City officials in DeSoto County received some welcome news Thursday as local and private legislation they were pushing for their particular cities were passed. In the cases of Hernando and Olive Branch, the work now begins to ensure their specific levies are approved by voters. In all cases, funding that would be received through the local levies would go to improve parks.
Southaven was able to see their “Penny for the Parks” one-percent per dollar tax on restaurant sales repeal date extended until July 1, 2026. The vote on the extension was 52-0 in the state Senate, while in the House, the vote was 72-31 with 19 House members not voting.
Among the DeSoto County delegation, the “no” votes came from Rep. Dana Criswell (R-Olive Branch), Rep. Dan Eubanks (R-Walls), and Rep. Steve Hopkins (R-Southaven), the contingent that are part of what they call the Mississippi Freedom Caucus.
Rep. Jeff Hale (R-Southaven) and Rep. Hester Jackson-McCray (D-Horn Lake) were among the majority votes for the Southaven repeal extension.
When contacted by DeSoto County News by text, Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite called it a win for Southaven and all of the other cities in the county, as well.
“We kept fighting and asking reasonable and logical questions,” Musselwhite wrote.”The House leadership listened and did the right thing, allowing all (DeSoto County measures) onto the House floor for a vote. Our DeSoto County delegation, who has supported other cities’ local and private bills throughout the state, made this possible with the respect they’ve earned with their peers. Specifically, in Southaven, Senator David Parker and Representative Jeff Hale were absolute warriors fighting for what is a good thing for our city and the people they represent.”
Horn Lake’s hotel-motel tax levy repeal date was also extended to July 1, 2026 and the money from the $2 per night additional fee will continue to be used to promote the city’s tourism and economic development.
The Senate passed the Horn Lake repeal extension 48-2 while it passed 76-46 in the House.
All three DeSoto County state senators voted for the Horn Lake repeal and the House representation went the same as the Southaven vote, with Hale and Jackson-McCray supporting the measure.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” Mayor Allen Latimer said Friday. “It’s such a blessings for the organizations that the money is used to support to improve the quality of life here in Horn Lake. Our state senators and representatives worked so hard to get this passed.”
Latimer said the city gets about $300,000 annually from the hotel-motel tax, and the total could actually grow with the repeal extension to about $500,000 annually.
While the Southaven and Horn Lake repeal date extensions don’t need local elections, new measures for Olive Branch and Hernando must be approved by voters in their cities before they may be put into force.
Olive Branch’s local and private legislation would allow the city to collect a one-percent tax on hotels and motels and allow the city to issue bonds for tourism and parks and recreation. The measure does require a local vote of 60 percent approval before the tax goes into effect.
Mayor Ken Adams related a recent experience in how he sees the tax working for his city.
“I stayed in a hotel while on City business last week in Jackson and this week in Dallas, Texas and paid their tourism fee on my hotel bill to help those cities improve and look forward to tourists in Olive Branch doing the same for us,” Adams said.
He pointed out that only tourists staying in Olive Branch hotels and motels would be affected by the tax and they would be paying for park improvements.
“The Board of Aldermen and I will make plans for a date later this year for a vote by the citizens on the tourism tax,” Adams said. “I fully trust the citizens’ judgment on this item and have already heard from many that look forward to supporting this to improve our parks.”
The Olive Branch measure passed the House on an 86-16 vote.
Hernando voters also will be considering a “Penny for the Park” restaurant levy similar to Southaven after its passage Thursday in the legislature.
Alderman Chad Wicker wrote on Facebook, “We have a good bill and if approved by the citizens in November we will do great things for our parks.”