2006 Regular Session
By: Representative Dedeaux, Bailey, Clarke, Hudson, Moss, Robinson (63rd), Rogers (61st)
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 7-7-213, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE THE STATE AUDITOR TO CHARGE THE ACTUAL COST OF CERTAIN AUDITS TO STATE AND LOCAL ENTITIES; TO AMEND SECTION 7-7-211, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CONFORM TO THE PRECEDING PROVISION; TO AMEND SECTION 27-103-129, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE STATE AGENCIES THAT INTEND TO INCREASE FEES CHARGED TO OTHER STATE AGENCIES TO SUBMIT THEIR PROPOSED FEES TO THE LEGISLATIVE BUDGET OFFICE, INCLUDING THE METHODS FOR DETERMINING THE FEE AND THE COST OF PROVIDING THE SERVICE FOR WHICH THE FEE WILL BE CHARGED, AND TO PROHIBIT THE FEE FROM BECOMING EFFECTIVE UNTIL THE FOLLOWING FISCAL YEAR; TO AMEND SECTION 29-5-6, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT THE OFFICE OF GENERAL SERVICES SHALL CHARGE RENTS TO STATE AGENCIES BASED ON THE COST OF PROVIDING OFFICE SPACE AND UTILITIES TO EACH AGENCY; TO AMEND SECTION 29-9-13, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF AUDIT TO CHARGE STATE AGENCIES THE ACTUAL COST OF MAKING INVENTORY AUDITS; TO AMEND SECTION 25-59-13, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND HISTORY MAY CHARGE REASONABLE FEES FOR RECORDS STORAGE AND OTHER SERVICES TO STATE AGENCIES USING THE STATE RECORDS CENTER, PROVIDED THAT THE FEES DO NOT EXCEED THE ACTUAL COST OF PROVIDING THE SERVICE; TO AMEND SECTION 37-141-5, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO AUTHORIZE THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF STATE INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING TO CHARGE FEES TO ANY STATE AGENCY OR OTHER ENTITY THAT OCCUPIES SPACE AT THE UNIVERSITY RESEARCH CENTER, BASED ON THE BOARD'S COST OF PROVIDING SERVICES TO EACH AGENCY OR ENTITY; TO AMEND SECTION 65-1-8, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION TO CHARGE REASONABLE FEES NOT TO EXCEED COST TO ANY STATE AGENCY OR THE OFFICE OF STATE AID ROAD CONSTRUCTION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION FOR ANY SOIL TESTING OR RECORDS DUPLICATION SERVICES RENDERED; TO AMEND SECTION 71-5-143, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY TO PROVIDE REPORTS TO OTHER STATE AGENCIES AND TO RECOUP THE COSTS OF PRODUCING THOSE REPORTS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 7-7-213, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
7-7-213. The costs of audits and other services required by Sections 7-7-201 through 7-7-215, except for those audits and services authorized by Section 7-7-211(k) which shall be funded by appropriations made by the Legislature from such funds as it deems appropriate, shall be paid from a special fund that is created in the State Treasury, to be known as the State Department of Audit Fund, into which will be paid each year the amounts received for performing audits required by law. Except as provided in Section 7-7-211(d) and any municipality required under this chapter to be audited by the State Auditor, the amounts to be charged for performing audits and other services shall be the actual cost * * * per auditor day. In the event of failure by any unit of government to pay the charges authorized herein, the Department of Audit shall notify the State Fiscal Officer, and upon a determination that the charges are substantially correct, the State Fiscal Officer shall notify the defaulting unit of his determination. If payment is not made within thirty (30) days after such notification, the State Fiscal Officer shall notify the State Treasurer and Department of Public Accounts that no further warrants are to be issued to the defaulting unit until the deficiency is paid.
The cost of any service by the department not required of it under the provisions of the cited sections but made necessary by the willful fault or negligence of an officer or employee of any public office of the state shall be recovered (i) from such officer or employee and/or surety on official bond thereof and/or (ii) from the individual, partnership, corporation or association involved, in the same manner and under the same terms, when necessary, as provided the department for recovering public funds in Section 7-7-211.
