In the evening hours of Tuesday, the Senate filled SB 2002, the BP Oil Settlement bill.
UPDATE 9:15 p.m.:
The Senate Appropriations Committee met around 8:00 p.m. to discuss the very recently introduced BP Oil bill. The bill passed out of committee with only one amendment made.
The amendment would clarify what “coastal counties” means, and that defines this zone as the bottom six coastal counties. It was passed in the committee and later adopted in the Senate.
Chairman Buck Clarke introduced the bill in the Senate. Sen. Blount asked to speak on the bill and urged fellow Senators not to vote on the bill tonight, but to at least wait until tomorrow to make a design.
“Before I buy a car, before I buy an air conditioner I like to sleep on it and make sure I’m considering all my options,” said Sen. Blount. However, his plea was not enough and lawmakers took up the bill to move forward with an explanation and eventually a vote.
Sen. Fillingane then came to the podium and read allowed all 128 projects in Section 13 of the bill, the 2018 Transportation and Infrastructure Improvements Fund. Those 128 projects total $111 million in funds.
Sen. Norwood offered an amendment to the bill to approve an extra $1 million to JSU, moving the needle from $52.8 million to $53.8 million. He said this extra money would be used for an emergency situation at the university to repair the HVAC system. The amendment fails.
Before the final vote Sen. David Blount spoke out against the bill. He called the bill a Christmas tree of projects and asked members to vote against it.
The use of the morning roll call was used for a vote, it passed 42-8. Those voting no were: McDaniel, Blount, Jackson, Norwood, D. Simmons. Horne, Frazier, and Turner.
UPDATE 7:30 p.m.:
The bill would ensure that all BP Oil Spill money be allocated to the State Settlement fund and the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund, both of which are created in this bill.
“TO PROVIDE THAT FROM AND AFTER SEPTEMBER 1, 2018, ALL BP OIL SPILL SETTLEMENT FUNDS RECEIVED BY THE STATE SHALL BE DEPOSITED INTO THE STATE BP SETTLEMENT FUND AND THE GULF COAST RESTORATION FUND”
The money comes from to the state after a negotiated settlement in damages that were incurred after the explosion and sinking of the mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon.
The bill splits the funds 75/25 throughout the state. The majority, 75%, is to be deposited into the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund requiring that money be spent in the directly affected coastal counties as defined as Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River, Stone and George Counties. The other 25% of each annual payment will be deposited into the State BP Settlement Fund.
The bill puts primary control of the Gulf Coast Restoration Project in the hands of the Mississippi Developmental Authority.
The State Settlement Fund will address special interest projects like church restoration, bridge reconstruction, road repair, the consolidation for some school districts and even expansion of law enforcement training academies.
The bill was referred to the Appropriations Committee, Senators are now awaiting a call time for the meeting.