Desoto County News

Hernando leaders look at “Pennies” legislation

Aldermen in Hernando this week approved the drafting of a letter clarifying the city’s position on Pennies for the Parks legislation.  

House Bill 1551, introduced by state Rep. Jerry Darnell (R-Hernando) would allow the city to impose up to two additional cents on gross sales at city restaurants for the purposes of parks and recreation improvements, if approved by city voters. 

The local and private legislation is similar to the successful one-cent levy Southaven has used for a number of parks improvements over the years.  Olive Branch would like to do something similar with a bill now in the state Senate.

One part of the Hernando bill has the city concerned, however, and that was the inclusion of the word “tourism” in the bill, meaning the funds could also be used for promotion of tourism. Mayor Chip Johnson said Tuesday he was told by Darnell the committee chairman had asked the word remain in the bill, but the city is preferring “tourism” not be included, because “our citizens don’t want this money spent on tourism,” Johnson said. “They want it spent only on parks.”  

Alderman Ben Piper pointed out the city already has a tourism tax through a levy on hotel-motel stays. 

Another specific stance the city took was to say that any funding received from a tax, if voters approve it, would not go toward the planned Animal Shelter. Johnson specifically made that clear in the discussions.

A total of $275,000 has been set aside for the building and the Shelter is in the budget to borrow the remainder. 

State Sen. Michael McLendon had asked for the letter to make specific to the Legislature what Hernando would earmark any tax funds for.  

Olive Branch aldermen Tuesday night approved the rezoning for the so-called “South Tract” of 84 acres to near the Legacy Park distribution center to M-1 Light Industrial District. The land is south of Highway 302 on the east side of Polk Lane. Residents near the facility have expressed concerns about further expansion encroaching on their property. County supervisors had withheld zoning changes to keep that from happening before last year’s Olive Branch annexation. At that time, the city took control of the property zoning and the land owners had sought the change, in spite of opposition. 

Horn Lake aldermen discussed the ramifications to the city of the recent bill passage regarding medical marijuana. They were told about the possibility of opting out of the bill, but City Attorney Billy Campbell said early May was the deadline for the city to do that. 

“If we’re going to do it, we need to do that by May 3,” Campbell told the board. 

Campbell reminded aldermen that if they choose to opt out, they can opt in at any point, but if they opt in before the May deadline, they could not opt back out. 

He also said voters could also get involved if the city opts out of medical marijuana in Horn Lake. 

“Even if you opt out, there is something called an ‘indirect referendum,’ meaning if 1,500 qualified electors in the city of Horn Lake sign a petition asking for this to be legalized, then we would have to hold an election,” Campbell said. “If more people vote for it by election, then we would be opted in by vote.”

Cities can separately opt in or out before the May deadline regarding dispensaries, cultivators or those who grow it, and processors, or the entities that process cannabis into its usable form.  

It’s expected further study will be done before aldermen must decide about an opt out before May. 

“We need to control it here in the city of Horn Lake as best as we can,” said Alderman Dave Young. “If people need it, they can get it and people who don’t want to be influenced by it don’t have to see it. 

Southaven aldermen also discussed Senate Bill 2095 about medical marijuana on Tuesday, with Mayor Darren Musselwhite telling his board he backs the cannabis bill, but is concerned because it did not address zoning. For that reason, Musselwhite said he would recommend Southaven opt out from medical marijuana until the zoning challenges of the bill are addressed by the Legislature.  

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