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Not signing on to Board of Education letter doesn’t mean four GOP state reps disagree
Mississippi Board of Education shelves Obama administration school bathroom directive

by Frank Corder
Seventy Mississippi House Republicans along with six Democrats sent the members of the state Board of Education a letter on Monday demanding that they ignore the Obama administration's recent school bathroom directive.

"This is an attempt to push an agenda that has the potential to harm our children," the letter signed by Speaker Philip Gunn explained.

House Democrat Representatives Nick Bain, Angela Cockerham, Deborah Dixon, Michael Evans, Tom Miles, and Preston Sullivan were included in the list of legislators against the federal directive.

Noticeably absent from the list were four House Republicans - Toby Barker, Rob Roberson, Noah Sanford, and Bobby Shows.

However, the choice to not to be listed with their colleagues on the letter signed by Gunn should not be seen as disagreeing on the issue but rather a desire to have their voice heard individually.

"I agree with Speaker Gunn's letter. However, I generally disfavor signing onto others' work and chose instead to send my own letter to MDE," Rep. Noah Sanford (R-HD 90) said on Tuesday. "In addition, I plan to have follow up meetings with them regarding this issue and others that schools in my district are facing."

Rep. Toby Barker (R-HD 102) concurred.

"It's just the way I typically do communications, whether with constituents, agencies or social media," Barker said. "I prefer to write my own stuff when possible."

Barker's own letter to the state Board of Education can be read below.

Barker letter to Ed Board 5/23/16 photo image_zpsggkp0xew.jpeg

Rep. Rob Roberson (R-HD 43) noted that the issue does not need state or federal attention.

"This is best left to the local level," Roberson said. "The state and federal governments should not be in these matters. The local school districts should be handling this issue."

Rep. Bobby Shows (R-HD 89) is ill and unavailable for comment.

On Tuesday, the state Board of Education unanimously voted against implementing the Obama administration's directive, rejecting it after a lengthy meeting largely in executive session. Although, board members said the decision had nothing to do with pressure from Republican lawmakers.

You can watch the WJTV report and hear comments from Board of Education chairman John Kelly below.



Posted May 25, 2016 - 8:21 am

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MDE has been very good to a deputy superintendent

It appears Deputy State Superintendent Dr. John Q. Porter has fed quite well at the public trough over the last few years. The State Board of Education hired Dr. Porter at a salary of $195,000 in May, 2015. State Auditor Stacey Pickering told Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright the salary was illegal since it exceeded 150% of the Governor's salary. However, Dr. Porter made a nice sum of money through no-bid contracts awarded behind closed doors before he was hired.

The State Board of Education hired Dr. Carey Wright in September, 2013. Dr. Porter followed her to Mississippi six months later. However, he was not hired as a Deputy Superintendent until May 21, 2015. Dr. Porter made his money the Mississippi way. The Board awarded several consulting contracts worth $293,404 to Dr. Porter and his company, Blue Sky Innovative Solutions, LLC. The Board approved every contract in executive session. The Board finally voted in executive session to hire Dr. Porter as the Deputy Superintendent at a salary of $195,000 - after Dr. Porter wrote the job notice and screened all applicants himself.


Kingfish
5/2516

Posted May 25, 2016 - 6:53 am

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Attaboys & Oh Boys for May 25



Oh Boy!

To the complete turnaround from the state Department of Education concerning its agreement to comply with a federal directive to enact nondiscrimination policies for transgender students. The day the U.S. departments of education and justice issued a joint letter calling for transgender students to be protected under Title IX, state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said Mississippi would follow those federal guidelines. Yet, less than a week later, Wright issued a statement saying MDE would comply with state leadership on the issue. Wright’s turnaround came after a discussion with the state Board of Education and calls from Gov. Phil Bryant and state lawmakers for her to ignore the federal directive. Seeing that Mississippi’s education system depends heavily on federal funds, and refusal to comply with the directive could impact the state’s ability to collect federal monies, this seems like a poor call. More so, it’s not right for Mississippi students, for transgender students, for a state with a scarred civil rights past. While we were encouraged by Wright’s initial stance to comply, it appears local leaders once again put their own interests before the state and Wright consented to their demands.


