Bill banning property value-based billing clears the Senate; still must pass House

Law could block Jackson water manager’s proposal to charge customers for water based on home values, rather than usage.
(U.S. Air Force)
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 5:30 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A bill that could prevent a federal receiver from implementing property value-based water billing is one step closer to becoming a law.

Tuesday, the Senate approved the conference report for H.B. 698.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Shanda Yates in response to the proposal from the Jackson water manager to implement a new rate structure based on the value of customers’ homes, would limit municipalities to billing for customers to three ways.

Those ways, according to Sen. Joel Carter include “actual usage, which would be metered usage. If there’s something wrong with the meter – the meter is not functioning – you can have estimated bills not to exceed six months... And then populations exceeding 1,000 people, they establish a flat rate, which cannot discriminate among classification of users.”

“So, whatever that flat rate is that the municipality determines, it doesn’t matter what size house you live in, the rate is the rate.”

Carter presented the bill on the floor of the Senate. He authored a similar measure but it died in a House committee.

The final vote tally had not been posted on the Senate’s website Tuesday afternoon.

Voting against the measure included Sens. Barbara Blackmon, Angela Turner-Ford, Hillman Frazier, Calvin Butler, Albert Butler, Robert Jackson, Joseph Thomas, Sarita Simmons and David Jordan, according to the Senate Floor Youtube feed.

Those voting in favor or voting present were not mentioned by name.

The measure is opposed by Interim Third-Party Manager Ted Henifin, who has proposed implementing a rate structure based on home values, in part, to make fees more equitable for lower-income customers.

[Read: How is my water bill going to change? Third-party manager reveals plan to shore up Jackson’s water finances]

The idea also serves as an end-around to the city’s current water meter system, which is still being installed under a contract with Sustainability Partners.

Henifin was not immediately available for comment.

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