2023 Regular Session
By: Representatives Bell (65th), Brown (70th), Banks, Clarke, Foster, Stamps, Crudup
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 21-27-77, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO EXTEND THE DATE OF REPEAL FROM JULY 1, 2023, TO JULY 1, 2026, ON THE PROVISION OF LAW THAT ALLOWS CERTAIN MUNICIPALITIES TO ADOPT RULES AND PROCEDURES FOR ACCOUNTING SYSTEM ACCOMMODATIONS OF CERTAIN UNCOLLECTIBLE INDEBTEDNESS OWED BY A CUSTOMER FOR WATER AND SEWER SERVICES; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 21-27-77, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
21-27-77. (1) A municipality having a population of one hundred fifty thousand (150,000) as of the most recent decennial census or more may institute a program to address certain disputed or delinquent water and sewer customer accounts. The municipality must adopt rules and procedures to implement the program if instituted. Such rules may consider the customer's ability to pay the full amount of the disputed or delinquent claim. In order for the program to take effect, the mayor of the municipality, the Municipal Director of Public Works, and Executive Director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff shall mutually approve such rules and procedures by July 1, 2021. The rules and procedures shall include, but not be limited to, an itemized summary of the amount and number of all accounts judged to be disputed or delinquent. The municipality's authority to compromise doubtful claims is limited to the following cases:
(a) (i) Instances of error on the part of the municipality such as equipment failure, process failure or billing failure;
(ii) Instances of error on the part of the municipality due to unforeseen circumstance such as damage, extreme weather-related event, declared disaster or emergency, or mandatory evacuation, but only to the extent the customer did not receive the benefit of the water or sewer service; and
(b) Instances where the customer's ability to pay or the amount of the customer's overdue balance for water and sewer service can be reasonably adjudged to be uncollectible, in which case the municipality may utilize an installment payment agreement to allow the customer additional time to pay a prescribed portion of the outstanding balance, and as part of the installment payment plan, to offer the utilization by the municipality of accounting procedures to move the remaining balance as an uncollectible debt to a special municipal accounting category of uncollectible or inactive accounts as outlined in the program rules if the customer fulfills all terms of the installment plan. The prescribed portion must require some payment by the customer. The program must provide that the accounting adjustments under this paragraph (b) do not result in forgiveness of uncollectible debts.
(2) The municipality may set program parameters to take into account the principle of collateral estoppel as to its own prior service, billing or collection actions.
(3) Any utility that participates in the program shall provide by January 1, 2022, to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Mississippi Public Utilities Staff a report that details the utility's revenue collection, the number of accounts that have been adjudged uncollectable, the number of accounts that are participating in the installment payment plans, the number of accounts that are overdue, and the effect of the program on the utility's revenue collection. Such report shall also include the utility's plan to address any remaining disputed or delinquent claims that have not been resolved, to provide fair and accurate bills to all of its customers, and to reduce equipment failure, process failure, and billing failures in the future.
(4) For the purpose of this section, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff may enter into professional services contracts to ensure the success of the program. The municipally owned utility shall reimburse the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff for such contracts, not to exceed Two Hundred Thousand Dollars ($200,000.00) over the duration of the program.
(5) This section shall stand
repealed on July 1, * * *
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2023.