Senate Passes Major Water Change Bill That Has Dems Furious

Once again, the Mississippi Senate has approved a measure to have a regional body take over the problematic water system in the state capital of Mississippi.

The legislation proposes establishing the Mississippi Capitol Region Utility Authority, a nonprofit corporation, to oversee the water system in Jackson. The nine-member board would consist of the mayor, two members of the Jackson City Council, three from the governor, and three from the lieutenant governor. Appointments for local officials were not included in the initial draft of the measure.

Following the failure of the House version last year, Republican Senator David Parker of Olive Branch submitted a significantly revised version of the bill. Jackson officials, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, were outspoken in their opposition to the plan, claiming that the Republican-controlled legislature was stealing their power.

The measure passed on Tuesday by a 35-14 margin, but nearly all Senate Democrats again voted against it. The measure was tabled in the Senate for additional discussion.

The bill has the opposition of Jackson’s mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who sees it as an attempt by the Republican-led state legislature to take power away from the city’s mainly Black population.

According to Parker, the bill would be a step in the right direction toward fixing the problems that have repeatedly interrupted the utility, denying locals reliable access to flowing water. Some Jackson households were left without water for weeks in 2022 due to infrastructure faults.

While the Mississippi Legislature is in session, Parker and his daughter reside at an apartment complex in downtown Jackson, even though their district is in the northwest.

Ted Henifin, who was appointed as the interim manager of the water system by a federal court in December 2022, was cited by Parker as providing support.

One of Henifin’s points was that the areas covered by Jackson’s water system should only receive government funding. Legislators from the Jackson area were worried that Congress might reroute the hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to repair the city’s water infrastructure.

When Henifin departs, and federal funding runs out, the bill’s intended purpose, according to Parker, is to guarantee that a governing system will be in place in Jackson. The federal order that appointed him does not specify an end date for Henifin’s tenure as water management for Jackson.