By Tommy Reynolds
Many of us in the Legislature recognize the importance of making sure Mississippians living in our rural and small town areas receive the same measure of state services enjoyed by those from the more populated areas. In fact, if we added together the people who live in our rural counties and small municipalities together, their numbers would be even greater than residents of all large cities combined.
Rural and small town people deserve strong representation at the Capitol. In the House of Representatives, those of us who represent rural and small town areas joined together to create the House Rural Caucus to make sure our voices would be heard on behalf of our citizens.
The counties that make up District 33 are primarily rural, and I am pleased to report that measures passed during the recent session will directly benefit our local communities.
House Bill 1015 provides in part that the Department of Public Safety shall, upon request of the Board of Supervisors, furnish either a permanent driver’s license kiosk or a license examiner at a location in each county seat for at least one day every month to conduct licensing examinations, road tests and renewals. The county is required to furnish the office, heating and cooling, phone service and Internet connectivity at the location for the kiosk or license examiner.
The Board of Supervisors has the option to choose either the permanent driver’s license kiosk or a monthly license examiner. While available five days per week, the kiosks will only provide renewals of licenses or identification cards with no changes in information. The kiosks will be outfitted with facial recognition software to ensure accuracy, according to DPS.
This measure provides a significant convenience to our citizens who may have previously driven long distances to renew their drivers licenses in person. I strongly supported and voted for the amendments that made these provisions a part of the bill. Hopefully, this effort will provide opportunity for residents to have greater access to this important state service. The bill becomes effective July 1.
Another significant help to rural areas was the passage of state bonding authority in the amount of $5 million through the Small Municipalities And Limited Population Counties Fund for improvements to counties with less than 30,000 population and municipalities with fewer than 10,000 residents. Both Tallahatchie and Yalobusha Counties and their municipalities will qualify for these bonds.
Senate Bill 2913 allows the Mississippi Development Authority to receive applications and make awards under the program. Small, rural counties and small population municipalities can apply for needed improvements to streets and other roadways, bridges, sidewalks and utilities; obtaining equipment needed to provide local government services; and obtaining and improving real property.
Many of our local rural communities were hit hard in the recent recession, and we believe this funding will help them improve service in critical areas of need. This program helps to assure that improved government services can be provided to residents of rural Mississippi counties and small towns.
You may contact me at my local office at P.O. Drawer 280, Charleston, MS 38921, by phone at 662-647-3203 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.