OFFICIAL STATEMENT: Statement on Senate Bill 2780

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MICHAEL WATSON Secretary of State| Monday, March 18, 2024

As Mississippi’s Secretary of State, I take seriously my role as a statewide elected official to uphold the law, promote transparency in government, and ensure Mississippians receive accurate and trusted information. With numerous false narratives circulating regarding Senate Bill 2780 (SB 2780), it is imperative for our office to provide legitimate information and education on this bill.


Mississippi law imposes many duties on the Secretary of State including acting as the State Land Commissioner and Trustee of the Public Trust Tidelands. Tidelands, generally the property waterward of the natural mean high water, were given to the State to be held in trust for all state citizens. This includes, but is greater than, just the Coast and its residents.


To confirm and provide clarity on the role and duties of the Tidelands Trustee while giving more autonomy to coastal cities and counties, the state Senate recently passed SB 2780 which included unanimous support from the coastal delegation.


Since this may not be the narrative some have heard, I have outlined the bill’s major components below.

  • Guarantees a city or county, once it enters a minimally conditioned and rent-exempt lease with the State, control and management of its harbors, piers, and boat launches without interference from this office so long as it protects the higher public purpose imposed on Tidelands.
  • A city or county may keep income from any sub-lease or rental for its harbor operation (current law requires revenue to be deposited into the Tidelands Fund to split among three counties).
  • Confirms the duty imposed on the State of Mississippi and Harrison County by the federal courts in US v. Harrison County which resulted from the sand beach “wade-in” civil rights litigation to protect the sand beach for “perpetual public use” and to prevent upland owners from “placing any fill, structure, or other obstruction in and upon the sand beach.”

I have previously called on the legislature to provide clarity on Tidelands issues for the benefit of coastal residents and all Mississippians. I appreciate the efforts of our senators and representatives and will continue to support the discussed legislation as it moves through the legislative process.


As always, I will make myself available to elected officials, to our great residents, and to my detractors to discuss this or any other issue concerning my office. Sadly, a handful of individuals interested in this issue aren’t acting as honest brokers, but honest and open debate will always produce a better product. Misrepresentation and misapplication of facts only reek of desperate self-interest with little room for resolve.
 
MICHAEL WATSON
Secretary of State
State of Mississippi

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