by the schools.
But Reps. Mark Barker, R-Brandon, and Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said all the legislation would have done is allow schools board that follow strict state laws to enter into leases without Hosemann’s pre-approval.
They said existing state law did not give Hosemann the authority to pre-approve the leases, but that he has assumed that authority.
Baker also said House members had heard complaints from school boards that Hosemann’s demand to pre-approve each lease was slowing the process.
The bill still would have provided Hosemann oversight authority and would have allowed him to pursue court action if he believed a school board entered into a lease that did not help the schools.
Senate Education Committee Chair Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian, had offered a compromise that the Legislature study the issue for a year.
But the committee, responding to Hosemann’s strong advocacy, killed the bill ad the proposed study committee.
Hosemann did say he planned to study the issue this summer.
Brown also said, despite the Senate Education Committee’s action, that he believes the issue would be reviewed this session or next year.