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Port of Gulfport bill passes

Port of Gulfport

JACKSON — Legislation that removes the Port of Gulfport and its $570 million post-Hurricane Katrina expansion and renovation from state government oversight has been sent to the governor.

The Mississippi House gave final legislative approval to House Bill 1091 on Tuesday.

The bill exempts the Port of Gulfport from state-agency bidding and purchasing oversight and declares it to be its own governing authority.

A contractor’s complaint to Department of Finance and Administration in 2011 that he was passed over as the low bidder on a multimillion-dollar dredging project prompted the agency to intervene, and the attorney general opined the port should have always come under DFA oversight.

An attorney general’s opinion does not carry the weight of law but is designed to provide public entities a level of protection in court.

Supporters, including port leaders, said the port has always been its own governing authority and already has to follow state bid laws and answer to various state and federal agencies. They say the port doesn’t need more state bureaucracy slowing projects down.

Opponents said the port should come under DFA and its procurement board and other scrutiny, especially as it spends hundreds of millions of federal dollars on the expansion.

“This is just removing one layer of bureaucracy, and it’s the same process the port has operated under for years,” said House Ports, Harbors and Airports Chairman Alex Monsour Jr., R-Vicksburg. “(Gulfport) is the only state port operating under this.”

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