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Ag. commissioner and legislature at odds over bills dictating how money is spent at state fairgrounds

Tensions are flaring between the Mississippi legislature and Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson over two bills aimed at establishing oversight of how money is spent on events and upgrades at the state fairgrounds.

House Bill 1357, which revises the authority of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC), and Senate Bill 2361, which modifies how the department would be able to spend money it receives, have been scrutinized by Gipson as an attempt by lawmakers to take control of private donations he has acquired for events in his jurisdiction.

More specifically, the proposed legislation would give lawmakers the authority to disperse funds for repairs to infrastructure at the Agriculture Museum and the state fairgrounds as well as the events that take place there such as the Dixie National Rodeo and Live Stock Show and the Mississippi State Fair

The agriculture commissioner argues that being at the mercy of the legislature to appropriate funding for events and operations at the fairgrounds could yield harsh repercussions like private sponsors withdrawing their financial contributions. He finds the measures to be a bad-faith move by greedy members of the legislature.

“I have already been contacted by the main Dixie National Rodeo and State Fair sponsors, as well as by dozens of other event promoters who are adamantly opposed to these bills,” Gipson said in a statement. “They see this as a money grab by the Legislature; a true attempt to confiscate their voluntary private sponsorship dollars by the State.”

Senate Appropriations Chair Briggs Hopson believes otherwise. He noted that all other state agencies have to go through a special board or through the legislature to acquire funding for projects and that the Department of Agriculture and Commerce should not be granted any special treatment.

“This is not a bill about our current [agriculture] commissioner … This bill is not a ‘sweeps’ bill. This is not to try to sweep any special funds from the department of [agriculture] and commerce,” Hopson said. “This just says they’re going to be appropriated funds just like any other state agency.”

In addition, the legislation would also establish parameters

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