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UPDATE: Senate considers Mississippi lottery bill

The Latest on a special session on transportation spending (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

A senator says a lottery bill advancing in the Mississippi Senate would provide about $40 million to the state in its first year and about $80 million in later years.

The Senate Highways and Transportation Committee is considering Senate Bill 2001 , which would create a lottery and then earmark proceeds for the state Department of Transportation for 10 years.

Simmons says the bill is about “transparency,” although lawmakers only received copies of the 135-page bill about 90 minutes before the committee began meeting.

The bill creates a Mississippi Lottery Corp., which will be governed by a five-member board appointed by the governor. The board would hire a president of the corporation, subject to the veto of the governor.

The measure exempts the corporation from the state public records act. The corporation could either negotiate or bid contracts above $1 million.

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1 p.m.

Mississippi lawmakers are advancing a plan meant to provide a new stream of money to cities and counties for infrastructure spending.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted Thursday to send House Bill 1 to the full House for more debate.

The bill would divert 35 percent of the state’s current tax on internet and catalog sales to cities and counties, an amount committee Vice Chairman Trey Lamar says is worth $110 million.

Counties and cities would be able to get the money as long as they don’t decrease the amount they’re currently spending.

Counties could spend the money only on roads and bridges, while cities could also spend money on water and sewer work.

Each city would be guaranteed at least $10,000 a year. Mississippi’s largest city, Jackson, would get more than $4 million yearly.

The measure includes $50 million in specific projects named by legislative leaders.

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10 a.m.

Mississippi lawmakers are meeting in special session to consider ways to increase funding for roads and bridges.

The session begins Thursday morning, after Gov. Phil Bryant called lawmakers back to Jackson on Tuesday.

Republican leaders have outlined a package to divert existing tax revenue, create a lottery and borrow money.

Democrats, the minority in both the House and Senate, complain they haven’t gotten enough input.

The plan calls for diverting part of tax collected on internet and catalog sales to cities and counties. The Mississippi Department of Transportation would get proceeds from a tax on sports betting and a state lottery for 10 years, as well as increased registration taxes on electric and hybrid vehicles. Those items are supposed to generate more than $200 million a year.

Republican leaders have outlined a package to divert existing tax revenue, take on debt and create a lottery.

“It’s time to get this done,” Gov. Phil Bryant said Thursday before the session began. “We don’t need to wait another week, another month.”

Bryant was forced this year to issue an emergency order closing a number of county bridges after the federal government threatened to yank the state’s highway funding when some counties refused to close bridges on their own. The Office of State Aid Road Construction reports 437 closed county bridges statewide as of Tuesday. Another 1,700-plus bridges have weight limits.

House Speaker Philip Gunn proposes diverting 35 percent of the tax collected on internet and catalog sales to cities and counties, which would have been worth $90 million of the $257 million collected in the 12 months ended June 30. The outline of Bryant’s proposal issued in the call says that cities and counties could spend new money only on repair, maintenance or reconstruction of roads and bridges.

The lottery measure would create a lottery corporation run by directors appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Proceeds would be earmarked for spending by the Mississippi Department of Transportation for 10 years, along with proceeds from a tax on sports betting and increased registration taxes on electric and hybrid vehicles.

Reeves and Gunn said the overall plan would provide about $100 million a year in continuing revenue to local governments and another $100 million a year to the state Department of Transportation.

Lawmakers could borrow up to $300 million more for immediate work, paying back debt with revenue from an existing casino tax.

Legislative Democrats, in the minority in both the House and Senate, said Republican leaders were pushing forward with too little public discussion about what a transportation funding plan should include.

“It’s not right to do this in secret; it’s not right to do this in a hurry,” said Sen. Hob Bryan, an Amory Democrat.

Bryant, though, said he, Gunn and Reeves have been working on a plan since the regular session ended in April.

“This was not done overnight or behind closed doors,” Bryant said.

Lawmakers could also debate an agreement on how the state should spend $700 million in economic damage payments from BP PLC after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Legislative leaders are discussing dividing that money, giving 75 percent to the three coastal counties and 25 percent to the rest of the state.

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