By Tommy Reynolds
The 2014 Legislation Session is now history, and two of the House’s final actions were ones for the history books – actions that will make a big difference for our area’s transportation needs.
On Monday evening, March 31, we were presented with the appropriation bills for Mississippi Depart-ment of Transportation (MDOT) (HB 1475) and its State Aid Road Division (SB 2883). Both of these measures had been substantially changed by the Senate in the conference committee pro-cess, and we saw that many of the provisions of the bills were for road projects that should have been low priority projects in need under the Vision 21 Program we adopted several years ago and which we felt did not adequately service the general interest of the state. In fact, most of them appeared to be special projects of certain lawmakers in the other chamber. The chair of the House Transportation Com-mittee asked us to defeat both of the bills on the grounds of fairness.
We voted 118-4 to kill these bills to fund a vital state agency because we believed that consideration should be given to all areas of the state in need of road help. The bills were then, as they say, dead, dead, dead.
I was strongly in support of rejecting the original appropriation bills, and fully supported the effort.
After we killed the bills, the Governor was forced to call a special session within the regular session so that MDOT could receive funding necessary to continue operation. On April 2, the final day of the session, two new bills were crafted to solve next year’s transportation funding issue. As part of the resolution to the dispute, the State Aid Road appropriation was changed to put an additional $32 million for next year into this critical program. The additional appropriation meant that some of our needed local road projects could now be addressed. During the late night, we adjourned the regular session, convened into the special session, and each of the bills was passed. We finished up all business about 10:45 p.m. and adjourned sine die.
The State Aid Road program was passed in the 1940s to get rural people off of muddy roads and onto paved roads. Here is what the revised State Aid Road Division funding for next year will do for Yalobusha County: Next year – if money comes into the state general fund in sufficient amount to provide for funding and this appropriation in contingent on this fact- Yalobusha County should receive an additional approximately $294,400.00 from the State Aid Road Division for rural state aid road work beginning July 1.
I’d say the return on the House’s historic action will continue to make a big difference in our area, and I’m very proud of my colleagues for taking such a courageous stand.
I believe by our actions we sent a convincing message to the other chamber that we would not abide actions that ignored the needs of our rural districts. Our area needs safe, adequate roadways so that citizens can travel to and from work, school, and our cities and communities. I hope we do not have to take such drastic steps in the future to secure such important and needed services.
Please feel free to contact me at 1720 N Main St., Water Valley, MS 38965, by email at email@example.com or by phone at (662) 473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.