Open fire hydrant flushing water though the system at the corner of Mitchell Avenue and North State Street in Jackson, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

A proposal to place Jackson’s troubled water system under a regional authority board — once it comes out from federal receivership — died on the House calendar without a vote with a Tuesday night deadline.

Senate Bill 2889 had met with fierce opposition from city leaders and most of Jackson’s delegation in the Legislature. Rep. Shanda Yates, I-Jackson, had amended the bill in House committee, an effort to appease a special federal court receiver now overseeing the system and city and legislative leaders who decried the regional water authority and other measures as a hostile state takeover of the capital city. 

But Yates said House leaders decided to let the measure die without a House floor vote this year.

“I think there were multiple issues, but I would call it Jackson fatigue,” Yates said. “I think the sentiment was that there were going to multiple fights on the floor on multiple issues, and there’s still time to deal with this next year, look at it over the summer.”

But Yates said she still “absolutely” believes Jackson’s water system, which after decades of neglect routinely leaves residents without potable water or at times any water at all, needs new governance.

The “Mississippi Capitol Region Utility Act” would have created a nonprofit authority to control the system that covers Jackson, much of Byram and parts of Ridgeland. The nonprofit board would have included four people appointed by the Jackson mayor, three appointed by the governor and two appointed by the lieutenant governor.

In the original Senate version, the new authority would own the city’s water system. Under Yates’ changes, the city would have retained ownership and the authority would have a leasehold. Any money collected beyond what was needed to run the system would have gone to the city under Yates’ proposal.

READ MORE: Gov. Tate Reeves questions bills that would take over Jackson water, create new court system

Gov. Tate Reeves had recently weighed in on the issue, saying legislative efforts at state control of Jackson’s water system are “either a little bit too late or either a little bit premature.”

Reeves said he expects the federal conservatorship now in control of Jackson’s water system will remain for years to come, making state legislative efforts to take it over moot, at least for now.

The federally appointed administrator running the system now has estimated it will take him about five years to get the system running properly.

Opponents of the regional water authority proposal said the city should control its water system and accused those of pushing the regional authority of a money grab, with the city set to receive about $800 million in federal funds to upgrade it.

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.