The State Auditor shall deliver a copy of any audit of the fiscal and financial affairs of a county to the chancery clerk of such county and shall deliver a notice stating that a copy of such audit is on file in the chancery clerk's office to some newspaper published in the county to be published. If no newspaper is published in the county, a copy of such notice shall be delivered to a newspaper having a general circulation therein.
SECTION 2. Section 7-7-211, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
7-7-211. The department shall have the power and it shall be its duty:
(a) To identify and define for all public offices of the state and its subdivisions generally accepted accounting principles as promulgated by nationally recognized professional organizations and to consult with the State Fiscal Officer in the prescription and implementation of accounting rules and regulations;
(b) To prescribe, for all public offices of regional and local subdivisions of the state, systems of accounting, budgeting and reporting financial facts relating to those offices in conformity with legal requirements and with generally accepted accounting principles as promulgated by nationally recognized professional organizations; to assist such subdivisions in need of assistance in the installation of such systems; to revise such systems when deemed necessary, and to report to the Legislature at periodic times the extent to which each office is maintaining such systems, along with such recommendations to the Legislature for improvement as seem desirable;
(c) To study and analyze existing managerial policies, methods, procedures, duties and services of the various state departments and institutions upon written request of the Governor, the Legislature or any committee or other body empowered by the Legislature to make such request to determine whether and where operations can be eliminated, combined, simplified and improved;
(d) To postaudit each year and, when deemed necessary, preaudit and investigate the financial affairs of the departments, institutions, boards, commissions or other agencies of state government, as part of the publication of a comprehensive annual financial report for the State of Mississippi. In complying with the requirements of this subsection, the department shall have the authority to conduct all necessary audit procedures on an interim and year-end basis;
(e) To postaudit and, when deemed necessary, preaudit and investigate separately the financial affairs of (i) the offices, boards and commissions of county governments and any departments and institutions thereof and therein; (ii) public school districts, departments of education and junior college districts; and (iii) any other local offices or agencies which share revenues derived from taxes or fees imposed by the State Legislature or receive grants from revenues collected by governmental divisions of the state. The cost of such audits, investigations or other services shall be paid * * * by the county, district, department, institution or other agency audited out of its general fund or any other available funds from which such payment is not prohibited by law;
(f) To postaudit and, when deemed necessary, preaudit and investigate the financial affairs of the levee boards; agencies created by the Legislature or by executive order of the Governor; profit or nonprofit business entities administering programs financed by funds flowing through the State Treasury or through any of the agencies of the state, or its subdivisions; and all other public bodies supported by funds derived in part or wholly from public funds, except municipalities which annually submit an audit prepared by a qualified certified public accountant using methods and procedures prescribed by the department;
(g) To make written demand, when necessary, for the recovery of any amounts representing public funds improperly withheld, misappropriated and/or otherwise illegally expended by an officer, employee or administrative body of any state, county or other public office, and/or for the recovery of the value of any public property disposed of in an unlawful manner by a public officer, employee or administrative body, such demands to be made (i) upon the person or persons liable for such amounts and upon the surety on official bond thereof, and/or (ii) upon any individual, partnership, corporation or association to whom the illegal expenditure was made or with whom the unlawful disposition of public property was made, if such individual, partnership, corporation or association knew or had reason to know through the exercising of reasonable diligence that the expenditure was illegal or the disposition unlawful. Such demand shall be premised on competent evidence, which shall include at least one (1) of the following: (i) sworn statements, (ii) written documentation, (iii) physical evidence, or (iv) reports and findings of government or other law enforcement agencies. Other provisions notwithstanding, a demand letter issued pursuant to this subsection shall remain confidential by the State Auditor until the individual against whom the demand letter is being filed has been served with a copy of such demand letter. If, however, such individual cannot be notified within fifteen (15) days using reasonable means and due diligence, such notification shall be made to the individual's bonding company, if he or she is bonded. Each such demand shall be paid into the proper treasury of the state, county or other public body through the office of the department in the amount demanded within thirty (30) days from the date thereof, together with interest thereon in the sum of one percent (1%) per month from the date such amount or amounts were improperly withheld, misappropriated and/or otherwise illegally expended. In the event, however, such person or persons or such surety shall refuse, neglect or otherwise fail to pay the amount demanded and the interest due thereon within the allotted thirty (30) days, the State Auditor shall have the authority and it shall be his duty to institute suit, and the Attorney General shall prosecute the same in any court of the state to the end that there shall be recovered the total of such amounts from the person or persons and surety on official bond named therein; and the amounts so recovered shall be paid into the proper treasury of the state, county or other public body through the State Auditor. In any case where written demand is issued to a surety on the official bond of such person or persons and the surety refuses, neglects or otherwise fails within one hundred twenty (120) days to either pay the amount demanded and the interest due thereon or to give the State Auditor a written response with specific reasons for nonpayment, then the surety shall be subject to a civil penalty in an amount of twelve percent (12%) of the bond, not to exceed Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00), to be deposited into the State General Fund;
