February 12, 2009
JACKSON â€" The state Senate turned down a lobbyist regulation bill Wednesday at the request of Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, who raised concerns it could run off Mississippiâ€™s longtime military base liaison in Washington.
â€œHeâ€™s got a problem if this bill passes,â€ Brown said of lobbyist Barry Rhoads. The Senate agreed and voted 23-20 to kill the legislation.
Senate Bill 2731 called for state government agencies that hire lobbyists to go through a public bidding and review process of their contracts to provide more accounting of state funds being spent.
Brown said the legislation could hinder Rhoads, whoâ€™s been credited with helping persuade the federal government not to close Columbus Air Force Base and other Mississippi military facilities.
A former federal base closure commission attorney, Rhoads has been a lobbyist for Mississippi since 1993. Contracted by the Mississippi Development Authority, heâ€™s been annually paid about $200,000 in recent years.
If required to follow the state lobbyist-contracting regulations called for by the Senate bill, Rhoads could decide to quit and work for other states to help support their military bases, Brown said.
â€œWeâ€™re in very intense competition with them as far as missions and keeping bases from closing,â€ he said. â€œThere is going to be another round of base closures, and we need him there.â€
Senate Ethics Chairman Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, said the bill couldâ€™ve been revised to ensure it doesnâ€™t apply to state-paid lobbyists.
This is how area senators voted on Senate Bill 2731 to impose a public-contract review process of state-paid lobbyists:
For: Hob Bryan, D-Amory
Against: Terry Brown, R-Columbus; Gary Jackson, R-Kilmichael; Sampson Jackson, D-Preston
Not voting: Bennie Turner, D-West Point