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House, Senate Compromise On Anti-Corruption Legislation

August 16, 1988

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Legislators overwhelmingly approved a bill Tuesday that would restructure Mississippi’s century-old system of county government, a move Gov. Ray Mabus called historic.

Mabus, who was state auditor for the four years preceding his election last November, assisted the FBI in an investigation that resulted in federal graft charges against 56 supervisors from 25 counties.

″For the first time, the government of the state of Mississippi is on record for honest and efficient government,″ Mabus said after the bill passed 111-7 in the House and 50-0 in the Senate.

Both chambers approved the bill without debate on the seventh day of a special session Mabus called to deal with county government reform.

House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise Monday afternoon.

A similar bill died in the regular session earlier this year when negotiators would not compromise.

The Legislature also sent Mabus a bill that would raise supervisors’ salaries by 20 percent across-the-board. Mabus vetoed a similar bill in the regular session, saying no raises would be given until county reform legislation was passed.

The bill would require counties to implement central purchasing, receiving and inventory control systems with separate clerks for each by Jan. 2, 1989. They could, however, designate existing personnel for the positions.

On Nov. 8, voters would decide whether their counties would construct and maintain roads on a countywide or district basis after Oct. 1, 1989.

Counties choosing central road administration would be required to hire county administrators and road managers. They also would have to adopt personnel policies.

The chancery clerk could serve either as county administrator or in one of the clerical positions. Supervisors could not hold any of those positions while members of the board.

Senate County Affairs Committee Chairman Ollie Mohamed said the bill had flaws, but they could be corrected in the regular session in January.

″We’ve been placed under the gun,″ he said. ″Everybody wants to go home and everybody wants some form of county government reorganization.″

Twenty-two of Mississippi’s 82 counties already have in place some form of the so-called county unit system, under which supervisors would set policy and would hire an administrator to handle day-to-day business. In the remainder, supervisors oversee daily operations in their individual districts, or beats.

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