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Tunica County v. Town of Tunica

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

May 11, 2017


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/24/2015






         ¶1. Tunica County seeks review of the Tunica County Circuit Court's summary-judgment ruling that a local and private law requiring the County to distribute portions of a revenue-based gaming fee to the Town of Tunica and the Tunica County School District was constitutional. Finding that the County has failed to meet its burden of proving that the legislation in question is unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful, we affirm the trial court's grant of summary judgment. However, because the trial court failed to provide a basis for its award of attorney's fees and did not make any findings concerning the reasonableness of the amounts awarded, we vacate the award of attorney's fees and remand this case to the trial court for further consideration of that issue.


         ¶2. Tunica County asks this Court to evaluate the constitutionality of certain provisions of Chapter Number 920, Local and Private Laws of 2004 ("House Bill 1002"). House Bill 1002 is the most recent iteration of a long line of local and private legislation dating back to 1992, which was passed after the enactment of the Mississippi Gaming Control Act in 1990. See 1992 Miss. Local and Private Laws ch. 866.[1]

         ¶3. House Bill 1002 authorizes the Tunica County Board of Supervisors to impose a fee of up to 3.2 percent of gross gaming revenue on all gaming vessels located within or contiguous to Tunica County. 2004 Miss. Private and Local Laws ch. 920, § 1(a). The law instructs the Mississippi State Tax Commission (now the Mississippi Department of Revenue) to calculate, collect, and enforce the collection of this fee in the manner provided for the collection of licensing fees under Mississippi law. Id. at § 2(a). The law also directs the distribution and expenditure of this fee. Critical to this case, the law requires ten percent of the fee to be distributed to the Town of Tunica "for deposit into the general fund of the municipality" and provides the purposes for which those funds may be expended by the Town. Id. at § 2(b)(iv).[2] Additionally, twelve percent of the fee must be expended for "educational purposes in Tunica County, " and two percent must be expended for "teacher's salary supplementation and teacher training." Id. at §§ 2(b)(iii), (v). Tunica County School District is not mentioned anywhere in HB 1002 or its predecessors.

         ¶4. The County has levied the fee authorized by House Bill 1002 and its predecessors since 1994, and it distributed the proceeds of the fee as required by House Bill 1002 until 2014. According to the County's complaint, the gaming industry experienced a sharp decline between 2007 and 2014, cutting the fees it collected under House Bill 1002 roughly in half during that period. As a result, in November 2013, the Tunica County Board of Supervisors petitioned the Legislature to decrease the Town's distribution under House Bill 1002 from ten percent to five percent and to increase the share of the fee that could be deposited into the County's general fund. The Legislature rejected this proposal. Thus, in October 2014, the Tunica County Board of Supervisors resolved to cease the distributions required by House Bill 1002 and filed a lawsuit in Tunica County Circuit Court challenging the constitutionality of the law's distribution requirements.[3] The County named the Town and the School District as defendants. Because the County's complaint challenged the constitutionality of a statute, the State of Mississippi, through the Mississippi Attorney General's Office, was allowed to intervene to defend the constitutionality of House Bill 1002.

         ¶5. The County's complaint alleged that House Bill 1002 violated several sections of Articles 3 and 4 of the Mississippi Constitution, as well as certain provisions of the Mississippi Code. Specifically, the County argued that House Bill 1002 deprived it of its property interest in the casino fees without due process of law. In addition, the County asserted that the distributions required by House Bill 1002 constituted an unlawful donation of public funds. The County also argued that House Bill 1002 impermissibly suspended certain general statutes and provided improper support for a common school. Alternatively, the County alleged that House Bill 1002 violated Mississippi common law and that the current Board of Supervisors could not be bound by the decisions of prior Boards to comply with the law. The County asked the circuit court to declare House Bill 1002 unconstitutional and issue an injunction against the continued enforcement of the statute. On November 13, 2014, the County filed a motion for a temporary injunction against the enforcement of House Bill 1002 during the litigation.

