Jansen Owen Weekly Legislative Update: Economic Development and Ballot Initiative Restoration

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024

During the fourth week of the 2024 Legislative Session in Mississippi, we witnessed several noteworthy events, including a special session by Governor Tate Reeves and discussions on economic growth and the restoration of the ballot initiative process.

On Wednesday, January 24th, Governor Reeves announced an extraordinary session of the Legislature, the second in seven days. This special session convened on Thursday and focused on a significant economic development project, “Project Atlas,” revealed to be Amazon Web Services. The $10 billion corporate capital investment is the largest in the state’s history, with an anticipated 1,000 jobs for Mississippi. The project includes hyperscale data center complexes in two Madison County industrial parks. State incentives for “Project Atlas” include training grants, site development support, public infrastructure commitments, and specific tax incentives.

During the special session, the House Appropriations Committee introduced two bills, House Bill 1 and House Bill 2, creating the Project Atlas Fund and appropriating $44 million to the Mississippi Development Authority for the project. Both bills received bipartisan support in the House and were forwarded to the Senate. Governor Reeves is expected to sign the measures into law in the coming week, leading to the adjournment of the House from the special session on Thursday afternoon.

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Economic development remained a key focus for Owens, who highlighted the ongoing efforts in the Legislature to allocate funds to develop the Pearl River County Industrial Park in Poplarville. The collaboration between Governor Reeves, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Pearl River County Economic Development District, and other stakeholders aims to prepare the industrial site at the intersection of I-59 and Highway 26 for development.

In legislative matters, the House addressed House Concurrent Resolution 11, which aims to restore the ballot initiative process in Mississippi. The resolution passed with a vote of 80-40, with Democrats expressing objections to specific exceptions, including pro-life provisions. The new method proposed would require the signatures of eight percent of registered voters, with restrictions on changes to the state constitution, abortion laws, the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS), and specific local or special laws.

Looking ahead, Owens pledged to introduce various legislative priorities, including bills related to charter school reform, school portability, penalties for fentanyl distribution, government accountability, and reform. As the drafting and introduction deadlines approach, Owens assured constituents of regular updates on these initiatives.