BP Oil Spill settlement money: keeping a close eye on legislation

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More than one hundred South Mississippians poured into a meeting Wednesday to get an update on the status of the $750 million in settlement money from the BP oil spill.
News 25’s Toni Miles takes us to that gathering at Gulfport’s Knight Nonprofit Center with a recap on what could turn out to be the most important legislation South Mississippi has ever seen.
One plan, one voice, one future, but the future of the state’s $750 million in economic damages still remains up in the air three years after the state negotiated the deal with BP back in 2015. According to speakers at Wednesday morning’s meeting, that could change depending on what happens with two bills, 1512 and 1185, before Thursday’s deadline for general bills on the house floor. Gulf Coast Business Council CEO and President Ashley Edwards said, “The next 24 hours are going to be crucial. We think the bill is going to come to the floor for a vote in the House of Representatives. In order for this process to continue, we have to have the House pass the bill.”
While all the state’s lawmakers are officially responsibly for deciding how the BP money will be allocated and overseen, local business leaders tell News 25 there are three key players who will play a major role in the outcome. “We need the governor, Lt. governor, and the speaker of the House. Both the governor and Lt. governor have gone on record saying the money should stay here on the Coast,” said Edwards.
As seen in a press conference by the governor on the day the BP settlement was announced. “That would be my recommendation, of course, the legislature doesn’t always listen to my recommendations. I feel quite certain your delegation will make sure that money, all or as much as possible, is allocated to the Gulf Coast. It should be in my opinion.”
What if the two BP bills fail Wednesday? “There are still plan B’s and plan C’s. There are still some vehicles the House of Representatives can use,” said Edwards.
Leaders at Wednesday’s meeting say that everyone here on the Coast can play a part in this legislation and you don’t have to be at a podium to do so. Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce CEO Adele Lyons said, “Just be on the lookout. At some point, we’re going to need folks to call and let the legislature know what it is we need and to have our voice heard. We’ve been working towards legislation over the past couple of years and to get it so it is in a fund so that we can get started using it on projects.”