Coastal Legislators Look For Unity On BP Settlement Bill
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Lawmakers and business leaders along the Gulf Coast are hoping a unified message will help push through a bill that solidifies what will happen with millions of dollars from BP’s economic settlement with the state. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports.

A bill that would have created a Restoration Reserve Fund for the $750 million settlement passed the Senate in the last legislative session, but died in a House committee.

At a coastal legislative preview in Biloxi earlier this month, it was clear lawmakers and business leaders were hoping for a different outcome this year:

“I would like to see the entire coastal delegation get behind a single piece of legislation, just as was proposed here today, and I think we will," said Representative Charles Busby, a Republican from Jackson County.

Still, there continues to be some debate on what the plan should look like – whether to create a trust, for example, or leave the decisions in the appropriations process. But lawmakers seemed to agree that unity among the delegation was critical.

“I would hope to see that the Gulf Coast delegation of legislators, House and Senate, go to Jackson in January with one plan, in hopes to bring back the money to the gulf coast," says Representative Sonya Williams Barnes is a Democrat from Harrison County.

Adele Lyons, chief executive officer of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, says several business groups on the coast are also urging coast lawmakers to unify behind one plan.

"And once we have that plan, we will get behind it very aggressively as a business community, because it's the right thing for that money to return here to the coast to help us with economic impact projects," she said. "So we've got to be one voice on that."

Lyons says the business groups will be in the Capitol rotunda on Jan. 11, to talk to lawmakers from throughout the state about this issue.