Legislature ends session, funds MDOT

MDOTBy Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – The 2014 session and regular session ended late Wednesday night with the two chambers reaching agreement to provide up to $32 million additional funds for local road and bridge projects.

The 86th and final day of the 2014 session proved to be unusual. Gov. Phil Bryant called the Legislature into special session Wednesday afternoon in the midst of the 2014 regular session. And it was in that special session where the Legislature was able to complete its work, ending both sessions.

Through the afternoon and night, the House and Senate jumped between regular and special sessions.

In special session, the Legislature reached agreement late Wednesday on a budget for the Department of Transportation for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, and agreed to add 16 assistant district attorneys across the state, including one for Circuit Court District 1 in Northeast Mississippi.

Earlier this week, the $927 million budget for the Transportation and the budget for state Aid Roads, which funds local road and bridge projects, were killed in the House on a deadline day. House members contended senators were getting special projects in the budget bill, but they were not. The Legislature would have had to extend the regular session to pass the budget for DOT or to pass a budget in special session. The Legislature and governor decided it was easier to finalize those projects in special session.

The compromise on the state Aid Road program was to add up to $32 million to its about $166 million budget in any state revenue collections that exceeded the official estimate. Those funds had not been appropriated yet by the 2014 Legislature.

The House passed the compromise late Wednesday, but both Democratic and Republicans members still were not happy with it.

Rep. Brad Mayo. R-Oxford, said the fastest-growing counties are in north Mississippi, yet, funds for special projects are in central Mississippi.

The Mississippi House, as it final act of the 2014 regular session, killed a bill banning texting while driving. The bill had passed the House 104-16 Tuesday, but late on Wednesday night, Rep. Bill Denny, R-Jackson, made the motion to reconsider. Efforts to table the motion were defeated on a voice vote.

In the regular session, legislation to add assistant district attorneys died when an agreement could not be reached by Monday’s deadline on the number to add.

Rep. Nick Bain, D-Corinth, said a new assistant district attorney will help in District 1 where there are already eight state-supported assistant district attorneys.

“It is a big district,” he said. “…An extra assistant district attorney can certainly be used.”

District 16, which includes Clay an Oktibbeha counties, also received an assistant district attorney.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com