(h) To investigate any alleged or suspected violation of the laws of the state by any officer or employee of the state, county or other public office in the purchase, sale or the use of any supplies, services, equipment or other property belonging thereto; and in such investigation to do any and all things necessary to procure evidence sufficient either to prove or disprove the existence of such alleged or suspected violations. The Department of Investigation of the State Department of Audit may investigate, for the purpose of prosecution, any suspected criminal violation of the provisions of this chapter. For the purpose of administration and enforcement of this chapter, the enforcement employees of the Department of Investigation of the State Department of Audit have the powers of a law enforcement officer of this state, and shall be empowered to make arrests and to serve and execute search warrants and other valid legal process anywhere within the State of Mississippi. All enforcement employees of the Department of Investigation of the State Department of Audit hired on or after July 1, 1993, shall be required to complete the Law Enforcement Officers Training Program and shall meet the standards of the program;
(i) To issue subpoenas, with the approval of, and returnable to, a judge of a chancery or circuit court, in termtime or in vacation, to examine the records, documents or other evidence of persons, firms, corporations or any other entities insofar as such records, documents or other evidence relate to dealings with any state, county or other public entity. The circuit or chancery judge must serve the county in which the records, documents or other evidence is located; or where all or part of the transaction or transactions occurred which are the subject of the subpoena;
(j) In any instances in which the State Auditor is or shall be authorized or required to examine or audit, whether preaudit or postaudit, any books, ledgers, accounts or other records of the affairs of any public hospital owned or owned and operated by one or more political subdivisions or parts thereof or any combination thereof, or any school district, including activity funds thereof, it shall be sufficient compliance therewith, in the discretion of the State Auditor, that such examination or audit be made from the report of any audit or other examination certified by a certified public accountant and prepared by or under the supervision of such certified public accountant. Such audits shall be made in accordance with generally accepted standards of auditing, with the use of an audit program prepared by the State Auditor, and final reports of such audits shall conform to the format prescribed by the State Auditor. All files, working papers, notes, correspondence and all other data compiled during the course of the audit shall be available, without cost, to the State Auditor for examination and abstracting during the normal business hours of any business day. The expense of such certified reports shall be borne by the respective hospital, or any available school district funds other than minimum program funds, subject to examination or audit. The State Auditor shall not be bound by such certified reports and may, in his or their discretion, conduct such examination or audit from the books, ledgers, accounts or other records involved as may be appropriate and authorized by law;
(k) The State Auditor shall have the authority to contract with qualified public accounting firms to perform selected audits required in subsections (d), (e) and (f) of this section, if funds are made available for such contracts by the Legislature, or if funds are available from the governmental entity covered by subsections (d), (e) and (f). Such audits shall be made in accordance with generally accepted standards of auditing, with the use of an audit program prepared by the State Auditor, and final reports of such audits shall conform to the format prescribed by the State Auditor. All files, working papers, notes, correspondence and all other data compiled during the course of the audit shall be available, without cost, to the State Auditor for examination and abstracting during the normal business hours of any business day;
(l) The State Auditor shall have the authority to establish training courses and programs for the personnel of the various state and local governmental entities under the jurisdiction of the Office of the State Auditor. The training courses and programs shall include, but not be limited to, topics on internal control of funds, property and equipment control and inventory, governmental accounting and financial reporting, and internal auditing. The State Auditor is authorized to charge a fee from the participants of these courses and programs, which fee shall be deposited into the Department of Audit Special Fund. State and local governmental entities are authorized to pay such fee and any travel expenses out of their general funds or any other available funds from which such payment is not prohibited by law;
(m) Upon written request by the Governor or any member of the State Legislature, the State Auditor may audit any state funds and/or state and federal funds received by any nonprofit corporation incorporated under the laws of this state;
(n) To conduct performance audits of personal or professional service contracts by state agencies on a random sampling basis, or upon request of the State Personal Service Contract Review Board under Section 25-9-120(3);
(o) To annually postaudit the Chickasawhay Natural Gas District. The Department of Audit shall charge the Chickasawhay Natural Gas District, audited by the authority of this paragraph, the sum of Thirty Dollars ($30.00) per hour for each hour of staff time devoted to the auditing of the district. The Chickasawhay Natural Gas District shall pay for the audit fees from any sums available to the district for its general operations.
