Lottery debate: Bryant expects House to open records, meetings to public

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant speaks to media before this week’s special session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Jackson Thursday, August 23, 2018.

Gov. Phil Bryant said Friday morning he anticipates the House removing language that would close the meetings and records of a commission charged with overseeing a new state lottery.

The second term Republican governor said he would have supported the unsuccessful efforts in the Senate to bring more transparency to the lottery process. But those efforts, offered in an amendment by Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, were rejected by a majority of the Senate.

“The state having open meetings and open records, I am always for,” Bryant said.

The lottery is one of the proposals being considered in the special session that started Thursday — called to raise additional revenue for the multiple infrastructure needs of the state and local governments.

On Friday, the House and Senate will swap bills. The House is expected to take up the lottery bill that passed the Senate Thursday and the Senate will take up a revenue bill that passed the House on the opening day of the session. The primary source of revenue in the House bill is a diversion of use tax revenue (the 7 percent tax Mississippians are levied on out-of-state purchases, such as via the internet) from the state general fund to local governments.

Together the two bills are expected to generate more than $200 million annually for infrastructure. In addition the House bill would allow the issuance of $300 million in debt or bonding to help with immediate infrastructure needs.

The governor also said Friday he anticipates the House adding language to the lottery bill to ensure that it does not allow internet or video lottery in the state.

As far as the $50 million in earmarks or special projects that the House leadership originally had in the legislation, the governor did not offer any objections.

“I am leaving that up to the House and Senate negotiators,” he said. “That is not part of the original bill, but the legislative process often amends bills. I certainly won’t stand in the way.”

The earmarks at this point are not in the legislation.