         ¶6. On November 26, 2014, the Town filed an answer denying all of the allegations in the County's complaint and affirmatively asserting that House Bill 1002 is constitutional in all respects. In addition, the Town filed a counterclaim for injunctive relief against the County, asking the trial court to require the County to come into complance with House Bill 1002. The School District filed its answer and an identical counterclaim on January 28, 2015. ¶7. On February 5, 2015, the Town filed a separate Application for Preliminary Injunction seeking an order enjoining the County from disregarding the distribution mandates of House Bill 1002 and requiring the County to come into immediate compliance with the law. The School District joined in this application.

         ¶8. The trial court held a comprehensive hearing on the parties' competing motions on June 18, 2015. The parties were allowed to call witnesses and present evidence at this hearing. The County's primary argument at the hearing was that HB 1002 "causes Tunica County to donate, and to give without consideration - give away 24 percent of their money." The County also argued that HB 1002 conflicted with general statutes that authorized both counties and municipalities to collect "local government fees" from casinos operating within their borders. Following the hearing, the trial court issued an opinion holding that the County had not met its burden of proving that House Bill 1002 was unconstitutional. The court found that House Bill 1002 "and all its predecessors contain a clear and unambiguous legislative mandate as to how the fees accumulated by the enforcement of the Act are to be disbursed and must immediately be followed." Accordingly, the trial court denied the declaratory and injunctive relief requested by the County and granted the preliminary and permanent injunctive relief sought by the Town and the School District. The trial court also awarded attorneys' fees to the Town and the School District and ordered the County to be assessed interest at the highest legal rate for all funds it had been withholding from the Town and the School District in violation of House Bill 1002.

         ¶9. Following the trial court's ruling, the Town filed a motion for summary judgment. The County did not file a response. On July 28, 2015, the trial court entered an order granting summary judgment to the defendants. The County filed its notice of appeal on August 3, 2015. On December 3, 2015, the trial court entered another order again granting the Town's motion for summary judgment. The order indicates that the trial court previously had granted the Town's motion but had not filed it in order to give the County time to respond. After failing to receive a timely response from the County, the trial court reinstated its original order granting summary judgment. Thereafter, on December 18, 2015, the County filed its final notice of appeal with this Court.

         ¶10. On appeal, the County raises nine issues, which we have reorganized into the following four issues for the sake of clarity:

         I. Whether House Bill 1002 is unconstitutional.

         II. Whether the current Tunica County Board of Supervisors is bound by House Bill 1002.

         III. Whether the circuit court erred in granting the Town's motion for summary judgment.

         IV. Whether the circuit court erred in awarding attorney's fees and interest to the defendants.


         ¶11. It is well-settled that a trial court's grant of summary judgment is reviewed de novo. Jones Cty. Sch. Dist. v. Miss. Dep't of Revenue, 111 So.3d 588, 608 (Miss. 2013) (collecting citations). Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file . . . show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Miss. R. Civ. P. 56(c). This Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and the movant bears the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Hooker v. Greer, 81 So.3d 1103, 1108 (Miss. 2012) (citing Waggoner v. Williamson, 8 So.3d 147, 152 (Miss. 2009)). In addition, a trial court's rulings concerning the constitutionality of a statute are reviewed de novo. Oxford Asset Partners, LLC v. City of Oxford, 970 So.2d 116, 120 (Miss. 2007). The trial court's grant of attorney's fees is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Tupelo Redevelopment Agency v. Gray Corp., Inc., 972 So.2d 495, 518 (Miss. 2007).