SECTION 3. Section 27-103-129, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
27-103-129. (1) To enable the Legislative Budget Office to prepare such budget, it shall have full and plenary power and authority to require all general-fund and special-fund agencies and the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Office of State Aid Road Construction of the Mississippi Department of Transportation to file a budget request with such information and in such form and in such detail as it may deem necessary and advisable, and it shall have the further power and authority to reduce or eliminate any item or items of requested appropriation by any state agency in the Legislative Budget Office's recommended budget to the Legislature. However, where any item of requested appropriation shall be so reduced or eliminated, the head of the agency involved shall have the right to appear before the appropriate legislative committee to urge a revision of the budget to restore the item reduced or eliminated. Beginning with the 1996 fiscal year, the budget requests shall include a definition of the mission of the agency, a description of the duties and responsibilities of the agency, financial data relative to the various programs operated by the agency and performance measures associated with each program of the agency. The performance measures to be contained within the agency budget request shall be developed by cooperative efforts of the Legislative Budget Office, the Department of Finance and Administration and the agency itself and shall be approved jointly by the Legislative Budget Office and the Department of Finance and Administration prior to inclusion within the agency budget request. Beginning with the 1996 fiscal year, the budget requests shall also include in an addendum format a five-year strategic plan for the agency which shall include, but not be limited to, the following items of information: (a) a comprehensive mission statement, (b) performance effectiveness objectives for each program of the agency for each of the five (5) years covered by the plan, (c) a description of significant external factors which may affect the projected levels of performance, (d) a description of the agency's internal management system utilized to evaluate its performance achievements in relationship to the targeted performance levels, (e) an evaluation by the agency of the agency's performance achievements in relationship to the targeted performance levels for the two (2) preceding fiscal years for which accounting records have been finalized.
(2) As part of the budget request, all general-fund and special-fund agencies and the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Office of State Aid Road Construction of the Mississippi Department of Transportation shall submit to the Legislative Budget Office any proposed increases of any fee or charge for services or rent, or other cost recapture that those entities propose charging to any other state general-fund, special-fund, or other state agency. The proposed fee shall be accompanied by a needs assessment that details why the fee should be imposed, the legal authority for imposing the fee, and a cost analysis explaining through a sound methodology that the fee is intended to recapture the costs of providing services, building space, or some other benefit to another agency of state government.
Any such fee described in this subsection shall not become effective until the fiscal year beginning on July 1 following the submission of the fee proposal to the Legislative Budget Office.
SECTION 4. Section 29-5-6, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
29-5-6. All monies expended by the Bureau of Capitol Facilities shall be drawn out of the State Treasury only upon the warrant of the Department of Finance and Administration, which shall issue the same only where a specific itemized account shall have been rendered it, which account shall be approved in writing by the Director of the Bureau of Capitol Facilities.
Any department, agency or political subdivision of the government of the state, or any organization occupying offices in any of the office buildings under the jurisdiction or control of the Office of General Services shall pay as directed by the office into the fund created in Section 27-104-107(7), a rent to be fixed by the office that shall be based on the actual cost of providing office space and utilities to the agency, department or political subdivision. The Veterans Affairs Board shall pay rent for veterans organizations and veterans auxiliary organizations presently using space in the property described, set apart, and exclusively dedicated as a perpetual memorial to the veterans of World War I, 1914-1918, by Chapter 297, Laws of 1934, if it becomes necessary for such rent to be paid.
In the event that the sums are not paid as directed by the Office of General Services, the director of the office may issue a requisition for a warrant to draw the amount as may be due, plus a penalty of ten percent (10%) of the amount, from any fund appropriated for the use of the agency which has failed to pay rental as agreed.
SECTION 5. Section 29-9-13, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
29-9-13. Representatives of the State Department of Audit under the direction of the State Auditor of Public Accounts, in making regular audits of the different state agencies, shall reconcile all invoices and records with the agencies' property inventories, and shall make a check or physical audit of the actual items or properties shown on their inventories and related records. The State Department of Audit shall charge state agencies the actual cost per auditor day for making the inventory audits required under this section. Each state agency, the Secretary of the Senate, and the Clerk of the House of Representatives, when requested to do so, shall furnish a competent person or persons to assist in this check or physical audit. The Auditor shall keep his records current at all times and shall report to the agency concerned any such changes made and the general status of the inventory involved, on the completion of each audit. This report shall also be included in the audit reports of the State Department of Audit covering the different state agencies. The State Auditor shall use such reports from the State Department of Audit to correct and maintain current the inventories in his office.
SECTION 6. Section 25-59-13, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-59-13. The transfer of records to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History shall be in accordance with the following:
(a) Agencies and appointed or elected officials are hereby authorized and empowered to turn over to the department any records no longer in current official use and the department is authorized, after conducting appropriate archival appraisal, to accept such records and to provide for their administration and preservation.
(b) All records of state agencies transferred to the department may be held in the records center or placed directly in the Mississippi State Archives as deemed appropriate.
(c) Title to any record placed in the records center shall remain in the agency transferring such records to the department.
(d) Title to any record transferred to the Mississippi State Archives shall be vested in the department.
(e) The department may make certified copies under seal of any records transferred to it upon the application of any person and those certificates signed by the director shall have the same force and effect as if made by the agency from which the records were received.
(f) The department may prescribe and charge reasonable fees for those services, which shall not exceed the actual cost of providing records storage or any other service rendered by the department.
SECTION 7. Section 37-141-5, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-141-5. (1) The main office building of the University Research Center and the Department of Economic Development in the City of Jackson shall be known and designated as the Paul B. Johnson, Jr. Building. The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and the Governor's Office of General Services shall coordinate and cooperate to effect the relocation of the Department of Economic Development to the Paul B. Johnson, Jr. Building and any other related agency relocations necessary to accomplish the requirement of this section if such relocation is feasible. If such relocation of the Department of Economic Development to the Paul B. Johnson, Jr. Building is not feasible because of space limitations, the Governor's Office of General Services shall coordinate the relocation of such department to some other location and shall, if possible, secure the amount of space necessary to also place the University Research Center in the same location with the department.
The Office of General Services shall provide proper signs to be placed on the building in accordance with this section.
(2) The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning shall be authorized to charge state agencies and other entities that occupy portions of the University Research Center for utilities, maintenance, and security. Those charges shall be based on the board's cost of providing services to each agency or entity. For purposes of this subsection, the University Research Center includes the Paul B. Johnson, Jr., Building, the Edsel E. Thrash Universities Center and the ETV Building.
SECTION 8. Section 65-1-8, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
65-1-8. (1) The Mississippi Transportation Commission shall have the following general powers, duties and responsibilities:
(a) To coordinate and develop a comprehensive, balanced transportation policy for the State of Mississippi;
(b) To promote the coordinated and efficient use of all available and future modes of transportation;
(c) To make recommendations to the Legislature regarding alterations or modifications in any existing transportation policies;
(d) To study means of encouraging travel and transportation of goods by the combination of motor vehicle and other modes of transportation;
(e) To take such actions as are necessary and proper to discharge its duties pursuant to the provisions of Laws, 1992, Chapter 496, and any other provision of law;
(f) To receive and provide for the expenditure of any funds made available to it by the Legislature, the federal government or any other source.
