Funds for improving infrastructure in Jackson’s capitol district will be spread thin after House Bill 1020 takes effect, Capitol Complex Improvement District Project Advisory Committee Chairperson Rebekah Staples said at Thursday’s quarterly meeting. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed the bill into law Friday afternoon.
Under the new law, the Mississippi Supreme Court will appoint a municipal judge to preside over the CCID, among other provisions that proponents, including Reeves, say will curb crime in the capital city. The new court will exist from January 2024 until July 2027 unless the Legislature extends it.
Opponents say the municipal court will take political power away from Jackson’s majority-Black voters, far from the originally stated intentions when the Legislature established the CCID in 2017 to compensate the City for the untaxed state properties by providing additional funds for road projects.
The law increases the amount of local sales taxes diverted to the CCID by 50%, from 6% to 9%, for infrastructure repairs in the district. It also doubles the CCID’s geographic size, Staples explained Thursday, but funding for the district could increase from about $9 million annually to just $14 or $15 million if the bill becomes law.
“The way I’m kind of looking at the CCID provisions, they doubled the boundaries and size and then increased by half (the) additional sales tax diversions,” she said. “So if you annualize, I’m kind of estimating it is five-to-six million additional (dollars) for the CCID.”
CCID Co-Director Gilda Reyes explained that the new CCID boundaries go “all the way up to Northside Drive and comes to the railroad, goes all the way to the water and then comes down past Highway 80, goes as far out west as Ellis Avenue at the bottom, now down toward (Highway) 80 and right at Interstate-20 where it comes into I-55.”
The body suspended preparations for a statutorily mandated five-year update to its master plan after the proposed H.B. 1020 emerged in the 2023 legislative session, CCID co-director Gilda Reyes said at the meeting. The committee last adopted a master plan in 2019, and they need another in place by 2024.
“We began working on the master plan, but when this bill was introduced into the Legislature, we just stopped with where we were because there was no point in going forward when we didn’t know the boundaries. Things needed to be changed. There was no point in finishing it and then going back and putting in all the corrections,” she said. “So, once we know about this bill, then we’ll start working back on the master plan in that respect.”
Monthly revenue for the CCID dipped in recent months from about $800,000 to about $700,000, “which is still not bad at all; we’re grateful to have the funds, but I just wanted to let y’all know that it has dropped off just a little bit,” Reyes said.
The body is delaying road construction work on Lynch Street for one more year as it works with Entergy to move utility poles, which could cost $1 million, she said.
“We now have to relocate utilities under the ground, and so that’s going to involve Entergy, and that is a year delay in them getting that stuff in here because it’s a major power grid that comes from University Boulevard all the way into the campus, and so we were going to, of course, extend the sidewalks. Right now, they’re six feet, and we’re going to 12 feet to make it more pedestrian-friendly,” she said. “So if we don’t move the utility that’s underground, it’s defeating the purpose of increasing those sidewalks.”
She said the sidewalk project on Capitol Street and paving work on Mississippi Street are now complete.
“We have finished those projects, and we’re in closeout documents right now,” she said. “I think there’s a couple of more payouts maybe that need to be approved, but those projects are finished, and if you have not ridden down Mississippi Street, you need to ‘cause it looks really good and the Capitol Street sidewalks as well.”
Earlier versions of H.B. 1020 included an expansion of the state-run Capitol Police force. Instead, the Legislature separately passed Senate Bill 2343, which expands the jurisdiction of the Capitol Police over the whole of the City of Jackson. The Capitol Police will have primary jurisdiction within the CCID and concurrent jurisdiction with the City and County after Gov. Reeves signed it into law on Friday afternoon. The Department of Public Safety oversees the Capitol Police.
In a statement announcing the bill signings Friday, the governor called Jackson “our capital city and the heart of our state.” He also brushed off critics who compared the legislative efforts to Jim Crow.
“It is where I have lived for over one-third of my life,” Reeves said. “But Jackson has to be better. Downtown Jackson should be so safe that it is a magnet for talented young people to come and live and work and create. This legislation won’t solve the entire problem, but if we can stop one shooting, if we can respond to one more 911 call—then we’re one step closer to a better Jackson. I refuse to accept the status quo. As long as I’m governor, the state will keep fighting for safer streets for every Mississippian no matter their politics, race, creed, or religion—regardless of how we’re portrayed by liberal activists or in the national media.”
This story was updated after Gov. Reeves signed H.B. 1020 and S.B. 2343 into law.