         I. Whether House Bill 1002 is unconstitutional.

         ¶12. The County's primary argument on appeal is that the distribution requirements contained in House Bill 1002 violate various provisions of Articles 3 and 4 of the Mississippi Constitution. As the party challenging the constitutionality of a statute, the County "must 'overcome the strong presumption' that the Legislature acted within its constitutional authority" when it passed HB 1002. 5K Farms, Inc. v. Miss. Dep't of Revenue, 94 So.3d 221, 226 (Miss. 2012) (quoting Cities of Oxford, Carthage, Starkville and Tupelo v. Ne. Miss. Elec. Power Ass'n, 704 So.2d 59, 65 (Miss. 1997)). "When a party invokes our power of judicial review, it behooves us to recall that the challenged act has been passed by legislators and approved by a governor sworn to uphold the selfsame constitution as are we." State v. Roderick, 704 So.2d 49, 52 (Miss. 1997). "[T]he courts are without the right to substitute their judgment for that of the Legislature as to the wisdom and policy of the act and must enforce it, unless it appears beyond all reasonable doubt to violate the Constitution." Pathfinder Coach Div. of Superior Coach Corp. v. Cottrell, 62 So.2d 383, 385 (Miss. 1953) (emphasis added). "If possible, courts should construe statutes so as to render them constitutional rather than unconstitutional if the statute under attack does not clearly and apparently conflict with organic law after first resolving all doubts in favor of validity." Loden v. Miss. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 279 So.2d 636, 640 (Miss. 1973) (citations omitted). In other words, "to state that there is doubt regarding the constitutionality of an act is to essentially declare it constitutionally valid." Moore v. Bd. of Supervisors of Hinds Cty., 658 So.2d 883, 887 (Miss. 1995).

         ¶13. The County's arguments on this issue can be grouped into the following five categories: (1) House Bill 1002 deprives it of property without due process; (2) House Bill 1002 grants a donation to the Town and the School District; (3) House Bill 1002 suspends general laws; (4) the Legislature did not comply with the constitutional requirements for enacting House Bill 1002; and (5) House Bill 1002 gives support to a common school. We address each of these arguments separately below.

         A. Whether House Bill 1002 deprives the County of property without due process.

         ¶14. The County's first argument on appeal is premised on the assumption that it has an inherent right to the use of all proceeds of the fees collected under House Bill 1002. Thus, the County asserts that House Bill 1002's distribution provisions constitute a deprivation of its property interest without due process of law, in violation of Article 3, Sections 14 and 32 of the Mississippi Constitution.

         ¶15. Article 3, Section 14 provides, "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property except by due process of law." Miss. Const. art. 3, § 14 (1890). This Court has held that "[t]he due process required by the Federal Constitution is the same 'due process of law' which is required by" Article 3, Section 14. Walters v. Blackledge, 71 So.2d 433, 515 (Miss. 1954). "Due process guards each person's every substantial entitlement created and made legitimate and protected from interference by the positive law of the state." In re Validation of $7, 800, 000 Combined Utility Sys. Revenue Bond, Gautier Utility Dist., Jackson Cty., 465 So.2d 1003, 1018 (Miss. 1985) (hereinafter "In re Validation"). "To have a property interest in a benefit, a person must have more than an abstract need or desire for it. He must have more than a unilateral expectation of it. He must, instead, have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it." Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972).

         ¶16. We find that the County lacks standing to challenge House Bill 1002 on due-process grounds. The United States Supreme Court has held that a political subdivision of the state "cannot invoke the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment against the state." City of Newark v. New Jersey, 262 U.S. 192, 196, 43 S.Ct. 539, 67 L.Ed. 943 (1923). This is because "[a] municipal corporation, created by a state for the better ordering of government, has no privileges or immunities under the Federal Constitution which it may invoke in opposition to the will of its creator." Williams v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 289 U.S. 36, 40, 53 S.Ct. 431, 77 L.Ed. 1015 (1933). See also State v. Hinds Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 635 So.2d 839, 843 (Miss. 1994) (citing City of Trenton v. State of New Jersey, 262 U.S. 182, 43 S.Ct. 543, 67 L.Ed. 937 (1923); Bd. of Levee Comm'rs of the Orleans Levee Bd. v. Huls, 852 F.2d 140, 142-43 (5th Cir. 1988)) ("It has been established that political subdivisions of the state have no Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment protections against the state.").