Clarion Ledger
5/25/16

Posted May 25, 2016 - 6:42 am

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Don’t feed the zoo animals
Parents and media both troll and get trolled outside MS Dept of Education Board Meeting
By YP Staff
At Y’allPolitics, we have live team coverage for the absolute facepalm moments provided by our Mississippi media elites in the last 24 hours on (get ready for it) . . . bathroom policy. This sort of hard hitting media coverage harkens back to the days of Edward R. Murrow, who once famously said . . . .









Here with a live report is a midget wearing a bikini

In case you missed it, last night a group of parents were gathered outside the Mississippi Department of Education Board Meeting where they met to overturn the original guidance from State Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright that originally said MDE should honor the guidance from the Obama administration on Title IX protection for bathroom laws. After a week of pointed criticism from the legislature and the governor, the MDE board has met and now they said they shouldn’t.

But of course, the real news is not what happens in the meeting, but what happens outside. A couple of parents started feeding the gaggle of media with some priceless doctoral level political science dissertations. One mama asked essentially, what happens when some man wants to “have an afternoon delight in one of our girl’s bathrooms and decides to rape one of them”. But the media not content to be trolled did some trolling of their own. MPB’s Paul Boger then stuck a mic in front of a dude holding a three year old with a biker’s goatee and asked multiple times “Are you gay?” The dude’s measured response incorporated the term “bull crap”, which is, of course, a technical term. Then “unidentified dude” asked Boger if he “wanted to go into the bathroom with my little girl . . . C’mon let’s do it . . . I’m going to show you what happens.” Ross Adams with WAPT caught that gem.

Here’s Mississippi Today's RL Nave's view from his iphone.


Here’s Geoff Pender’s angle from his iphone.


Here’s WLBT’s view
MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Earlier in the day, not to be outdone, Bobby Harrison (who was gleefully in the background of the extracurricular fracas outside the meeting) on the Daily Journal's hard hitting pod/youtube cast opined about MDE’s stance.



Though he appears somewhat conflicted on the issue itself, he let's it slip at about 3:45 in the video that this policy might affect about a dozen people in the entire state Or, in other words, this whole tempest in a teapot is really a solution in a desperate search for a problem.

Meanwhile, in real news/journalism there seems to be some grift involving deputies at MDE (coverage courtesy of Kingfish). In relative terms, that's getting very little coverage.



Posted May 25, 2016 - 6:29 am

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State lawmakers disagree on impact of budget cuts







WTVA
5/24/16

Posted May 25, 2016 - 4:53 am

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State school board follows governor's bathroom order



The board met for close to three hours behind closed doors in an executive session after police restored peace.

They voted unanimously to support state leadership on transgender bathrooms.

When asked if pressure from the governor and Republican lawmakers influenced the board's vote state school board chairman John Kelly said not at all.

"This is an independent board. By virtue of state statue, we did what we thought was the right thing to do for school children," he said.



WAPT
5/24/16



Posted May 25, 2016 - 4:47 am

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RELEASE:



Wicker Comments on Proposed Transfer of Internet Domain Authority

Miss. Senator Says Proposal Needs Rigorous Oversight

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today said that additional oversight might be needed before moving forward with a plan to abdicate certain aspects of U.S. governance over the Internet. Some argue that a lack of American involvement in the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) could empower foreign nations to gain increased control over critical Internet functions.

“The Administration’s proposal is not without risk,” Wicker said. “For example, relinquishing control of IANA authority to the global community could have an impact on the nation’s ability to combat cyberattacks. Questions also remain whether top-level domain names, such as .mil and .gov, will remain secure after the transition. There is a lot at stake with this proposed transition, so it is important to get it right.”

Two years ago, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intention to transition IANA functions from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to a global multi-stakeholder community. ICANN is currently responsible for allocating Internet IP addresses and domain names.

In March, ICANN put forward its transition proposal, which it developed with an international community of Internet stakeholders. NTIA set a target of 90 days to complete its review.

