The Latest: Senate approves plan to divide oil spill money
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on the Mississippi Legislature’s debate over dividing $700 million in oil spill damages (all times local):
Mississippi’s state Senate is passing a bill that divides $700 million in oil spill damages being paid to the state and also includes 128 special projects worth nearly $103 million cumulatively.
Senate Bill 2002 was debated for less than an hour on Tuesday before passing 42-8. It moves to the House for more consideration.
The bill designates Mississippi’s southernmost six counties for grants and loans from a fund created by the bill. Lawmaker will still have to approve grants each year, based on recommendations by the Mississippi Development Authority.
The coastal zone will get 75 percent of future income, plus about $27 million now.
The special projects are funded by $50 million in borrowing and more than $50 million in money already paid by BP PLC. It also sets aside $9 million for railroad and railroad crossing improvements.
A bill that divides Mississippi’s oil spill damage payments also includes 128 individual projects worth more than $100 million cumulatively.
A committee on Tuesday night approved Senate Bill 2002 and the full Senate began debate.
The projects are funded by $50 million in borrowing plus more than $60 million in BP money. Some of those special projects are on the Gulf Coast while more are spread across the state.
Senators representing Jackson complain the bill includes only two projects worth a little more than $1 million total.
The largest projects include new roads in Rankin and Madison counties, at $8 million each. Many projects are in the districts of influential committee chairmen.
A Senate bill proposes designating Mississippi’s six southernmost counties for grants and loans from a majority of oil spill damages.
Lawmakers earlier had discussed limiting grants to the three coastal counties — Hancock, Harrison and Lamar. However, Senate Bill 2002 on Tuesday also proposes making the next tier of George, Pearl River and Stone counties eligible.
The proposal is a key part of how lawmakers will divide $700 million in economic damage payments from BP PLC after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The Mississippi Development Authority would make recommendations each year for grants, with lawmakers required to approve them. The economic and community development agency controlled by the governor could make loans without legislative approval.
Mississippi lawmakers still have more to consider before they conclude a special session.
Gov. Phil Bryant widened the session’s agenda Tuesday. He’s asking lawmakers to agree on how to divide $700 million that Mississippi is receiving in economic damage payments from BP PLC.
The oil company is making the payments following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Legislative leaders have discussed giving roughly 75 percent of money to the state’s three coastal counties and 25 percent to the remaining 79 counties.
However, some inland lawmakers oppose that plan. Republican Rep. Tracy Arnold of Booneville is circulating a proposal to divide money among all counties based on their share of Mississippi’s population.
Bryant also wants lawmakers to agree how to spend $50 million put aside earlier.