Lawmakers pass bills onto Governor as session nears end

By Jon Kalahar - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - With the 2009 legislative session just three weeks from completion, it's do or die time for many bills still under consideration.

How the state would tax cigarettes and other tobacco products generated interest early on in the 2009 legislative session. Now with both chambers passing their own versions, the issue will be settled in conference.

"We should be able to come out with a 65 or 70 cent cigarette tax," said Rep. Tyrone Ellis, (D) Starkville.

"Thirty-three million dollars from that tobacco tax must go, the Senate's position is, into a fund that will not cause car tags, as the tax commission tells us, to double," said Lt. Governor Phil Bryant, (R) Brandon.

The most recent hot topics are bills passed to do away with red light traffic cameras, strengthening eminent domain, and extending the state's learner's permit law, plus limiting texting by teens while driving. Both bodies passed the camera ban and eminent domain.

"The House and the Senate said no, we want a clear eminent domain, and we're going to have one of the toughest in the nation to protect people who own property," said Bryant.

But a big question facing legislators is how the stimulus package will affect the budgeting process with only three weeks left to get it finished.

"The stimulus package and what's going to happen there is still a little uncertain, but we have a deadline coming up at the end of the month. We have to be done and gone, so I don't think we can sit around and wait to see what the stimulus is going to do. We've got to go ahead and tend to our business," said Rep. Phillip Gunn, (R) Clinton.

The Senate is expected to pass the House's version of the learner's permit bill with the limit on teens texting while driving.

Governor Haley Barbour says he will study both bills on eminent domain and red light traffic cameras before he decides whether to  sign them into law or not.

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