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Legislative latest: budget incomplete, ballot initiative restoration in jeopardy and ABC warehouse compromise made

Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 7:37 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The negotiations will stretch out a little longer at the State Capitol. Lawmakers haven’t wrapped up their business as early as expected.

Most lawmakers left the Capitol Thursday, expecting they would call it quits on the 2022 session by Saturday. However, that has changed, and so has the status of some big bills you might be interested in hearing about.

“We will return at 10 on Monday morning to begin our work and hopefully be done quickly thereafter,” said Speaker Philip Gunn.

So, lawmakers are headed home for the weekend after once again suspending the rules to extend the session.

“Well, we are down to the point of just getting the budget done,” noted Gunn.

Another item that’s not done and doesn’t seem to have a clear resolution? Restoring the ballot initiative process. The House and Senate are still far apart on their ideas, and it could very well keep it from becoming a reality this session.

“We brought forward a proposal to reinstate the initial process; it was very close to what the original process was,” said Speaker Gunn. “The Senate wanted to raise the threshold on what was required to make that happen, deviated significantly from what the current process is, and we just felt like that was too, too much of a hurdle to cause our citizens to go to that extreme, to try to get an initiative in front of the people. So that’s basically where the two sides, you know, disagreed. It’s still alive, but we’ll see what happens over the weekend.”

The biggest difference between the two chamber’s positions seems to be the number of signatures needed to put an initiative on the ballot. The House doesn’t want to raise that threshold.

Another much-discussed item that does have a new resolution is what to do with the ABC warehouse. A conference report has been signed and filed for the two chambers to vote on.

“We found some common ground where we could privatize the operations of the warehouse but not have a negative effect on permittees or consumers,” said Sen. Chris Johnson. “And so I think it’s a really good fit to help everybody out, get alcohol sooner, and at a similar cost to now.”

Under this proposal, the state will remain a control state but contract with a private company to take over operations soon but also start working on plans to build a new warehouse in the next couple of years.

“The compromise that we reached will have only those people who participate in the alcohol industry will pay for that additional cost,” noted Rep. Trey Lamar. “And so if you’re not a drinker, you won’t pay any extra for that cost to build that new facility. So, the warehouse is going to be built with revenue bonds that are tied to the revenue stream of a bailment fee at the warehouse, as well as the existing alcohol tax.”

Another major item still left to complete is ARPA money. The Speaker says they anticipate spending around $1.5 of the $1.8 billion this year.

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