         ¶17. While the County does not raise any specific claims under the United States Constitution, this Court has regarded Article 3, Section 14 of our Constitution to be "essentially identical" to its federal counterpart. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Gillard, 352 So.2d 1072, 1081 (Miss. 1977). Thus, the reasoning of the federal courts and this Court in applying the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment are instructive on this issue. Furthermore, this Court has held on several occasions that a political subdivision of the State cannot challenge the constitutionality of a statute on due-process grounds. See Ne. Miss. Elec. Power Ass'n, 704 So.2d at 67 ("It is admitted by the municipalities that they have no due process rights against the Legislature."); Tally v. Bd. of Supervisors of Smith Cty., 307 So.2d 553, 557 (Miss. 1975) ("[T]he due process requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and Section 14 of the Mississippi Constitution (1890) are directed to the protection of individuals and do not apply to frustrate state agencies in their relationship with each other."). The cases cited by the County are inapposite, as the parties invoking due-process protections in those cases were individual citizens, not governmental entities. See, e.g., City of Jackson v. Tucker, 202 So.3d 199, 203 (Miss. 2016) (finding that a minor condemnee had standing to sue condemnor for a violation of due process, as the condemnee had a property interest, voidable at his option, in the property in question); Miss. Power Co. v. Miss. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 168 So.3d 905 (Miss. 2015) (finding that Mississippi Public Service Commission's noncompliance with Base Load Act violated ratepayers' due process rights by depriving them of their money without notice); Tucker v. Hinds Cty., 558 So.2d 869, 874 (Miss. 1990) (finding that a private citizen had a property right in the continuance of his utility services). Accordingly, the County's argument fails.

         ¶18. Notwithstanding the County's lack of standing, the County's argument is without merit because its authority to impose the 3.2 percent gaming fee comes from the Legislature, not the constitution. "The revenues of a county are subject to the control of the Legislature, and when the Legislature directs their application to a particular purpose or to the payment of the claims of particular parties, the obligation to so pay is thereby imposed on the county." Jackson Cty. v. Neville, 95 So. 626, 629 (Miss. 1923). Thus, "it follows that the Legislature had the authority to establish the purpose of the tax and to direct where the funds would be spent." Pascagoula Sch. Dist. v. Tucker, 91 So.3d 598, 606 (Miss. 2012) (citing Harrison Cty. Sch. Dist. v. Long Beach Sch. Dist., 700 So.2d 286 (Miss. 1997)). The County has no inherent right to the proceeds of the fees authorized by House Bill 1002 aside from that statute itself, so the distribution provisions of House Bill 1002 do not constitute a deprivation of any property right. This argument is without merit.

         ¶19. The County also cites Article 3, Section 32, which provides, "The enumeration of rights in this constitution shall not be construed to deny and impair others retained by, and inherent in, the people." Miss. Const. art. 3, § 32 (1890). However, the County does not explain how this provision applies to the instant case. None of the cases cited by the County discusses the application of Article 3, Section 32, and the County's discussion of this provision is almost nonexistent. The County merely references Article 3, Section 32 as part of its general argument that House Bill 1002 violates its right to due process. Because the County has failed to support its argument with sufficient authority, this particular argument is procedurally barred. See Boutwell v. Boutwell, 829 So.2d 1216, 1223 (Miss. 2002) (citing Pickering v. Industria Masina I Traktora, 740 So.2d 836, 848 (Miss. 1999)) ("Failure to cite authority in support of claims of error precludes this Court from considering the specific claim on appeal.").

         B. Whether House Bill 1002 grants a donation or "unauthorized payment" to the Town and the School District.

         ¶20. The County asserts that House Bill 1002 requires it to make unconstitutional donations to the Town and the School District. This claim is somewhat related to the County's due-process argument presented in Issue I(A) above, as it is based on the premise that the provisions of House Bill 1002 require it to give away money that it otherwise would have the right to keep for itself. In support of this argument, the County relies on Article 4, Sections 66 and 96 of the Mississippi Constitution. While the County presents its arguments concerning these two provisions somewhat interchangeably, it is better to discuss them separately, as they do not explicitly govern the same subject matter.

