he opinion says the vote "would be a proper subject of a non-binding referendum" as long as the county determines the use of county funds to have the vote "is in the county’s best interest."
In addition, the opinion notes the federal government does seek such input when tribal gaming is up for consideration, as it currently is in Jackson County. The opinion says the county may also accept private donations to pay for a special election and supervisors need not wait until 2008 to have the vote.
Jackson County voted down gambling in 1990, but sovereign Indian nations may have casinos on their land. The Mississippi Band of Choctaws has started the process of having 100 acres in central Jackson County declared tribal lands for that purpose. Though the issue will ultimately be determined by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Mississippi’s governor has input and supervisors have said they believe a non-binding vote on gambling could influence the powers that be.
Members of Coast Business for Fair Play and a group of Jackson County clergy asked early on that the Board of Supervisors call a special election on the matter right away, but the county instead sought legislation to do so, something CBFP members said was unnecessary.
"While the attorney general’s opinion makes this legislation unnecessary, we are not going to oppose it," said Tim Taranto, a Jackson County financial advisor and spokesperson for CBFP. "However, unless it passes quickly and clears Justice in a timely manner, the citizens of Jackson County will likely be denied their vote on this critical issue in 2007. Even if this legislation passes quickly, it could create enough delays that would prevent a vote in November of 2007. That is unacceptable to the citizens of Jackson County and plays into the hands of the tribe."
"At any time it appears the legislative approach is going to delay the vote past November 2007," Taranto said, "we will call on the supervisors to keep their word and call this election in time to get it on the November ballot." Any legislation, he added, requires Justice Department approval, which takes up to 60 days - not a requirement if supervisors call the election themselves