Session convenes and... hey, it's over!

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Thursday signed a new state law reducing the sales-tax rate on modular houses — a measure designed to speed up Gulf Coast redevelopment more than 13 months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed thousands of homes.

The law took effect immediately, cutting the modular tax rate from 7 percent to 3 percent. Barbour said it could shave $4,000 to $6,000 off the price of a modular house.

"This will significantly help the reconstruction efforts of many thousands of our neighbors in south Mississippi," Barbour said.

The homes are made in factories, shipped in large pieces and erected on slabs. Manufacturers say modulars look like traditional homes to the untrained eye, and can go up in a matter of days if local building crews are available. Some coast residents now face waiting lists of three to four years for a traditionally built home in the high-demand coast market, said Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Robertson, R-Moss Point.

The tax cut zipped through the Legislature Thursday afternoon in a special session that lasted only an hour and 45 minutes; it was the only item on the agenda for the second special session of the year.

"It's the fastest special session in the history of the Mississippi Legislature," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, who's been in office three decades.

The Senate passed the plan 46-0, and the House passed it 114-1. Rep. Earle Banks, D-Jackson, cast the only "no" vote.