(2) In addition to the general powers, duties and responsibilities listed in subsection (1) of this section, the Mississippi Transportation Commission shall have the following specific powers:
(a) To make rules and regulations whereby the Transportation Department shall change or relocate any and all highways herein or hereafter fixed as constituting a part of the state highway system, as may be deemed necessary or economical in the construction or maintenance thereof; to acquire by gift, purchase, condemnation or otherwise, land or other property whatsoever that may be necessary for a state highway system as herein provided, with full consideration to be given to the stimulation of local public and private investment when acquiring such property in the vicinity of Mississippi towns, cities and population centers;
(b) To enforce by mandamus, or other proper legal remedies, all legal rights or rights of action of the Mississippi Transportation Commission with other public bodies, corporations or persons;
(c) To make and publish rules, regulations and ordinances for the control of and the policing of the traffic on the state highways, and to prevent their abuse by any or all persons, natural or artificial, by trucks, tractors, trailers or any other heavy or destructive vehicles or machines, or by any other means whatsoever, by establishing weights of loads or of vehicles, types of tires, width of tire surfaces, length and width of vehicles, with reasonable variations to meet approximate weather conditions, and all other proper police and protective regulations, and to provide ample means for the enforcement of same. The violation of any of the rules, regulations or ordinances so prescribed by the commission shall constitute a misdemeanor. No rule, regulation or ordinance shall be made that conflicts with any statute now in force or which may hereafter be enacted, or with any ordinance of municipalities. A monthly publication giving general information to the boards of supervisors, employees and the public may be issued under such rules and regulations as the commission may determine;
(d) To give suitable numbers to highways and to change the number of any highway that shall become a part of the state highway system. However, nothing herein shall authorize the number of any highway to be changed so as to conflict with any designation thereof as a U.S. numbered highway. Where, by a specific act of the Legislature, the commission has been directed to give a certain number to a highway, the commission shall not have the authority to change such number;
(e) (i) To make proper and reasonable rules, regulations, and ordinances for the placing, erection, removal or relocation of telephone, telegraph or other poles, signboards, fences, gas, water, sewerage, oil or other pipelines, and other obstructions that may, in the opinion of the commission, contribute to the hazards upon any of the state highways, or in any way interfere with the ordinary travel upon such highways, or the construction, reconstruction or maintenance thereof, and to make reasonable rules and regulations for the proper control thereof. Any violation of such rules or regulations or noncompliance with such ordinances shall constitute a misdemeanor;
(ii) Except as otherwise provided for in this paragraph, whenever the order of the commission shall require the removal of, or other changes in the location of telephone, telegraph or other poles, signboards, gas, water, sewerage, oil or other pipelines; or other similar obstructions on the right-of-way or such other places where removal is required by law, the owners thereof shall at their own expense move or change the same to conform to the order of the commission. Any violation of such rules or regulations or noncompliance with such orders shall constitute a misdemeanor;
(iii) Rural water districts, rural water systems, nonprofit water associations and municipal public water systems in municipalities with a population of ten thousand (10,000) or less, according to the latest federal decennial census, shall not be required to bear the cost and expense of removal and relocation of water and sewer lines and facilities constructed or in place in the rights-of-way of state highways. The cost and expense of such removal and relocation, including any unpaid prior to July 1, 2002, shall be paid by the Department of Transportation;
(iv) Municipal public sewer systems and municipal gas systems owned by municipalities with a population of ten thousand (10,000) or less, according to the latest federal decennial census, shall not be required to bear the cost and expense of removal and relocation of lines and facilities constructed or in place in the rights-of-way of state highways. The cost and expense of such removal and relocation, including any unpaid prior to July 1, 2003, shall be paid by the Department of Transportation;
(f) To regulate and abandon grade crossings on any road fixed as a part of the state highway system, and whenever the commission, in order to avoid a grade crossing with the railroad, locates or constructs the road on one side of the railroad, the commission shall have the power to abandon and close such grade crossing, and whenever an underpass or overhead bridge is substituted for a grade crossing, the commission shall have power to abandon such grade crossing and any other crossing adjacent thereto. Included in the powers herein granted shall be the power to require the railroad at grade crossings, where any road of the state highway system crosses the same, to place signal posts with lights or other warning devices at such crossings at the expense of the railroad, and to regulate and abandon underpass or overhead bridges and, where abandoned because of the construction of a new underpass or overhead bridge, to close such old underpass or overhead bridge, or, in its discretion, to return the same to the jurisdiction of the county board of supervisors;
(g) To make proper and reasonable rules and regulations to control the cutting or opening of the road surfaces for subsurface installations;
(h) To make proper and reasonable rules and regulations for the removal from the public rights-of-way of any form of obstruction, to cooperate in improving their appearance, and to prescribe minimum clearance heights for seed conveyors, pipes, passageways or other structure of private or other ownership above the highways;
(i) To establish, and have the Transportation Department maintain and operate, and to cooperate with the state educational institutions in establishing, enlarging, maintaining and operating a laboratory or laboratories for testing materials and for other proper highway purposes;
(j) To provide, under the direction and with the approval of the Department of Finance and Administration, suitable offices, shops and barns in the City of Jackson;
