Tri-State Compact Bill Between Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee Involves RegionSmart Development | Abbi Clifton
Interstate compact involving RegionSmart Development seeks to "improve" region
An interstate compact between Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi was ratified that will aim to “develop” the region’s technology and commerce through an organization called RegionSmart.
The Mississippi bill stated that RegionSmart Development will include Crittenden, Craighead, and Mississippi counties in Arkansas. The compact will also include Desoto County, Mississippi and Shelby, Fayette, and Tipton counties in Tennessee. This region would also cover the I-40 Mississippi River bridge crossing area between Tennessee and Arkansas.
RegionSmart will have the power to “develop and implement marketing and communication strategies,” to contract with governmental and nongovernmental entities and individuals, and they can accept money and disburse money from these entities.
They can make plans for “coordination of streets, highways, parkways, parking areas, terminals, water supply and sewage and disposal works, recreational and conservation facilities and projects, land-use pattern and other matters in which joint or coordinated action of the communities within the areas will be generally beneficial,” according to the Mississippi bill.
RegionSmart will “be a planning organization with an interest in a specific or regionally significant multi-state freight corridor to promote the improved mobility of goods, including, without limitation, identifying projects along the corridor that benefit multiple states, assembling rights-of-way and performing capital improvements,” according to the text of the proposed bill.
Commissioners and mayors from the cities and counties involved will appoint commissioners for two or three-year terms. This board of commissioners will be “vested with all the powers of RegionSmart Development.” The bill stated that the board of commissioners’ operations will be subject to an open-records “sunshine” policy.
RegionSmart must also submit an annual report on its activities and finances to the legislatures and governors of the states involved, according to Mississippi’s legislation.
The bill would also give RegionSmart eminent domain powers, provided they abide by each respective state’s procedures and laws for exercising that power.
The bill’s text said that “no part” of RegionSmart’s income and earnings could seek to “benefit or profit” any “private individual or entity” and “upon dissolution” all of the company’s assets will be distributed between the states, counties, and districts involved. The legislation stated that Congress must approve the compact, and at least 2 of the 3 states involved must also ratify the compact with legislation.
The compact bill passed in the Mississippi senate, but died on the calendar in the House of Representatives.
The Arkansas senate introduced a bill to ratify the compact, but the bill died on the senate calendar. The Tennessee bill to ratify the compact was introduced in January, but later died in committee. This means that the bills will not be advancing. Since the compact requires at least 2 of the 3 states involved to pass legislation ratifying it, the compact cannot go into effect.
Mississippi State Rep. Steve Hopkins expressed opposition to the compact, stating on Glenn Beck’s radio show that the project has ties to a company called BlackRock, which is considered the “world’s largest asset manager,” according to DeSoto County News.
RegionSmart’s website stated that the establishment of this interstate compact is in accordance with the United States Constitution.
“The U.S. Constitution authorizes states to enter into Interstate Compacts (“Compact”), which are agreements between States to accomplish certain shared objectives,” the website stated.
This refers to Article 1 Section 10 of the Constitution which permits states to enter into interstate compacts with each other providing the U.S. Congress consents to the compact.
Interstate compacts exist between states across the nation. One example is the Arkansas-Mississippi Great River Bridge Construction Compact, which aims to provide for cooperation to maintain and operate the Mississippi River Bridge.
Arkansas is also a part of the Southern States Energy Compact which was formed in 1962 with congressional consent. The energy compact involved 18 jurisdictions including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and aimed to increase economic development through improvement of energy and environmental policies and technology.
This compact bill comes as the Mississippi River bridge in Memphis was shut down for repairs last May following the discovery of a major crack in the bridge. The inspector responsible had worked for the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) for 15 years, but did not “follow proper protocol” on the bridge inspection, AP reported citing ArDOT. The department did not name the employee responsible for the error, and stated that the case would be referred to federal investigators, according to AP. The bridge was not reopened for traffic until August and cost the trucking industry an estimated $2.4M per day.
The bridge closure occurred as the infrastructure package was being debated in the Senate, and Democrats referred to the incident as reason to pass the bill, AP reported.
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