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MS Senate seeks to create new state...

MS Senate seeks to create new state Department of Tourism

By: Sarah Ulmer - March 11, 2020

Currently in Mississippi the Tourism department has been a subset of the Mississippi Development Authority included with the Film industry, as well.  SB 2838 authored by Sen. John Polk could remove Tourism from the umbrella of MDA and designate it as its own entity. The bill passed in the Mississippi Senate on Tuesday.

As of now, Tourism sits under the Mississippi Development Authority as “Visit Mississippi” and serves as a guide to tourism across the State of Mississippi. It is managed by Director Craig Ray.

SB 2838, titled the “Mississippi Tourism Reorganization Act,” would effectively create the Mississippi Department of Tourism and a state board the run it. The board would appoint an Executive Director in which authorization of the duties of a state agency would be assigned.

The department would then begin establishing grant programs, overseeing duties, and sell advertising and other promotional material for tourism in the state.

“There is no need to separate tourism and incur the expense that comes with creating a new agency at this time,” a spokesperson for MDA said.  “The Tourism Promotion Act, passed last year, provides much of the financial support needed to strengthen Mississippi’s efforts to draw more visitors to see our beautiful state.”

By definition under the bill the new department “shall be responsible for the promotion, development, and support services for the tourism industry within the state.” All MDA employees affiliated with Tourism now as well as equipment and inventory would be allocated to the new Tourism Division effective July 1, 2020.

Along with the Executive Director, a board consisting of seven members would be constituted. Those include four members appointed by the Governor, one from each Supreme Court district and one from the state at large, and three appointed by the Lt. Governor from the state at large. Initial terms would be for two years with terms of five years thereafter.

The Department’s advertising would continue to be funded by a diverted portion of sales tax revenue collected from restaurants and hotels.

In the Mississippi House, there is a bill that could impact the Department of Information Technology’s control over the Wireless Commission in a similar way the Senate has dealt with Tourism and MDA.

If HB 73 is passed, it would remove the Wireless Commission out from under the IT Board and allow it to function as its own entity. It would consist of Executive Directors across all state agencies.

That commission would have sole authority to create rules and regulations governing wireless communication systems.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: