BP bill loses support from some coast lawmakers

BP bill loses support from some coast lawmakers

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - The author of a bill intended to keep BP settlement money on the coast is voicing his frustration after the bill died in the Mississippi House.

Sen. Brice Wiggins said Senate Bill 2634 died after the House Appropriations Committee refused to bring the bill up for debate.

Earlier this month, the Mississippi Senate unanimously passed the bill, which would hold BP money separate from the state's general tax dollars.

"It is extremely disappointing for all coast residents to see this issue succumb to the politics of the house chamber, where the concern for 'bringing home the bacon' outweighed doing what was right and the original intent of these funds," said Wiggins. "Fiscal responsibility dictates spending state dollars in the right places. As a result of the house's inaction, these funds remain subject to the general appropriation process and are ripe for the picking."

Wiggins described the failure of the legislation as a "step backwards," but one state representative said a step back is what this situation calls for.

Rep. John Read, chairman of the appropriations committee, said no one is opposed to the bill, but the money should be assigned to specific projects before it is appropriated.

"The bill does not say where (the money) should be spent in the coastal counties, how much money, what account. It was a generic bill that said nothing," said Read. "The money is not going anywhere. Let's back off and take a deep breath. No one is opposed to (the bill) but you have to have a vehicle to appropriate the money to specific projects on the coast."

Other representatives from the coast agree with the notion that SB 2634 is an "empty" bill. Members of the MS House of Representatives Coast Delegation released a statement Tuesday against the bill:

Members of the MS House of Representatives Coast Delegation Tuesday released a statement against Senate Bill 2634:

We have stated on multiple occasions that we want to maximize the use of the money from the BP settlement on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The senate has sent us a bill that does nothing to move us in the direction of helping the coast.  It doesn't say how the money will be spent, or for what purposes the money will be used.

Wiggins is now asking Gov. Phil Bryant to call a special session of the state legislature to ensure that recovery money will be spent on the coast.

Members of the MS House of Representatives Coast Delegation include Reps. Jeramey Anderson, David Baria, Manley Barton, Richard Bennett, Charles Busby, Carolyn Crawford, Scott DeLano, Casey Eure, Jeffrey Guice, Greg Haney, Timmy Ladner, Randall Patterson, John Read, Sonya Williams-Barnes, Patricia Willis, and Henry Zuber.

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