         1. Article 4, Section 66

         ¶21. The County argues that the distributions required by House Bill 1002 constitute donations to the Town and the School District in violation of Article 4, Section 66 of the Mississippi Constitution, which provides, "No law granting a donation or gratuity in favor of any person or object shall be enacted except by the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elect of each branch of the Legislature, nor by any vote for a sectarian purpose or use." Miss. Const. art. 4, § 66 (1890). "The term 'donation or gratuity' implies absence of consideration, the transfer of money or other things of value from the owner to another without any consideration." Craig v. Mercy Hosp.-Street Mem'l, 45 So.2d 809, 814 (Miss. 1950) (emphasis added). Of course, "[i]f there is no 'donation or gratuity' involved in the instant case, then Section 66 has no application at all." Id. It also is critical to note that Article 4, Section 66 does not impose an outright prohibition against all laws granting donations and gratuities but only those enacted "for a sectarian purpose or use." Miss. Const. art. 4, § 66 (1890). A law not falling within this prohibition simply must receive the requisite support from both houses of the Legislature to be valid. Id.

         ¶22. The County does not argue that the distributions required by House Bill 1002 are for a sectarian purpose or use, and no evidence in the record would support such an argument. Thus, the only other limit on the Legislature's authority under Article 4, Section 66 is the requirement that a statute must receive the support of "two-thirds of the members elect of each branch of the Legislature." Miss. Const. art. 4, § 66 (1890). But the voting requirement of Article 4, Section 66 is not a justiciable question. Turner v. City of Hattiesburg, 53 So. 681, 682-83 (Miss. 1910) ("It is alleged that chapter 120 failed to receive the concurrence of two-thirds of each branch of the Legislature, and therefore was not passed in accordance with section 66 of the Constitution of 1890 . . . . [T]his objection to the act does not raise a judicial question."). As no argument is advanced that under Article 4, Section 66, the statute grants a donation or gratuity for a sectarian purpose or use, this argument fails.

         2. Article 4, Section 96

         ¶23. Article 4, Section 96 provides, in relevant part, "The Legislature shall never grant extra compensation, fee, or allowance, to any public officer, agent, servant, or contractor, after service rendered or contract made, nor authorize payment, or part payment, of any claim under any contract not authorized by law . . . ." Miss. Const. art. 4, § 96 (1890). While this provision specifically mentions only the Legislature, this Court has held that it applies equally to all subordinate state agencies created by the Legislature. Clark v. Miller, 105 So. 502, 505 (Miss. 1925). The County's argument here essentially mirrors the argument it presented concerning Article 4, Section 66 - the distributions required by House Bill 1002 qualify as "extra compensation, " given to the County and School District without consideration.

         ¶24. Article 4, Section 96 is not subject to a reasonable interpretation that would support the County's argument that the distributions required by House Bill 1002 are unauthorized payments. This Court consistently has interpreted Article 4, Section 96 as applying in the context of employment and contractual relationships, that is, to prohibit governmental entities from making unauthorized payments, such as bonuses, "fifty-third paychecks, " retroactive raises, and compensation above a contracted rate, to government employees or other individuals or entities contracted for government work. See, e.g., Nichols v. Patterson, 678 So.2d 673 (Miss. 1996) (holding that municipality's practice of paying employees a "fifty-third paycheck" violated Article 4, Section 96, and could not be considered compensation for services rendered, as the extra check was not included in employees' payroll salaries); Golding v. Salter, 107 So.2d 348, 356-57 (Miss. 1958) (holding that county hospital had no authority to pay its employees Christmas bonuses); State, for Use of Wimberly v. White, 157 So. 472, 474 (Miss. 1934) (holding that Senate resolution granting additional compensation over the salary provided by statute to an employee of the Governor's Office violated Article 4, Section 96); Moore v. Walley, 120 So. 197, 198 (Miss. 1929) (holding that the Legislature violated Article 4, Section 96 by reimbursing the state land commissioner for amounts paid out during the previous year to hire additional employees, as he was allowed one deputy by law); Miller, 105 So. at 504 (holding that Yazoo Mississippi Delta Levee Board's payment of additional compensation in excess of the contracted amount to a construction contractor was unconstitutional). This interpretation is in line with the provision's plain language. On the other hand, Article 4, Section 96 never has been interpreted to limit the Legislature's authority to direct the distribution of statutory fees which, as previously discussed, are not property of the County. See Neville, 95 So. at 629. The County has failed to meet its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that House Bill 1002 directly conflicts with Article 4, Section 96.

