Resort status bill among dead measures in Legislature|[04/19/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 19, 2008

With the exception of state-approved donations of money and services to local nonprofit organizations, locally generated bills in the final days of the Legislature went down in defeat.

A bill to change the way businesses can obtain resort status without holding an on-site permit or package retailer’s permit to sell alcohol died in a Senate conference Friday. Original language in the bill filed by Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, was stripped in favor of a litany of new definitions for the special designation.

As filed, it called for the state Tax Commission to revoke the status of an area if they failed to obtain a municipally-issued permit within six months.

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Vicksburg merchants have been given until May 1 to get employees up to speed on new ordinances banning the sale of beer from 2 a.m. until 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 a.m. until 11 a.m. Sundays. Another provision prohibits the sale of single beers from ice tubs, however it is still legal for stores to sell them out of refrigerators.

Casinos and businesses with resort status remain unaffected by the new city ordinances.

Another bill with interest to property owners would have prohibited the use of eminent domain for a number of private purposes. Among numerous exceptions for utility companies added by a Senate committee was one for natural gas transmission pipelines. One of multiple co-authors to the bill was Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg.

Separate bills detailing nonprofit requests for public funding met final approval Friday, releasing up to $301,500 in taxpayer funds and in-kind services for 15 such entities.

Sponsored by Reps. Monsour, George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, and Chuck Espy, D-Clarksdale, it allows Warren County supervisors to OK funding for We Care Community Services, Vicksburg Family Development Service, Triumph Ministries’ school tutorial program, The Initiative, Boys and Girls Club of Vicksburg, Mississippi Food Network, Vicksburg Main Street, Jacqueline House African American Museum, WWISCAA, Central Mississippi Prevention Services, and the Women’s Restoration Shelter.

Legislative approval is the only legal way for county or city boards to donate public money to charitable enterprises. Other items in this year’s bill include $100,000 for the Vicksburg Warren Humane Society in its quest to expand its U.S. 61 South facility. In separate allocations, the organization is also contracted by the county to enforce its dangerous animal ordinance.

The Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation was approved for up to $30,000 to match federal and state grants eyed for renovation. The Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg may receive up to $3,000 for defraying costs associated with the newly-opened playground downtown.

Three other bills that were passed will allow the City of Vicksburg to contribute up to $6,000 to Keep Vicksburg-Warren Beautiful Inc. and an unspecified amount of funds to Beulah Cemetery. Also, the city won approval in another local and private bill to cut grass and perform maintenance for The Initiative.

Bill filed earlier in the session at the city’s request to house prisoners in Louisiana and rewrite civil service laws died in committee.

The 2008 Legislature ended Friday morning. Gov. Haley Barbour has said he will call a special session before June 30 to deal with issues including a deficit in Medicaid funding.