It took all of two minutes and no debate for the state Senate to decide that the money from the BP Oil Spill settlement should stay on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Senate bill 2634, authored by Senators Brice Wiggins, Tommy Gollott, Sean Tindell, Joseph Seymour, Michael Watson, and Philip Moran, deposits the settlement monies into the Gulf Coast Restoration Reserve Fund.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously.
“The Mississippians most affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster were the fishermen, hotel owners, restaurant owners and residents of the Gulf Coast,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said. “In today’s polarized times, many politicians are criticized for focusing only on what is in their own best interest. Today, the Mississippi Senate voted to do what is right. Our state senators recognize a healthy Gulf Coast economy benefits the entire state.”
Sen. Brice Wiggins thanked the Senate for the unanimous decision.
“I want to personally thank my Senate colleagues for passing the BP bill and for rallying behind the Gulf Coast and our rebuilding efforts in the wake of the BP oil spill. Senator Sean Tindell did an outstanding job of handling the floor debate and representing our collective Gulf Coast interests. I talked to many of my colleagues individually, and they all understood the significance of this bill to us on the Gulf Coast. I specifically would like to thank my fellow Senators: Senator Deborah Dawkins, Senator Tommy Gollott, Senator Phillip Moran, Senator Mike Seymour, and Senator Michael Watson for their unwavering support of this bill.”
“While I am honored to be the lead sponsor on the bill, this was a unified effort by the Gulf Coast Senate delegation and would not have happened without the leadership of Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke (R-Hollandale), Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Governor Phil Bryant and their respective staffs.”
“The bill now goes to the House, and while there is still a long way to go in the legislative process, we are one step closer to providing much needed funds for economic recovery on the Gulf Coast from the BP oil spill.”
The battle over the $2.2 billion dollar BP Oil Spill settlement now depends on the state House.
Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden in October said the question of how to properly utilize the settlement money is something lawmakers will have to answer.
“There are various options being discussed… it is the legislature’s decision,” said Snowden.
Lt. Governor Tate Reeves had held one gathering in a series of town hall meetings on the Coast with the public to discuss options on how to spend the settlement. While suggestions ranged from investing in infrastructure to rebuilding historic districts along the Coast, one theme remained–keep the money on the Coast.
Meanwhile, Snowden said comments have come in from municipalities and businesses statewide that claimed the Coast was “carried” through the hard times after the BP Oil Spill, and therefore there’s a statewide need for the money.
“We’re going to look through this thing and sift through it,” said Snowden. “And we’ll come down where we need to come down.”
Snowden said that Mississippi is not the only state to have this problem. Alabama had a settlement as well, and it was up to the lawmakers on how to spend it.
“They went through this same thing, with very high emotions,” said Snowden. “And they had a special session that turned out, and they came out with an amicable compromise.”
You can read more about the background of the BP Oil Spill settlement here.