         C. Whether House Bill 1002 suspends general laws.

         ¶25. In its third assignment of error on appeal, the County argues that House Bill 1002 unconstitutionally "suspends" certain general laws in violation of Article 4, Section 88 of the Mississippi Constitution. As an initial matter, we note that Article 4, Section 88 has no direct application to this case. That provision merely authorizes the Legislature to enact general laws:

The Legislature shall pass general laws, under which local and private interest shall be provided for and protected, and under which cities and towns may be chartered and their charters amended, and under which corporations may be created, organized, and their acts of incorporation altered; and all such laws shall be subject to repeal or amendment.

Miss. Const. art. 4, § 88 (1890). The suspension of general laws is addressed specifically in the preceding constitutional provision.

         ¶26. Article 4, Section 87 sets certain limitations on the Legislature's authority to enact special legislation or suspend general laws:

No special or local law shall be enacted for the benefit of individuals or corporations, in cases which are or can be provided for by general law, or where the relief sought can be given by any court of this State; nor shall the operation of any general law be suspended by the Legislature for the benefit of any individual or private corporation or association, and in all cases where a general law can be made applicable, and would be advantageous, no special law shall be enacted.

Miss. Const. art. 4, § 87 (1890). As the above-quoted language clearly indicates, Article 4, Section 87 applies "only where there has been a local or private law enacted for the benefit of 'private individuals or corporations.'" Bond v. Marion Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 807 So.2d 1208, 1217 (Miss. 2001) (quoting Miss. Const. art. 4, § 87 (1890)). "We think the purpose of section 87 was to prevent local and special laws for such corporations as were not public in their nature. The Legislature has usually exercised full control over municipal corporations; the functions of both a municipal corporation and the Legislature being entirely public in their nature." Feemster v. City of Tupelo, 83 So. 804, 806 (Miss. 1920). The Court in Feemster further explained:

Whatever mischief may lie in the passing of special bills or laws of the kind here involved (and it may be conceded that such acts are not wholesome as a rule), the Constitution . . . vests in the Legislature, and not the court, the function of deciding this question, and we cannot refuse to enforce any law because merely in our judgment a general law would be better than a special one. The Legislature has been recognized by the Constitution makers as being the best equipped to deal with the wisdom of enacting special laws rather than general laws, except in cases specifically provided for in the Constitution.

Id. If this Court finds that Article 4, Section 87 does not apply to a statute, it must abide by the mandate of Article 4, Section 89: "If a bill is passed in conformity to the requirements hereof, other than such as are prohibited in the next section, the courts shall not, because of its local, special, or private nature, refuse to enforce it." Miss. Const. art. 4, § 89 (1890).

         ¶27. "In determining the beneficiary of private or local laws, we consider: (1) to whom the legislation is directed or applied and (2) whether the aim or thrust of the bill is to benefit the public." Oxford Asset Partners, 970 So.2d at 121 (citing Bond, 807 So.2d at 1217). House Bill 1002 plainly applies to two specific governmental entities: Tunica County and the Town of Tunica. Additionally, while the purpose of House Bill 1002 is not explicitly stated, its provisions make clear that its aim is to fund the increased infrastructural needs associated with legalized gambling within Tunica County. Accordingly, we find that Article 4, Section 87 has no application here as it relates to the suspension of general laws.

