BP money debate erupts at Gulf Coast Business Council meeting

BP money debate erupts at Gulf Coast Business Council meeting
Even though the BP bill died in the legislature, it may still be revived. (Photo source: WLOX)
Even though the BP bill died in the legislature, it may still be revived. (Photo source: WLOX)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - What was supposed to be a routine meeting of the Gulf Coast Business Council Tuesday morning turned out to be something a bit different.

Toward the end of the meeting, State Representative Scott Delano of Biloxi criticized business leaders and Coast Chamber Executive Director Adele Lyons for possibly killing the BP bill by not having a clear message.

“I think that it has been a little out of focus with respect to the BP legislation this past session, and I think that moving forward that we should stay very focused on the goal of getting the most money to come back to the Coast,” DeLano explained. 

The bill would have given a majority of the state's settlement money to the Gulf Coast died during the legislative session.

DeLano added that critical comments about house speaker Philip Gunn during the debate over the bill didn't help.

"If the Coast community knew how much effort went in behind the scenes by the speaker of the house to get a BP bill moved forward, that they would be very appreciative of that," he explained.

Business leaders fired back at Delano, saying they will not be passive in the debate on how the BP money should be spent. Gulf Coast Business Council President John Hairston said they wouldn't be loud and obnoxious, but they would be loud and persistent.

Ashley Edwards Executive Director of the GCBC said, “We demand results. We expect results, and when we don't see results, we're vocal about it.”

For the business council, blame for the bill's failure was easy to assign, according to Edwards.

"I think that anything that has come out of the business community on the Coast has been deserved and earned from the actions that were taken by either the legislative leadership or the legislators themselves."

One of those at today's meeting was Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, who spent 20 years as a state Senator. He certainly has a unique take on what happens in Jackson, and he had a unique take on what happened here today.

"You've got to have robust debate. If all of us agree on everything, then one of us isn't necessary. And if we have this type of discussion, sometimes we come up with a better product and certainly more understanding. So, I didn't take that as a bad sign," Hewes said.

Others, like senator Joel Carter, wanted to play peacemaker.

"I believe in the power of positivity, and I believe that you can't be negative when you're negotiating. It shuts the negotiation process down, and that is what Scott was trying to address," he explained.

There’s a chance the BP money bill could come up later this year if Governor Phil Bryant chooses to call a special session. That session could also include debate on a state lottery bill, which also died in the regular session.

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