Lower oil, gas prices brake 2017 energy legislation

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Mississippi Today

Sen. Briggs Hopson and Rep. Charles Beckett answer questions from attendees at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Legislative Scrambler.

There were few energy and public utilities bills discussed during this year’s Mississippi legislative session, and lawmakers who lead committees on those industries say it’s likely because oil and gas prices have been relatively low.

Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, and Rep. Charles Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, spoke Wednesday morning at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Legislative Scrambler reflecting on energy-related bills from this past session and what the Legislature could look forward to the next year in the industry.

Overall, both lawmakers said less activity in the House and Senate is a result of less oil and gas activity and production in the state. This has its own positive and negative effects on the state when it comes to jobs, commerce and tax revenue, such as lower gas prices but less jobs available in the sector.

Mississippi Today

Rep. Charles Beckett, R-Bruce, speaks about this year’s energy legislation at Mississippi Economic Council’s Legislative Scrambler on Wednesday.

“The lack of activity is probably part of the reason why people are requesting less change,” Beckett said. “There’s not much we can do to effect price. We could have some regulations that could have a small impact on regulation but the prices got to go up before that regulation would matter.”

Hopson said oil prices have inched up a little bit, which could lead to more production and activity at the Capitol soon, but Hopson and Beckett don’t know when exactly and will have to wait and see what will happen.

“Somebody told me before I took over as chairman that you’ll find energy is a rollercoaster,” Hopson said. “Some years it’s really hopping. Other years it’s just very quiet. This is one of those quiet years, so I’m worried about next year already.”

The event, which took place at the Mississippi Museum of Art, highlighted a few bills to become law like Senate Bill 2165, which will extend the repealer on Mississippi Telephone Solicitation Act starting July 1. This law pushes back the expiration date of a no-solicitation call list for landlines, which was set to expire this year.

Hopson also mentioned Senate Bill 2861, which would create a Mississippi Emergency Telephone Service Charges Study Committee to look into whether emergency telephone service charges imposed in the state are reasonable, and examine collection, distribution, use and oversight of these charges. This bill has passed in the House and is returned for concurrence by the Senate.

Hopson and Beckett will be on that committee, the senator said.

One way to possibly streamline costs is to group counties together where a 911 service would be run out of one central location serving anywhere from two to four counties depending on the location, he said.

Mississippi Today

Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, speaks about this year’s energy legislation at Mississippi Economic Council’s Legislative Scrambler Wednesday morning at the Mississippi Museum of Art.

“That’s something we’ll be looking this next year as we go through that process,” Hopson said. “I expect chairman Beckett will probably start that sometime early summer. We’ll start meeting if that bill is passed, which I expect it to be.”

He said the committee could have a report ready by early next year.

Beckett brought up Senate Bill 2375, which would have renewed safety marking requirements on weather towers. The bill died on the calendar on March 8.