SENATE DEFEATS GRAVEL MEASURE, APPROVES GRAVE-DIGGING BILL
The vote of Northeast Mississippi state senators on the issue of graveling county driveways:
Nickey Browning, D-Ecru; Jack Gordon, D-Okolona; Bill Minor, D-Holly Springs; John White, D-Baldwyn.
Hob Bryan, D-Amory; Travis Little, D-Corinth; Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo; Gray Tollison, D-Oxford; Bennie Turner, D-West Point.
The vote of Northeast Mississippi state senators on the issue of allowing county supervisors to dig graves for the indigent:
Browning, Gordon, Minor, Nunnelee, White.
Bryan, Little, Tollison, Turner.
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The age-old issue of allowing supervisors to gravel driveways was debated and defeated Wednesday in the state Senate.
While the issue was defeated, it did not go quietly. The debate was colorful.
Sen. Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, asked if the bill shouldn’t be titled “the Supervisors Re-election Act of 1996.”
To which bill supporter Tommy Dickerson, D-Waynesboro, asked, “Where do you live.”
“You know where I live,” Hewes replied.
At times, as was implied by Dickerson’s question to Hewes, it appeared that the issue boiled down to rural vs. urban. But there were senators representing urban areas voting for it and vice versa.
But in the end, the bill failed on a 25-21 vote. But another bill to allow supervisors to dig graves passed after it was amended to require that the service only be performed for indigent people.
On both the issues of graveling driveways and digging graves, Sen. Travis Little, D-Corinth, and a former supervisor, said no action was needed.
He said the supervisors already had the authority to bury paupers.
And on the issue of graveling driveways, he said, “When it was stopped in our county, we saw the condition of our roads improve. That is because the tax money started going on the roads instead of private property.”
Little, who attended meetings with the Mississippi Association of Supervisors, said it is not even something a majority of the supervisors want.
But Dickerson said rural people deserve supervisors who provide the service. He said many rural people “pay taxes all their live and get nothing out of it. It (graveling a driveway) is about the only thing they get out of it.”
The practice of graveling driveways was common until the 1980s when former state Auditor Ray Mabus cracked down on the illegal practice. Opponents said it is an inefficient use of taxpayer money, and an activity supervisors could perform to garner re-election support.
The bill would have allowed supervisors to gravel up to 25 feet of driveway. An amendment was offered – and defeated – to allow supervisors to gravel up to 100 feet.
On the issue of the counties digging graves, the amendment probably saved it from defeat. The original bill gave the supervisors authority to dig graves for anyone.
Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said the bill would hurt private business people who dig graves for a living. He offered an amendment to require the family to come to the supervisors and admit they could not afford to dig the grave.
Sen. Terry Jordan, D-Philadelphia, a former attorney for a board of supervisors, spoke in favor of the Nunnelee amendment. He said it is needed because existing law is not clear, making many county attorneys afraid to recommend for supervisors to act.
He said the issue comes up only two or three times every four-year term.
The amended grave bill passed on a 28-18 vote.