A popular bill that would have given Jackson more flexibility to help struggling water customers, while at the same time giving the city a new tool to improve its water credit rating is not dead, but likely is on life support, said District 26 Sen. John Horhn.
The legislative session went into recess this week. However, Horhn, the author of SB 2856, is holding out hope that he can bring the measure up again later this year.
SB 2856 would have given the city more flexibility in helping customers with extremely high water bills. It also would have allowed Jackson to move all of its uncollectible debt into a separate column on its finance sheets, so debt would no longer impact the city's credit rating.
Jackson has about $49 million in uncollected water and sewer debt, Horhn said.
The bill passed the House and the Senate unanimously, but was vetoed by Gov. Tate Reeves.
Horhn said the veto message must be read in the Senate, before the body can attempt to override it. The message was not read before lawmakers recessed.
Typically the session would have ended in the spring. However, it was recessed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The session was suspended this week, but lawmakers reserved the right to come back as many as six days through October 10 to address any coronavirus-related needs that come up.
"We have six days to come back and attend to anything that we need to," Horhn said.
The District 26 senator believes lawmakers could attempt to override the veto if and when they return to the capital.
If the veto is not overridden by October 10, the measure would be dead and would have to be reintroduced next year, during the 2021 session.
To override a veto, 66 percent of House members and 66 percent of Senators would need to vote to do so. In the Senate, that would be 34 of its 54 members; in the House, it would be 81 of its 122, Horhn said.
"It appears we have enough support in the House to override," he said. However, he was not sure if he had the votes in the Senate.
He said taking a break and coming back at a later date might be the best option, saying that some lawmakers might be wary of taking the vote, after such a volatile session.
This year, lawmakers not only dealt with the fallout from the coronavirus, but also approved changing the state flag.
“A lot of nerves are frayed right now. It’s been a long, hard session," said Horhn. "We're tyring to be careful on how we approach this."