Coast hobnobs with lawmakers to go over 2009 agenda

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi's community leaders went to Jackson on Wednesday night and hobnobbed with the state's lawmakers. What they discussed over food and drinks could lay the foundation for new laws that generate additional tax revenue, or improve the area's quality of life.

The pizza placed in Strami's oven was popular. But the lasagna was the special of the day at the D'Iberville cafe. If city leaders get their way, customers will have to pay an additional two percent tax for that meal. The food and beverage increase request tops D'Iberville's legislative wish list. Richard Rose is D'Iberville's City Manager.

"Just like Ocean Springs, we're going to look at 75 or so percent of the money being driven by tourist dollars," he said.

Ocean Springs got lawmakers to approve its request to hold a food and tax referendum in 2007. Later that year, voters okayed the two percent increase, as long as revenues generated by that tax went toward public safety, recreation, and tourism.

D'Iberville wants to spend its tax on the same programs.

"That will go back into making those tourists safe and give them activities," said Rose.

Tourism and Biloxi's casinos are always a critical part of the legislative reception.

Mayor A.J. Holloway's message to lawmakers this year about his city's casino industry is simple.

"I think we have a good law. It's working," he said.

He finished that thought with this warning for lawmakers.

"Just don't mess with it."

Holloway also wants lawmakers put more money into the wind pool, so people can afford to rebuild in Biloxi.

"Insurance is a real, real problem," he said. "And the continued support by the legislature by funding some money to that pool would be a great help."

Gulfport's mayor went to Jackson with a wish list that included more funding for traffic improvements. Highway 49, Pass Road and Dedeaux Road are three areas where engineering work is done. However, more funding is needed before Gulfport can begin any widening work.

Warr said the city's goal is "to move people faster through the city, safer. That's a big priority to us right now."

The mayors of Long Beach and Pass Christian rode to the legislative reception together. So I called them as they drove up Highway 49. And I asked them what they wanted from the men and women inside the state capitol this year. They both said the same thing. They needed all the help they could get from the Mississippi legislature this session to make sure they could keep paying their bills.

Members of the Gulf Coast Business Council went to Jackson with their own wish lists. They're asking the legislature for $20 million to bolster the windpool. They want casinos to be included in the state's tourism incentive program. And the GCBC is supporting the education-related proposals championed by the Mississippi Economic Commission in the Quality Education Act.