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Bill passes to let co-ops offer internet

Mississippi lawmakers have passed a measure to allow the state’s electric cooperatives to offer high-speed internet service. The bill will now go to Gov. Phil Bryant for a signature or veto.

The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday for House Bill 366. Sen. Sally Doty of Brookhaven helped push the measure through the Senate. The bill would let Mississippi’s 25 electric cooperatives form subsidiaries to offer broadband internet service. They’re currently banned by state law from doing so.

She said earlier that just because the Legislature removes any legal obstacles so co-ops can offer internet, it does not mean all of them will. She said only “three or four” of the state’s co-ops are willing to develop the infrastructure needed to offer broadband services right away. “Once those three or four get up and running, I think the others will follow suit — but this isn’t a situation where it goes into law July 1 and you have internet Aug. 1,” she said. “It is so expensive, it will have to be done in phases. It’s going to take some time.”

The bill, sponsored by Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton, has been championed by Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat.

Cooperatives wouldn’t be required to enter the internet business and current customers wouldn’t be required to buy service.

The measure allows cooperatives to invest money, loan money or guarantee loans to affiliates, but says they can’t use revenue from electric sales to subsidize broadband.

Local rep authors bill to fight chronic wasting disease in deer

Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, has filed a measure that seeks to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease in the state. Currie’s House Bill 768 will prohibit taking deer with the use of supplemental feed or mineral licks.

It also prohibits the dumping of deer carcasses on roads and highways, or within rights of way of roads or highways. The bill would also require deer carcasses to be buried at least 8 feet under ground or in a lined landfill. It would also require the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to develop and implement a tagging program that specifies date and location of each harvest to help identify deer that may be infected with the disease.

The state in January confirmed two deer shot in Marshall County had chronic wasting disease. Issaquena County has reported two cases, while Pontotoc County has reported one. The disease is present in 25 other states. Tennessee has confirmed 24 cases in two counties bordering Mississippi.

“Right now we need to be very aggressive about this,” Currie told the Clarion Ledger. “Mississippi is all about deer hunting. If we don’t get real proactive we could lose hunting in Mississippi.”

The disease is thought to spread through body fluids. Supplemental feeding brings deer in close proximity and could increase the rate of transmission.