Senate kills lobbyist regulation legislation

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 Mississippi’s longtime military base liaison in Washington. 


“He’s got a problem if this bill passes,” 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, who’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, he’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. 


“We’re in very intense competition with them as far as missions and keeping bases from closing,” he said. “There is going to be another round of base closures, and we need him there.” 


Senate Ethics Chairman Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, said the bill could’ve been revised to ensure it doesn’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