By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi lawmakers have agreed on a transportation funding plan that would give cities and counties some of the sales tax money the state collects from people shopping online.
In the third day of a special session, House members Monday accepted changes that senators made in the bill, known as the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2018. It goes to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has signaled that he will sign it into law.
House Speaker Philip Gunn said the plan is "historic." It is projected to eventually provide $120 million to $130 million a year for infrastructure. Counties could use their share of the money for roads and bridges, while cities could use their share for roads, bridges and water and sewer projects.
"This has been a year and a half of hard work by the House of Representatives to get a plan that provides a steady stream of revenue for roads and bridges. And today we passed it," Gunn told reporters. "The citizens can know that we did our work."
Legislators were negotiating Monday on a separate bill to create a state lottery. The Senate and House have passed different versions of a lottery bill, and the two chambers must agree on a single version before it can go to the governor.
Lawmakers pushing for a lottery say it could generate about $40 million the first year and about $80 million in subsequent years.
Mississippi is one of six states without a lottery, and Bryant has been pushing lawmakers for more than a year to create one. He points out that three of the four states bordering Mississippi have a lottery, and Mississippi residents are driving to Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee to buy millions of dollars of tickets each year.
Some legislators, including Gunn, said they want to change the lottery bill to remove a provision that could allow video lottery terminals in places like truck stops. The provision was added to the bill during a House debate Friday and is opposed by an unlikely alliance of religious groups and casino operators. Both groups want to limit where legal gambling may take place.
"While we recognize there is some support for a lottery among the citizens of this state, we do not believe Mississippians support the passage of a lottery bill to open the door for bars, truck stops and restaurant gambling parlors as they exist in many other states across the country," Ron Matis, political liaison for the Mississippi District of the United Pentecostal Church, wrote in a letter he released Friday evening. "Expansion of this type of low level gaming is a bridge too far."
Mississippi law limits casinos to sites along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast.
Bryant called legislators into the special session that started Thursday. He controls what issues they may consider, and he is expected to expand the session agenda to include debate over how to spend $700 million in economic damage payments from BP PLC after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Leaders are discussing dividing that money, giving 75 percent to three coastal counties and 25 percent to the rest of the state.
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