As everyone knows the 2014 Mississippi Legislative Session began on Tuesday, January 7, 2014. Once again the Capitol is abuzz with activity. The anticipation of the upcoming session has everyone working diligently. The Madison County Business League plans to work with the elected officials in Madison County to keep the MCBL members abreast of pending legislation that has an impact on the future of Madison County.
In order to do our part, the Government Relations Committee for the MCBL undertook the process of seeking to determine the legislative priorities for the county based upon meetings with our elected officials. Our goal was to have an open line of communication between our elected officials and the MCBL in order to assist our elected officials, when necessary, in the legislative process. In addition, the MCBL wanted to be in a position to communicate and educate its members on legislation affecting Madison County as it moves through the legislative process. As in the past, the Board of Directors of MCBL intends to provide letters of support and resolutions on an “as needed” basis. In order to accomplish this objective, we understood the need establish an open line of communication with our elected officials. After meeting with each member of the Board of Supervisors, each Mayor and the Superintendent of Education, we developed a list of priorities mentioned in those meetings for our consideration and approval as a legislative agenda for the MCBL. After compiling the list, we settled on five points that kept reoccurring in our meetings that impact economic and community development in Madison County. The final legislative agenda is as follows:
- Connector roads;
- Issues affecting public schools in Madison County;
- Citizens for Economic Development Act;
- Additional enhancements under the Healthcare Industry Zone Act; and
- Creation of a circuit court district for Madison County including the addition of one circuit court judge and a district attorney.
The Government Relations Committee through communications with Madison County elected officials intends to help monitor legislation, where applicable and necessary. We will educate our members regarding other issues impacting Madison County as they arise during the legislative session.
Our priority regarding roads connecting major thoroughfares in Madison County has been an issue for several years. While there are plans in place, the funding for these connector roads has yet to be obtained. In the event the opportunity for funding becomes available, the MCBL wants to be in a position to provide all necessary assistance to obtain such funding for the completion of these roads. As everyone knows infrastructure is a key to sustained growth in Madison County. Therefore, the funding of connector roads remains a key issue in this session and in future sessions until the completion of such projects.
In all of our meetings it was apparent that the elected officials believed that the schools of Madison County are vital to the county’s continued success, economic development and growth. The MCBL’s intent is to monitor any legislation impacting the schools in Madison County and provide support, where necessary, to ensure the continued success of the school systems in Madison County.
The third issue is the Citizens for Economic Development Act. Several municipalities in Madison County have expressed an interested in giving their voters the opportunity and ability to decide on ways to provide financial assistance to their communities for economic development. If properly utilized, the Citizens for Economic Development Act is an alternative that would allow communities in Madison County to address certain economic development concerns. The MCBL believes local municipalities should be given the opportunity to utilize the Citizens for Economic Development Act as a means to further economic development.
The fourth item is possible additional incentives under the Healthcare Industry Zone Act. At this time the MCBL is unaware of any particular amendments that are being considered to increase enhancements to the Healthcare Industry Zone Act. However, it is anticipated that legislation regarding additional incentives may arise during the legislative session. In the event those additional incentives provide opportunities for Madison County, the MCBL intends to support the legislation.
Finally, the fifth item arose at the end of our process and is being included as part of the MCBL’s legislative agenda. With the rapid growth of Madison County, the MCBL believes the time has come for Madison County to have its own circuit court district and district attorney. While the specific legislation has not been reviewed by the MCBL, we believe that legislation will be offered providing Madison County with its own circuit court district, adding an additional circuit court judge and providing a new district attorney for Madison County.
Throughout this process the Government Relations Committee and Executive Committee at the MCBL have been active in seeking input from elected officials regarding the priorities for Madison County’s legislative agenda. We believe our process was beneficial not only to the elected officials, but also to the MCBL and its members. Our hope is to continue to work with all of our elected officials for the further development of Madison County in the years to come.
Phil Buffington, Chairman of the Madison County Business League Government Relations Committee and Special Counsel at the Law Offices of Adams & Reese