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Thursday, May 22, 2008


For nearly 11 weeks after the Senate unanimously approved it, a bill to repeal a controversial village law enacted last year languished in the House of Representatives as Speaker Rod Jetton kept it on the shelf. However, the measure dominated the final three days of the 2008 legislative session, sparking talk among majority Republicans of a coup to overthrow Jetton, a series of political maneuvers by the speaker to kill the measure and a long filibuster by senators who previously supported it. Ultimately, Jetton and his allies relented, and the General Assembly granted the bill final approval.

The controversy began last year when Jetton, R-Marble Hill, quietly slipped a provision into a 300-plus page omnibus bill that made it possible for a landowner to incorporate his or her property as a village – with no minimum population or obligation to offer municipal services – solely so the landowner could avoid local land-use restrictions. Jetton did so at the behest of a political contributor whose efforts to develop property in Stone County had by stymied by local residents. Since the provision became publicly known, several other developers around the state have started efforts to create sham villages, while state lawmakers and local officials mobilized to repeal the law.

At approximately 4 a.m. on May 16, a deal was finally brokered to clear the bill, SB 765, for final passage. Under the deal, the Senate defeated the emergency clause that would have allowed the repeal to take effect immediately upon being signed by the governor. Instead the repeal won’t become effective until Aug. 28, potentially giving developers the opportunity to attempt to take advantage of the existing law for another few months. The Senate again passed the measure without dissent before the House approved it 131-7.

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