         ¶28. Even assuming for argument's sake that Article 4, Section 87 does apply in this case, the County's argument still is without merit. A specific requirement triggering the application of Article 4, Section 87 is the "suspension" of a general law. The term "suspend, " as used in this provision, means "[t]o interrupt; to cause to cease for a time; to postpone; to stay, delay, or hinder; to discontinue temporarily . . . ." In re Validation of $15, 000, 000 Hosp. Revenue Bonds v. City of Hattiesburg, 361 So.2d 44, 49 (quoting Black's Law Dictionary (rev. 4th ed. 1968)). The County claims that House Bill 1002 suspends the operation of two general statutes. First, the County cites Section 19-3-40 of the Mississippi Code, also known as the "County Home Rule." Section 19-3-40 sets out the powers and duties of county boards of supervisors and explicitly prohibits them from taking certain actions, including "grant[ing] any donation[.]" Miss. Code Ann. § 19-3-40(3)(f) (Rev. 2012). The County claims that House Bill 1002 suspends the operation of Section 19-3-40(3)(f) by requiring it to donate funds to the Town and the School District.

         ¶29. We find this argument to be without merit. First, the distributions required by House Bill 1002 do not constitute donations, because the County has no inherent right to the entire proceeds of the 3.2 percent fee. But even if this Court found that the distributions were donations, the result would be the same. The County is allowed to take the actions otherwise prohibited by the County Home Rule if "such actions are specifically authorized by another statute or law of the State of Mississippi." Miss. Code Ann. § 19-3-40(3). Thus, even if the distributions required by House Bill 1002 could be considered donations, House Bill 1002 - "a statute or law of the State of Mississippi" - specifically authorizes the County to distribute them. Accordingly, this argument is without merit.

         ¶30. Next, the County cites Section 75-76-195, a provision of the Mississippi Gaming Control Act that authorizes counties and municipalities to collect license fees from casinos. Miss. Code Ann. § 75-76-195(1) (Rev. 2016). Under this statute, municipalities are authorized to impose a revenue-based fee, which fluctuates between .4 percent and .8 percent, on all casinos operating within their municipal borders. Id. Likewise, counties are authorized to impose the same fee on all casinos operating within the unincorporated areas of the county. Id. Here, the County argues that the Town is not entitled to collect the fee authorized by Section 75-76-195 because no casinos operate within the Town's municipal borders. The County also points out that, under Section 75-76-197, the Gaming Control Act's distribution provision, it is not required to distribute any of the fees it collects under Section 75-76-195 to the Town. See Miss. Code Ann. § 75-76-197(b) (Rev. 2016) ("Fees designated as 'local government fees' remitted by licensees who are not located within an incorporated municipality shall be distributed to the county in which the licensee is located."). According to the County, House Bill 1002 suspends these two provisions of the Gaming Control Act by allowing the Town to collect fees from casinos that do not operate within the Town's municipal borders.

         ¶31. We find this argument to be without merit. The statutory scheme at issue in this case is similar to the one presented in In re Validation of $15, 000, 000 Hospital Revenue Bonds (Methodist Hospital Project) Series 1978, City of Hattiesburg, Forrest and Lamar Counties, Mississippi, 361 So.2d 44 (Miss. 1978), in which this Court reviewed the constitutionality of special legislation authorizing the City of Hattiesburg to issue bonds to provide funds for the purpose of acquiring hospital facilities, with the principal, interest, and related expenses of the bonds to be paid from the revenues to be derived form the lease of the facilities. The appellant argued that this legislation violated Article 4, Section 87 by suspending a general law which provided a different method through which municipalities could acquire and own hospitals. Id. at 47. This Court rejected that argument, finding that the private legislation "provided the City of Hattiesburg an alternative method of raising funds ...

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