‘Jackson fatigue’: Bill to take over capital city’s water, sewer dies in House

Mississippi State Capitol
Mississippi State Capitol(WLBT)
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 5:30 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A bill that would have taken control of Jackson’s water system has died, with the measure failing to be brought up for a vote before the House adjourned Wednesday.

Wednesday was deadline day for legislation originating in the opposite chamber to be brought up for a vote.

“It’s my understanding that no chairman wished to take up anything after item eight on the general calendar,” Speaker Philip Gunn said shortly before the session ended. “I called myself having talked to each of the chairman on items nine through 14 and none of those chairmen indicated a desire to take up those bills.”

S.B. 2889, the measure that would have created a nonprofit water authority, was item number nine on that calendar.

The bill initially would have transferred ownership of the city’s water, sewer and stormwater systems to a regional authority. However, it was re-written in a House committee after members spoke to Ted Henifin, Jackson’s third-party water manager.

Rep. Shanda Yates, who was chosen to usher through the measure in the House, said it likely died for several reasons.

“What it ultimately came down to is having the body go through another long floor debate and the leadership made a decision to wait and do it next year,” she said. “It boiled down to Jackson fatigue for lack of a better word.”

The House spent more than an hour Wednesday debating a bill that would have expanded the boundaries of the Capitol Complex Improvement District. Members are likely expected to have a similarly long debate when H.B. 1020 returns for concurrence.

“I’d like to see it done, but it’s not as pressing as the crime issues we’re trying to get done,” Yates said.

Yates said the governor also voiced concerns over the bill, saying the timing for it likely wasn’t right.

“The water system is run by a conservator. And I don’t think that conservatorship’s going to be over in the next few months,” Gov. Tate Reeves said. “It’s not going to be over in the next few years.”

In November, a federal judge placed the city’s water system into receivership, appointing a third-party manager to oversee it.

That manager, too, had been critical of the legislation, saying it was “grab for money.”

The city received more than $800 million in federal allocations to shore up the system. He and other city leaders were worried that the state would use the money from Jackson.

Henifin has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Sen. David Parker discusses his bill that would place ownership of Jackson's water system under...
Sen. David Parker discusses his bill that would place ownership of Jackson's water system under a separate authority.(WLBT)

Sen. David Parker, who authored the legislation, denied that claim, saying he began working on the bill prior to the city receiving the allocations.

“The Senate bill would have provided a utility district accountable to the public to operate the water system after the receiver concludes his work,” Parker said. “As a ratepayer, I hope whatever plan the receiver has in mind will be similar - in terms of a concept subject to the Open Meetings Act and Open Records Act, with reporting requirements and oversight.”

Want more WLBT news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.