by Hunter Dawkins

Tuesday morning, after Mississippi House Representative Richard Bennett (Long Beach, E Pass Christian) filed a motion to reconsider after Senate Bill 2001 was narrowly defeated following the conference report, eight representatives changed their vote on the motion 58-54.  This action passed the legislation and was sent to Governor Phil Bryant’s desk, so that the state lottery is effective in Mississippi.

“Its a compromise for members and it was the only way that this state lottery would have passed in Mississippi,” said Bennett to The Gazebo Gazette, who was a conference committee member, which drastically altered the the state senate version of this bill.  “I truly believe that this is a good bill.”

According to Bennett, this bill would provide transportation funding for 10 years, until their is $80 million in revenue.  Then, the money would go to public education through the Education Enhancement Fund.

Not every member of the house approved of this plan, including Representative Sonya Williams-Barnes (Gulfport, Pass Christian Alum), who stated, “When they dilute the amendment in the conference report, it changed the game.”  As the Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, Williams-Barnes expressed “I cannot find a yea vote for and state lotto that does not support some funding for public education and we must make education a part of the equation.”

Bennett responded that the bill was for “economic development” and as the House Chair of the Education Committee, he is in full support of this bill.

In reference to the Speaker of the House Philip Gunn’s stance against the state lottery, Bennett said “The Speaker did not fight members on their position of this bill, even though he is adamantly against any state lottery.”  With regards to effecting votes, Bennett claimed Gunn “told the Caucus of his feelings, but left the legislation to the will of the house.”

S. 2001 (Motion to Reconsider):

YEA – Richard Bennett (Long Beach, E Pass Christian), Carolyn Crawford (W Pass Christian, DeLisle, Pineville), Greg Haney (W Gulfport, Orange Grove), Timmy Ladner (Vidalia, Dedeaux)

NAY – David Baria (Bay St. Louis, Kiln), Sonya Williams-Barnes (Gulfport)