March 22, 2014 11:41:19 PM
A joint House-Senate conference committee is expected to form and negotiate a final version of HB 615, a bill that would rename a portion of Miss. Highway 25 after former Mississippi State University President Donald Zacharias.
The House first unanimously concurred on March 10 with a Senate amendment that added an additional road honor for former Eupora police officer Keith Allan Crenshaw, but a motion to reconsider was entered that same day by Reps. Robert L. Johnson III, R-Natchez, and Steve Massengill, R-Hickory Flat, and approved. The House then declined to concur and invited conference.
Members of the House and Senate transportation committees, including Johnson and Massengill, are expected to comprise the six-person conference. Johnson and Massengill serve as chairman and vice chairman, respectively of the House Transportation Committee.
Senate Highways and Transportation Committee Chairman Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, and Vice Chairman Perry Lee, R-Mendenhall, could comprise two of the higher chamber's conference seats.
No Oktibbeha County lawmakers serve on either chamber's transportation committee.
A call to HB 615's primary author, Rep. Joey Hood, R-Ackerman, went unreturned, but Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, said conference committee members could attempt to re-introduce another road designation that previously failed this session. Both Chism and Hood represent portions of Oktibbeha County.
So far this term, Gov. Phil Bryant has signed at least 12 memorial designations for highways, intersections or bridges into law. Along with the Zacharias Road bill, SB 2601, another memorial bill, is heading to a conference committee.
Two memorial bills for Crenshaw - HB 616 and SB 2780 - failed this term, while HB 731, a road designation for the Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Chickasaw County, died in committee earlier this month. A Senate version of the Chickasaw County designation was signed into law March 13.
HB 615 calls for the portion of Miss. Highway 25 that intersects with Old Highway 25 and runs to the Oktibbeha County-Winston County line to be renamed the Dr. Donald W. Zacharias Memorial Highway.
Mississippi Department of Transportation workers would erect and maintain signage along and approaching the highway if the bill is signed into law.
The bill also calls for a portion of Miss. Highway 9 in Choctaw County, from the Choctaw-Webster line to Ackerman, to be designated the Phyllis A. Graham-Steven B. Moss Memorial Highway.
The Senate amendment, as introduced by Sen. Gary Jackson, R-French Camp, would honor Crenshaw by designating a segment of Webster County's U.S. Highway 82 in his memory. Crenshaw was killed in the line of duty in October while responding to a bank robbery.
Hood attempted to pass a Zacharias road bill last year, but his efforts fell short when the bill died in conference. That attempt was tacked onto a separate designation bill, HB 1290, which went through two joint House-Senate conference sessions before April 4, when the measure died on the calendar.
Zacharias, the second-longest serving MSU president, died last year. He was 77.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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