Natchez bills face some opposition

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 4, 2008

NATCHEZ— Two bills affecting Natchez received opposition during a local and private committee meeting of the state legislature in Jackson.

Approval from the committee is the precursor to full legislative approval.

The first bill is the $2 occupancy tax per occupied room that will be applied to local hotels.

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The second bill is the lease extension from 50 to 99 years that was requested by the Lane Company for their hotel and casino on Roth Hill Road.

Sen. Kelvin Butler, the chairman of the local and private committee who also represents a portion of Adams County, said an Isle of Capri lobbyist was in attendance and was opposed to both bills.

“It really wasn’t anyone on the committee,” Butler said.

Jack Sours, general manager and vice president of the Isle of Capri, said the casino had not sent a lobbyist to Jackson to oppose this bill.

“We do not have any lobbyists opposing that action,” Sours said.

This supposed lobbyist is Stan Flint, who Sours said is a contractor.

Mayor Phillip West said he does not know who Flint was representing or why he was there.

Butler said Flint said he opposed the lease extension bill because he was concerned it might affect existing properties’ leases.

Butler said he spoke with his own attorney and that the extension would not affect other leases.

“(Our) attorney assured us that there is nothing to be worried about,” Butler said.

The only properties that will be affected by this lease extension are Cock of the Walk and Roth Hill Road.

Sours said the Isle of Capri is not opposed to the lease extension for these two properties.

“In reality, we would be in favor of longer lease terms, not opposed to them,” Sours said.

The concerns Flint reportedly had with the occupancy tax were that it has a referendum, which requires approval of 60 percent by the House and Senate to be passed.

The bill contains another referendum that does not require it to be voted on by citizens, which Butler said Flint was concerned about as well.

When a bill deals with revenue, sometimes it is written as a referendum in the bill that citizens must vote on it for it to pass.

West said had it not been for Natchez lobbyist Camille Young’s presence during the committee meeting, the bills may have not passed.

The board of aldermen passed both of the resolutions unanimously in previous meetings.

“I’m told (Butler) was surprised that someone was there speaking in opposition of the bill,” West said.

West said had there been widespread opposition locally to either bill, the board of aldermen would have represented their constituents.

“It was quite clear when there was a unanimous vote for the requests, there had been little opposition,” he said.

Flint could not be reached for comment.