Legislation aiding Mississippi’s Katrina recovery by relocating the CSX railroad line, replacing the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, covering uninsured hurricane-related losses at Northrop Grumman Shipyard and replacing damaged voting equipment passed the U.S. Senate Thursday by a vote of 78-20, U.S. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi said.
The 2006 war and hurricane relief emergency spending bill now will be conferenced with a different version passed earlier by the House of Representatives, and final votes will occur in both the House and the Senate on a reconciled conference report.
“Mississippi desperately needs the funds in this bill to bring our displaced veterans back home to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport,” Senator Lott said of the $176 million appropriation to build a new multi-building retirement facility. “They’ve been waiting long enough.”
Senator Lott said the relocation of the CSX railroad away from the Coast will prevent railroad crossing deaths and guard against the loss of rail access in future hurricanes. “Following Katrina, we were without rail transportation for five months in and out of South Mississippi, a calamity which impeded our hurricane relief effort and rebuilding efforts,” Senator Lott said of the $700 million project approval. “We have an obligation in our rebuilding and recovery plans to build back better.”
The bill passed by the Senate Thursday also includes $30 million in grants to Gulf states to replace voting machines and voting materials damaged or destroyed during the hurricane and funds to cover administrative costs of absentee voting for those displaced by the storm. The funding was authorized by the full Senate in February by a Lott-authored bill.
Another key provision to sustain Mississippi shipbuilding jobs and ship costs is an appropriation of about $140 million from the Navy to compensate Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Pascagoula for uninsured hurricane-related costs, some of which are still in negotiation with insurers. “Northrop Grumman Ingalls Division is Mississippi’s largest private employer with about 13,000 employees pre-Katrina, and the losses it incurred when Katrina shut down its operations could adversely impact those jobs, add to the cost of the high tech destroyers and cruisers the shipyard is building for the Navy and affect our national security,” Senator Lott said.
Senator Lott credited Senators who supported these projects with taking the time to look at Mississippi’s continued needs in the aftermath of Katrina and casting thoughtful votes, despite the efforts of outside groups “to deny our state funding that only the federal government can provide to make our veterans whole, protect against the loss of life in the next hurricane, and safeguard the rebuilding investments we’re now making.”