Legislature winds up the session

Published 11:20 pm Saturday, August 26, 2006

Mississippi lawmakers ended a three-day special session Saturday after approving projects to help the far northern and southern ends of the state.

Senators ignored a House proposal to create grants of up to $50,000 to help south Mississippi homeowners who are still struggling a year after Hurricane Katrina — an issue that was never on the agenda set by the governor.

A plan to create $3 million grants to help coast governments survived the session, as did a $173 million incentive package for Riverbend Crossing, a proposed upscale entertainment and residential development in DeSoto County, near Memphis, Tenn.

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Gov. Haley Barbour praised lawmakers for passing the coast government grants and the Riverbend package. But, he said he was disappointed about the death of another of his top proposals — a reduction on the sales tax rate for modular homes. Barbour had said that cutting the rate from 7 percent to 3 percent could’ve helped speed up Katrina recovery by cutting the cost of sturdy housing. Large pieces of modular homes are made in factories, then assembled at the home sites. The modular housing bill passed the Senate but died when House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, chose not to bring it up for a vote. Watson said legislators were given too little information.

The House ended its part of the session late Friday afternoon, leaving senators alone at the Capitol to finish work Saturday.

The coast government grants are designed to help any city or county that has lost at least 25 percent of its tax revenues since Katrina — Hancock County and the cities of Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian and Long Beach.

Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre said a grant won’t solve all of his city’s financial problems but it will help cover day-to-day expenses. Favre said his city has had to ignore “everything from grass cutting to pothole filling” so money could go to services such as police and fire protection.