District 9 Report

Senate Bill Offers Accountability For State Vehicles

By Gray Tollison

This week marked the midway point of the 2006 Legislative Session. We had an enormous volume of work and two major deadlines facing us.

February 9th was the deadline for the Senate to finish original floor action on Senate bills and February 10th was the deadline for reconsideration and passage of Senate bills. Our days were long, the debates often were heated; but by the end of the week we had finished our pending work.  

One major accomplishment of the week was the passage of SB 2398, which approves the creation of the Office of Fleet Management within the Department of Finance and Administration. This new office will help manage the thousands of vehicles owned by the state of Mississippi and make sure these vehicles are being properly purchased and operated. New software will be purchased that can analyze and provide information to the office with regard to purchasing, maintenance and fleet management.

The office will have authority over state agencies in regard to the number and type of vehicles that are purchased and will require each agency to submit to the bureau a vehicle acquisition/use/disposal plan on an annual basis. This bill offers accountability to the taxpayers that state owned vehicles are being used for the intended purposes for which they were purchased. It also helps eliminate any potential abuse of vehicle usage by state employees.

Another accomplishment was the passage of Senate bill 2899, which increases the length of imprisonment to be served for committing statutory rape. Under this bill, a person 18 years or older found guilty of statutory rape against a victim under 12 must serve a sentence to last not less than 25 years. If that perpetrator is found guilty of subsequent counts of statutory rape against a victim under 12, the perpetrator is to be remanded to the Department of Corrections for life without the possibility of parole.

The Senate approved Senate bill 2807, which establishes statewide building codes for the design, construction and inspection of residential and commercial buildings. Counties are not mandated to adopt the code but may opt into the program. The code contains minimum standards for natural disaster resistance, fire resistance, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas and sanitation. These building codes are to be updated on a three-year cycle. The bill also calls for emergency wind and flood improvement requirements for Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, George, Stone, Pearl River, Perry, Greene, Lamar and Forrest counties until the building codes are enacted in those areas. This bill helps ensure that individuals rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina will meet the qualifications set forth by the federal government for the Community Development Grant Program. The bill also ensures that homes and businesses built/rebuilt will be better able to resist damage from natural forces in the future.

Senate bill 2943 also impacts the areas most affected by Hurricane Katrina. This bill creates the Mississippi Gulf Coast Utility Board. The board, along with the Department of Environmental Quality, will help identify and implement the best means to meet all present and future water, wastewater, storm water and solid waste needs. The purpose is to reduce the cost, promote the resilience in the event of disaster and improve the quality of these services in the Gulf Coast counties.

It is an honor to serve you in the State Senate.  Please contact me if you ever have questions, comments or need assistance with the legislature or an agency of our state government.  I can be reached in Jackson by phone at 601-359-3770, email at gtollison@mail.senate.state.ms.us. or mail at PO Box 1018, Jackson, MS 39215-1018.  My phone  number in Oxford is 662-234-7070, email is gray@tollisonlaw.com and mail is PO Box 1358, Oxford, MS 38655.

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