Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Convention Center on the Way
Convention Center Commissioners picked two construction companies to begin building the Convention Center, seven months after the groundbreaking. The construction contract, worth more than $52 million, will go to two companies, both inside the city of Jackson.
Major Associates, Inc. and Fountain Construction Company will handle the project after bidding lower that the last round of bids, which came in almost $10 million over the limits of the project budget.
Ward 6 Councilman Marshand Crisler said he was delighted that the contract will go to local builders.
"I know Fountain Construction and Cornelius Turner (of Major Associates) very well. They're going to stand to make quite a bit off this deal, and we'd like to make sure we keep them in the community, maybe get them involved in some more community projects," Crisler said.
Dale and Associates Architects told The Clarion-Ledger that construction should be almost complete in early 2009.
Hood Settles Insurance Suit
Attorney General Jim Hood said Tuesay that his office has reached a class-action settlement with State Farm in the Katrina lawsuit. Policy holders and Hood claim the insurance company wrongfully denied coverage for storm surge damage.
Under the settlement, made before U.S. District Court Judge L.T. Senter, State Farm will re-evaluate policy holders' claim and make them a new offer. Under the terms of the class action, the insurance company can no longer use water damage as a reason to deny the claim and must show through a preponderance of the evidence that any damage denied was caused by a hazard outside policy coverage.
State Farm will even re-evaluate claims where only a slab remains and make a minimum offer equivalent to 50 percent of the structural policy limits.
"This could mean up to $500 million injected quickly into our Coast economy," Hood told reporters at a Tuesday press conference. "Others can (opt out) and go seek punitive damage, but this will expedite the process. We don't know how long the appeals process will take and this is an option. We believe that the overall value of this is that it will be a quick flow of capital at a crucial time. Grant money that is now getting down to the Coast can be added to this quick injection of insurance money and our people on our coast can go back and rebuild their lives."
Hood said policyholders would start getting their money in three months and explained that the settlement was tailored for about 8,000 storm-surge victims who have not hired a lawyer and have made no attempt to sue. He said he hoped the settlement would serve as a "template" for other insurance companies "to come forward and participate in this program so that we can help the thousands and thousands of coastal residents who have nothing but slabs."
He added that State Farm may have been pressured to agree to the settlement thanks to an unsympathetic Democratic Congress and some Republican legislators—like storm victim Sen. Trent Lott—who will likely push for insurance reform in the new congressional year.
A Little Help Here
The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill giving $2 million in state money to the city of Jackson for street resurfacing and law enforcement.
Rep. John Reeves, R-Jackson, pushed hard for the bill.
"I'd wanted $10 million for the city to offset the loss of the tax base, but they amended it to where $1 million must be used for upgrading law enforcement for salaries or equipment and the other $1 million for street resurfacing. But this is still a terrific bill," Reeves said, adding that he expected "full House approval," before heading to the Senate.
Three Names in the Hat
Three candidates have announced that they'll seek the lieutenant governor's seat in the upcoming elections. State Auditor Phil Bryant has filed paperwork with the secretary of state's office. The Republican will be running against fellow Republican Sen. Charlie Ross in the Aug. 7 primary. The winner from that fight will meet Rep. Jamie Franks, D-Mooreville, in the November general elections.
Both Republicans plan to ride the coattails of Gov. Haley Barbour to the seat.
Bryant told The Clarion-Ledger that Barbour "has a vision beyond most of us mere mortals, and he knows how to carry it out." Ross released a press statement on his eagerness to debate how he and Bryant could best "support Gov. Barbour and bring conservative solutions to Mississippi's problems."
Franks, meanwhile, notes the high percentage of Barbour clones filling the House and Senate and says the lieutenant governor's seat needs an independent thinker who will lobby for middle-class laws such as a minimum wage increase and full MAEP funding—both popular among Mississippians, but vehemently opposed by the governor in the past.
"Sometimes the governor's right, but sometimes he's wrong, too, and Mississippi needs a lieutenant governor who knows the difference," Franks told the JFP.
Lord knows we don't need another Barbour clone in that seat.