(k) To establish and have enforced set-back regulations;
(l) To cooperate with proper state authorities in producing limerock for highway purposes and to purchase same at cost;
(m) To provide for the purchase of necessary equipment and vehicles and to provide for the repair and housing of same, to acquire by gift, purchase, condemnation or otherwise, land or lands and buildings in fee simple, and to authorize the Transportation Department to construct, lease or otherwise provide necessary and proper permanent district offices for the construction and maintenance divisions of the department, and for the repair and housing of the equipment and vehicles of the department; however, in each Supreme Court district only two (2) permanent district offices shall be set up, but a permanent status shall not be given to any such offices until so provided by act of the Legislature and in the meantime, all shops of the department shall be retained at their present location. As many local or subdistrict offices, shops or barns may be provided as is essential and proper to economical maintenance of the state highway system;
(n) To cooperate with the Department of Archives and History in having placed and maintained suitable historical markers, including those which have been approved and purchased by the State Historical Commission, along state highways, and to have constructed and maintained roadside driveways for convenience and safety in viewing them when necessary;
(o) To cooperate, in its discretion, with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks in planning and constructing roadside parks upon the right-of-way of state highways, whether constructed, under construction, or planned; those parks to utilize where practical barrow pits used in construction of state highways for use as fishing ponds. Those parks shall be named for abundant flora and fauna existing in the area or for the first flora or fauna found on the site;
(p) Unless otherwise prohibited by law, to make such contracts and execute such instruments containing such reasonable and necessary appropriate terms, provisions and conditions as in its absolute discretion it may deem necessary, proper or advisable, for the purpose of obtaining or securing financial assistance, grants or loans from the United States of America or any department or agency thereof, including contracts with several counties of the state pertaining to the expenditure of such funds;
(q) To cooperate with the Federal Highway Administration in the matter of location, construction and maintenance of the Great River Road, to expend such funds paid to the commission by the Federal Highway Administration or other federal agency, and to authorize the Transportation Department to erect suitable signs marking this highway, the cost of such signs to be paid from state highway funds other than earmarked construction funds;
(r) To cooperate, in its discretion, with the Mississippi Forestry Commission and the School of Forestry, Mississippi State University, in a forestry management program, including planting, thinning, cutting and selling, upon the right-of-way of any highway, constructed, acquired or maintained by the Transportation Department, and to sell and dispose of any and all growing timber standing, lying or being on any right-of-way acquired by the commission for highway purposes in the future; such sale or sales to be made in accordance with the sale of personal property which has become unnecessary for public use as provided for in Section 65-1-123, Mississippi Code of 1972;
(s) To expend funds in cooperation with the Division of Plant Industry, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, the United States government or any department or agency thereof, or with any department or agency of this state, to control, suppress or eradicate serious insect pests, rodents, plant parasites and plant diseases on the state highway rights-of-way;
(t) To provide for the placement, erection and maintenance of motorist services business signs and supports within state highway rights-of-way in accordance with current state and federal laws and regulations governing the placement of traffic control devices on state highways, and to establish and collect reasonable fees from the businesses having information on such signs;
(u) To request and to accept the use of persons convicted of an offense, whether a felony or a misdemeanor, for work on any road construction, repair or other project of the Transportation Department. The commission is also authorized to request and to accept the use of persons who have not been convicted of an offense but who are required to fulfill certain court-imposed conditions pursuant to Section 41-29-150(d)(1) or 99-15-26, or the Pretrial Intervention Act, being Sections 99-15-101 through 99-15-127. The commission is authorized to enter into any agreements with the Department of Corrections, the State Parole Board, any criminal court of this state, and any other proper official regarding the working, guarding, safekeeping, clothing and subsistence of such persons performing work for the Transportation Department. Such persons shall not be deemed agents, employees or involuntary servants of the Transportation Department while performing such work or while going to and from work or other specified areas;
(v) To provide for the administration of the railroad revitalization program pursuant to Section 57-43-1 et seq.;
(w) The Mississippi Transportation Commission is further authorized, in its discretion, to expend funds for the purchase of service pins for employees of the Mississippi Transportation Department;
(x) To cooperate with the State Tax Commission by providing for weight enforcement field personnel to collect and assess taxes, fees and penalties and to perform all duties as required pursuant to Section 27-55-501 et seq., Sections 27-19-1 et seq., 27-55-1 et seq., 27-59-1 et seq. and 27-61-1 et seq., with regard to vehicles subject to the jurisdiction of the Office of Weight Enforcement. All collections and assessments shall be transferred daily to the State Tax Commission;
(y) The Mississippi Transportation Commission may delegate the authority to enter into a supplemental agreement to a contract previously approved by the commission if the supplemental agreement involves an additional expenditure not to exceed One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000.00);
(z) (i) The Mississippi Transportation Commission, in its discretion, may enter into agreements with any county, municipality, county transportation commission, business, corporation, partnership, association, individual or other legal entity, for the purpose of accelerating the completion date of scheduled highway construction projects.
