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State Takeover of Jackson Water System Passes Senate

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Jackson’s water system could soon be under the control of a state-appointed body after the Mississippi Senate passed a bill that would transfer control of the state capital city’s troubled water system to a regional board.

Republican Sen. David Parker of Olive Branch introduced a slightly modified version of the bill after last year’s version died in the House. The proposal drew fierce opposition from Jackson officials, who said the Republican-controlled Legislature was usurping the authority of local leaders, most of whom are Democrats.

Almost every Senate Democrat voted against the bill again Tuesday before it passed 35-14. The legislation was held for the possibility of more debate in the Senate. It eventually would go to the House.

The bill would create a corporate nonprofit known as the Mississippi Capitol Region Utility Authority to govern Jackson’s water system. It would be overseen by a nine-member board, with one appointment by the mayor, two by the Jackson City Council, three by the governor and three by the lieutenant governor. Under the bill’s original version, city officials would not have had any appointments.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said an effort to create a state-appointed regional water authority to take over the City’s water and sewer systems is part of a larger “effort to seize control of a Black city that is run by Black leadership” during a press conference at City Hall in Jackson, Miss., on Monday, March 4, 2024. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba opposes the bill, saying it’s an example of the majority-white and Republican-led Legislature trying to seize control from a majority-Black city.

Parker said the bill would help address issues that have disrupted the utility on numerous occasions and left residents without consistent access to running water. Infrastructure breakdowns in 2022 caused some Jackson residents to go weeks without water for their basic needs.

Parker’s district is in northwest Mississippi, but he lives with his daughter at an apartment complex in Jackson when the Legislature is in session. He said scooping up water from the building’s swimming pool to

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