Senate amends House bill for civil rights museum

Published 2:23 pm Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Senate amended and passed a House bill on Tuesday to issue bonds for the construction of a museum dedicated to the civil rights era and another that showcases the state’s overall history.

Some senators disagree on where the civil rights museum should be built, saying the bill should allow consideration of alternatives to the Jackson site both museums would share.

A separate Senate version of the bill has been sent to a conference committee, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dean Kirby said he expects both versions to end up there so lawmakers can work out differences.

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The new Senate amendment alters the funding structure. The Senate version would provide $15 million for the history museum and $15 million for the civil rights museum. It would require a $15 million match from the private sector.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, argued that lawmakers should consider putting the civil rights museum in the Delta to aid the economically depressed area.

“I know the building would benefit the city of Jackson, but it would be absolutely transformative for some of the communities in the Delta,” Bryan said during debate.

He said lawmakers have little control over the location of industrial or educational facilities, so the museum presents a rare opportunity.

Kirby, however, said that locating both museums on the same site in Jackson would cut costs significantly.

“It’ll save us about $25 million to $40 million total, and so that’s the reason the governor has said they should be joined together,” Kirby said after the debate.

He said that the strategy would allow the museums to share archives, parking and a gift shop.

Bryan countered: “Under that theory, we would never put anything anyplace other than the city of Jackson.”

In February, Rep. Jim Evans, D-Jackson, unsuccessfully tried to change the location of the civil rights museum to a once-thriving black business district along Farish street, instead of state-owned property downtown.