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Senate approves art center

By Staff
From staff reports
Feb. 8, 2001
The state Senate passed legislation Wednesday to officially designate Meridian as the site of a proposed Southern Arts and Entertainment Center.
The bill, S2666 which still faces action in the House was approved by senators without opposition on a procedure known as "morning roll call." While the bill did not provide any state funding, Senate approval was hailed as a "significant step" for the project, which would be built at Bonita Lakes.
State Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said the bill could come up in the House in about three weeks. If it passes there, the "Legislature would be saying it wants the center and it needs to be in Meridian," he said.
The Senate action, and expected final legislative action in the House later this session, lifts the proposal to another level of credibility, and could make it easier to attract private funding from foundations, corporations and individuals, Snowden said. In addition, the possibility of state funding in the future has not been ruled out.
Under terms of the bill, the center would fall under supervision of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
It would consist of a conference center, performing arts theater, amphitheater and artists' village. The center would also conduct ongoing events, such as induction into an arts and entertainment hall of fame, seminars, workshops and demonstrations by guest artists.
Both Carmichael and Snowden lauded the support of Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck as instrumental in Senate passage. Traditionally, the morning roll call is reserved for a vote on non-controversial items that would be expected to pass easily. Technically, some kind of objection could be raised in today's Senate session, but that didn't appear likely, observers said.
Carmichael and Snowden hailed the solidarity of the Lauderdale County area legislative delegation on the proposed center.
The Lauderdale County delegation includes six representatives and three senators whose districts touch the county, including Rep. Tommy Horne, I-Meridian; Rep. Charles Young, D-Meridian; Rep. Eric Robinson, R-Quitman; Rep. Reecy Dickson, D-Macon; Rep. Billy Nicholson, D-Little Rock; and Snowden; and Sen. Terry Burton, D-Newton; Sen. Sampson Jackson, D-DeKalb; and Carmichael.
Under the measure, the center would provide an educational, entertaining and interactive facility to illustrate the unique culture of the state of Mississippi or other southern states. It would also illustrate the outstanding contributions of Mississippians to the fields of arts and entertainment, and provide family-oriented attractions in the delivery of an educational experience to citizens and visitors to Mississippi.
The legislation, which would allow the center to acquire land, would also create in the state Treasury a fund for construction and administration.