City, county scramble to save EDA bill

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2001

Confusion over a failed bill to restructure the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority sent city and county officials scurrying to rework the measure before the Legislative session ends this week.

After passing the Senate on March 13, the bill was &uot;double-referred&uot; to House of Representatives committees for local and private legislation and ways and means where local officials and legislators were confident it would be approved.

But to their surprise, the bill automatically died after missing a Ways and Means Committee deadline Tuesday.

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&uot;I don’t understand why it was considered a revenue bill in the first place,&uot; said Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith.

Sen. Bob M. Dearing, D-Natchez, who authored the bill said he was aware it had been referred to the ways and means committee, but he wasn’t sure why.

Senate Bill 3079, jointly sponsored by the City of Natchez and Adams County, would have changed the number of EDA board members from 15 to 5 – three appointed by the Adams County Board of Supervisors and two by the Natchez Board of Aldermen.

The bill also contained language to allow the city and county to issue general obligation bonds and levy ad valorem taxes to fund the EDA.

But the funding was a local issue that had been resolved between the aldermen and supervisors last fall and should not have needed state approval, Smith said.

On hearing of the bill’s death, City Attorney Walter Brown quickly drafted a new measure Wednesday that omits fiscal language and concentrates on restructuring the board’s makeup. As for the funding, Supervisor Darryl Grennell theorized it would be left as a &uot;gentleman’s agreement&uot; between the two boards.

Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff said he will hand deliver the redrafted bill to local legislators this morning so they can take it up today. The regular session is scheduled to end this weekend.

Smith is optimistic the new measure will still pass because it has the support of both the city and the county.