(ii) Such an agreement may permit the cost of a highway construction project to be advanced to the commission by a county, municipality, county transportation commission, business, corporation, partnership, association, individual or other legal entity, and repaid to such entity by the commission when highway construction funds become available; provided, however, that repayment of funds advanced to the Mississippi Transportation Commission shall be made no sooner than the commission's identified projected revenue schedule for funding of that particular construction project, and no other scheduled highway construction project established by statute or by the commission may be delayed by an advanced funding project authorized under this paragraph (z). Repayments to a private entity that advances funds to the Mississippi Transportation Commission under this paragraph (z) may not include interest or other fees or charges, and the total amount repaid shall not exceed the total amount of funds advanced to the commission by the entity.
(iii) In considering whether to enter into such an agreement, the commission shall consider the availability of financial resources, the effect of such agreement on other ongoing highway construction, the urgency of the public's need for swift completion of the project and any other relevant factors.
(iv) Such an agreement shall be executed only upon a finding by the commission, spread upon its minutes, that the acceleration of the scheduled project is both feasible and beneficial. The commission shall also spread upon its minutes its findings with regard to the factors required to be considered pursuant to item (iii) of this paragraph (z);
(aa) The Mississippi Transportation Commission, in its discretion, may purchase employment practices liability insurance, and may purchase an excess policy to cover catastrophic losses incurred under the commission's self-insured workers' compensation program authorized under Section 71-3-5. Such policies shall be written by the agent or agents of a company or companies authorized to do business in the State of Mississippi. The deductibles shall be in an amount deemed reasonable and prudent by the commission, and the premiums thereon shall be paid from the State Highway Fund. Purchase of insurance under this paragraph shall not serve as an actual or implied waiver of sovereign immunity or of any protection afforded the commission under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act;
(bb) The Mississippi Transportation Commission is further authorized, in its discretion, to expend funds for the purchase of promotional materials for safety purposes, highway beautification purposes and recruitment purposes;
(cc) To lease antenna space on communication towers which it owns;
(dd) To charge reasonable fees to other state agencies and to the Office of State Aid Road Construction of the Department of Transportation for any soil test or records duplication services so long as the fee does not exceed the actual cost of providing the service.
SECTION 9. Section 71-5-143, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
71-5-143. (1) In the administration of this chapter, the department shall cooperate, to the fullest extent consistent with the provisions of this chapter, with the Social Security Board created by the Social Security Act, approved August 14, 1935, as amended; shall make such reports in such form and containing such information as the Social Security Board may from time to time require, and shall comply with such provisions as the Social Security Board may from time to time find necessary to assure the correctness and verification of such reports; and shall comply with the reasonable, valid and lawful regulations prescribed by the Social Security Board pursuant to and under the authority of the Social Security Act, governing the expenditures of such sums as may be allotted and paid to this state under Title III of the Social Security Act, as amended, for the purpose of assisting in the administration of this chapter.
Upon request therefor, the department shall furnish to any agency of the United States charged with the administration of public works, or assistance through public employment, the name, address, ordinary occupation and employment status of each recipient of benefits, and such recipient's rights to further benefits under this chapter.
(2) In addition to providing reports to agencies of the federal government, the department may furnish reports to state agencies, provided that it recoups the cost of producing the reports from those agencies.
SECTION 10. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2006.