MS Special Session

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The House of Representatives voted to reject a proposal to reduce funding for private prisons and close the facility in Greenwood, after the Senate voted the bill down and then, after some heavy arm- twisting, voted to approve it.

The arm-twisting didn't work with the House.

Rep. Charles Young of Meridian warned, after the Senate gave its approval, that the bill was in trouble in the House.

"Well, I would vote against closing the Delta facility but I would be voting for Meridian," said Young.

The final vote was 64-41 against. It was an emotional issue for lawmakers, such as Senator Gloria Williamson from Philadelphia, who voted for the bill.

"It was the loss of some jobs in a county that really couldn't afford to lose any jobs," said Williamson, now in her first term. "That's just a matter in my case that we do not have prisons for economic development."

Senator Videt Carmichael of Lauderdale County agreed the bill was good for our area but bad for the Delta.

"You could see where the Delta is losing employees and losing economic development which they've had," said Carmichael. "Then you turn around and look at our area and it's real good for our prison and some other prisons who needed the other prisoners."

Senator Terry Burton of Newton was also troubled by the governor's position.

"I did have mixed feelings and I still do," said Burton. "I think this is probably bad policy for the state. I don't know that we're going to see a lot of savings when all is said and done."

But when the vote was finally taken and the bill was rejected, lawmakers said they realized with or without action from the legislature, the governor still had the power to close the prison if he so desired.

Two other bills, funding for Howard Industries and a revision of Medicaid spending both passed.

Part of the money received from the state will help Howard Industries expand into the power transformer marketplace. Howard's transformer division currently ranks as the number one producer of distribution transformers in the U.S. and Howard computers will now be located in the Howard Technology Park, the first, true high-tech park in Mississippi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.