Hotel bill passes

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2008

NATCHEZ — Leaping hurdle after hurdle, the $2 occupancy tax bill has passed and is now law.

“We are victorious,” Mayor Phillip West said.

The legislative session was extended Thursday afternoon, breathing a little more life into the bill, Sen. Bob Dearing said.

Email newsletter signup

“The extension of the session kept that bill alive,” Dearing said.

The bill was then brought up in the local and private committee of the House of Representatives, giving the bill needed force, and it passed that committee without changes, 91-31.

Dearing said if any changes had been made, the Senate would have to concur with the changes, and lengthening the process would weaken the bill and decrease its chances of passing.

The bill is double-referred, meaning it had to go before a second committee — ways and means — before it went to the House floor.

The bill passed the ways and means committee after a short period of time, entered the House floor immediately after and was passed soon after that.

“It’s law now,” West said.

West said had it not been for the help of Sens. Kelvin Butler and Bob Dearing, the bill would not have been revived.

“Both of them have been very key in this,” West said.

West said Natchez lobbyists Camille Young and Crowell Armstrong also deserve thanks for keeping the bill alive.

“They have worked extremely hard on this,” West said.

Other important characters who played a role in saving the bill, West said are Reps. Robert Johnson, Angela Cockerham, Sam Mims and Chuck Middleton — legislators who represent Natchez and Adams County.

Andrew Ketchings, who works in the governor’s office and local attorney Walter Brown and insurance agent Jack Stephens also played key roles getting the bill passed, West said.

Dearing said it passed through the committees and the full House quickly because the representatives realized the effort.

“They realized it was a last-ditch effort,” Dearing said.

The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk and West said he is sure it will not be vetoed by the governor.

“With the support of Andrew Ketchings, (the governor) is not going to veto something that his office has been supporting,” West said.

West said he is excited that the bill has become law.

“This is going to provide the City of Natchez with a real opportunity to market itself in a better and broader way,” he said.

Walter Tipton, director of the convention center, said he was excited as well.

“I felt like the bill was rescued at the last minute and I do feel like it’s just the right thing to do for our community at this time,” Tipton said. “We are positioning ourselves properly and I’m glad the legislators are supportive of economic development which is what we see this as.”