Lawmakers share thoughts on session

Published 5:36 pm Friday, April 13, 2018

Local members of the Mississippi Legislature spoke during the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce’s event Thursday evening to discuss matters passed and failed during the most recent Legislative session.Speaking at the event were District 40 State Senator Angela Burks Hill, District 47 State Senator Joseph Seymour, District 106 State Representative John Glen Corley, District 93 State Representative Timmy Ladner and District 108 State Representative Stacey Wilkes.

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Topics discussed during the event included funding being set aside to repair flow issues with the Pearl River near Walkiah Bluff, thoughts on arming teachers with firearms, discussion of a new school funding formula, whether the state should establish a lottery and what plans are in place to ensure sales tax collected from Internet sales is sent to cities.

Hill started by saying that the legislators were successful in earmarking $4 million for the repair of issues with the weir near Walkiah Bluff, now all they have to do is find matching assistance from Federal government. Hill also touted the passing of a bill that makes it easier for rental property owners to evict residents when they default on a lease or fail to pay the rent.

Wilkes said she was proud of the work done to prevent Jackson’s One Lake project from moving forward, which would have caused even more flow problems with the Pearl River. And while it did not reach the governor’s desk, Wilkes said she feels the education funding formula discussed during the recent session would have been better than the current Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

Seymour said he was one of the lawmakers that voted against the education bill, based on concerns with unnecessary preK spending aspects of the bill.

Pertaining to teachers carrying guns in schools, Seymour said he felt the bill needed more clarification. Hill said that there is no need for a bill to allow teachers to carry a firearm because the enhanced carry endorsement on a concealed carry permit allows for that. In fact, Hill said that there are teachers in the state who already carry guns via the enhanced carry endorsement.

When discussion of the lottery came up, each lawmaker had a different opinion. Corley said he’s against it since the state would only receive 7 cents of every dollar. Ladner said he would vote for establishing a lottery, especially since Arkansas received $80 million from its lottery last year. Wilkes said she’s open minded about the topic, but would like to see local numbers before making a final decision. Hill said she would vote for it because it would be a positive move.

Sales tax was one of the final topics discussed, particularly pertaining to the loss of sales tax due to online shopping. Hill said that the problem is not the purchase of products from an online retailer, the problem occurs when people purchase items online from a store with a physical location in the state. She used the example of purchasing an appliance from Home Depot online, and then picking it up from the Picayune location. While Home Depot collected sales tax on that sale, none of it will come back to the city.

Ladner said the focus should also be on sales tax diversion, specifically increasing the rate of 18.5 percent given back to the city from the 7 percent sales tax collected during a sale.

Wilkes said the Legislature is also looking at providing a share of sales tax generated outside of a municipality to each county’s Board of Supervisors, which is currently not a funding option for those governments.