Legislature approves EDA measure

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2001

A last-minute bill to restructure the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority sailed through the state Legislature Thursday in record time.

&uot;It cleared both houses in one day, which is a record,&uot; said Sen. Bob M. Dearing, D-Natchez.

Only on one or two other occasions in his 22 years in politics has he seen a bill move as quickly, Dearing said.

&uot;They knew the urgency to get it done,&uot; Dearing said of fellow lawmakers. &uot;We couldn’t really operate without the restructure of the EDA.&uot;

Hand-delivered to local legislators Thursday morning, the bill was redrafted from a similar measure that died automatically Tuesday when it missed a Ways and Means Committee deadline in the House of Representatives.

City Attorney Walter&160;Brown said any bills dealing with finance or appropriations, whether state-funded or not, must pass out of committee five days before a session ends.

With only two days to go, city and county officials raced Wednesday to reword the bill and remove any fiscal language, leaving in authorization to restructure the EDA board from 15 members to five.

&uot;That was the primary purpose of the bill in the first place,&uot; Brown said.

As for the funding, Brown said the city and county will still adhere to the agreement reached last fall: the county to provide 60 percent and the city 40 percent.

&uot;That is pretty much a done deal as far as I’m concerned,&uot; said Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith of the funding agreement.

&uot;We agreed as part of that first EDA bill that was what we were going to do. What we agreed to locally that has not changed and will not change.&uot;

Adams County Board of Supervisor President Sammy Cauthen said he assumes the city and county will continue the existing funding agreement until next year when the rest of the bill can be sent before the Legislature.

&uot;We’ll worry about the rest of it next year,&uot;he said.

Brown said the previous funding arrangement was basically 60-40 anyway, with the county appropriating about $150,000 last year and the city $100,000.

&uot;The fact that it didn’t pass this session shouldn’t affect the cooperation of the two boards,&uot; he said

Staff reporter Emily Whitten contributed to this report.