The Mississippi Legislature has had three chances to pass a law that would secure BP economic damages money for the Coast.
And three times, the Legislature has come up empty.
The Coast delegation says it is united.
It has some of the most powerful committee chairmen, at least on paper.
If they indeed have the influence normally wielded by a committee chairman, and they were committed to securing the BP money, and they had the political will to put the Mississippi Coast first and political expediency last, we would have a deal.
We don't. We take our representatives in the House at their word when they say they are working hard on the BP settlement. But we want, and the Coast needs, results.
It's not as complicated an issue as it sounds.
The Coast economy has not recovered from the BP spill. Jobs will be the medicine that cures the Coast's economic ills. The $700 million in BP money, spent prudently on projects that are most likely to show a measurable return on investment in the form of jobs, is all that we're asking from our Legislature.
The Senate is firmly on board. The House isn't. And the source of the disagreement is control: Who will have the final say about which projects will be funded and which will be rejected.
The GOP majority in the House wants that control. The Senate is leaning toward a board picked by state leaders. A board with expertise in reviewing economic development projects. The Coast business community prefers that approach, as was evidenced by a vote taken from leaders of businesses large and small, not just from Gulfport and Biloxi, but from all across the three Coast counties. The House does not. It wants the Legislature to have that final say.
This, it appears, is not a disagreement the Legislature can resolve by itself.
So, we are asking for an intervention. We believe Gov. Phil Bryant should bring the opposing sides together, facilitate a frank discussion and help the legislative negotiators arrive at a consensus that could be taken to a special session.
We believe Gov. Bryant understands this is not a Coast vs. the rest of the state issue. He knows that the Coast is an economic engine and its success or failure will quickly resonate throughout the state. And, he is unburdened by political aspirations.
The Coast has shown it is willing to compromise. We know that 100 percent of the tangible economic damage occurred on the Coast. Businesses folded. Others moved off the Coast. Jobs were lost.
And yet, we were willing to share a percentage, an ever-increasing percentage it now seems, with the rest of the state.
But those compromises yielded no results.
It is time for a new approach. The Coast has waited long enough.