Wicker is a longtime supporter of a bottom-up, multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance and has cautioned the Administration not to allow IANA functions to fall under the control of repressive governments, America’s enemies, or unaccountable bureaucrats.

He is also a cosponsor of the “DOTCOM Act,” S. 1551, which would provide oversight of NTIA’s implementation of the transition. That legislation was passed by the committee in June 2015 and awaits consideration by the full Senate.


5/24/16

Posted May 25, 2016 - 4:44 am

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RELEASE:


Wicker, Cochran Voice Opposition to New Energy Tax

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., today voiced their opposition to a tax on carbon dioxide (CO2), which would raise the cost of electricity, gasoline, natural gas, and other energy sources.

The Mississippi lawmakers were among the 24 Senators cosponsoring a resolution, which expresses the Senate’s concern that a CO2 tax would be detrimental to the economy of the United States.

“A carbon dioxide tax would negatively impact every single American,” Wicker said. “The Obama Administration continues to push its oppressive climate agenda, putting our economy at a huge disadvantage with minimal benefits to the environment. Too many people are facing long-term unemployment and stagnant wages. Another tax from this White House could further slow the economy and make it even more difficult for people to find good-paying jobs.”

“The Obama administration’s energy and climate change policies rely on new taxes and regulations that would have damaging effects on the economy of Mississippi and the entire country. A carbon tax would be prohibitively costly to the nation,” Cochran said.

Introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the resolution states that a carbon dioxide tax is not in the best interest of the United States because it would increase energy prices, “cause families and consumers to pay more for essential items such as food, gasoline, and electricity,” and “cause the greatest hardship for the poor, the elderly, and individuals living on fixed incomes.”

The resolution further reflects the sense of the Senate that “the energy policy of the United States should encourage private sector innovation and development and not increase the existing tax burden on manufacturers.”

A CO2 tax would be applied to energy resources that have accounted for at least 80 percent of total U.S. energy consumption since 1990, according to the Energy Information Administration.

A companion measure was introduced in the House of Representatives in October 2015. It is cosponsored by Representative Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.).


5/24/16

Posted May 25, 2016 - 4:42 am

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RELEASE:


Wicker: Senate Blocks Harmful Fiduciary Rule

Regulation Would Impact American Families, Restrict Access to Quality Retirement Advice

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today voted in favor of a resolution, H.J. Res. 88, that would block implementation of the U.S. Department of Labor’s controversial “fiduciary” rule. The proposal, led by Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., would rescind the Obama Administration’s intrusive regulation restricting low- and middle-income Americans’ access to financial advisors. The measure was passed by a vote of 56-41.

“The Administration’s latest regulatory assault will make it nearly impossible for many Americans to access needed retirement advice,” Wicker said. “Families rely on their financial advisors to plan for a secure retirement. This costly rule would give the federal government excessive control over who can access financial guidance. Americans with smaller retirement savings should not be at risk of losing access to affordable, quality advice.”

The Department of Labor’s final fiduciary rule is estimated to cost the financial industry $31.5 billion over the next 10 years, with up to five million Americans losing access to annuities as a result of rising minimums. Access to retirement advice, particularly for low- and moderate-income workers, would be restricted, and the majority of retail investors would see costs increase by an average of 73 to 196 percent because of the mass shift toward fee-based accounts. The rule would also harm small business retirement plans, which represent more than nine million U.S households with approximately $472 billion in retirement savings.

Under the “Congressional Review Act” (CRA), Congress can overturn actions by a federal agency following the formal publication and submission of a rule to Congress. If the CRA is enacted into law, it would nullify the fiduciary rule even if portions have already gone into effect. The House of Representatives passed companion legislation in April. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature to become law.



5/24/16

Posted May 25, 2016 - 4:41 am

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U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) was honored today to receive the “Hero of Main Street” award from the National Retail Federation given “for his support of legislation critical to the retail industry". Harper is part of a bi-partisan group who were recognized for their support of a wide range of issues including international trade, infrastructure investment, tax reform and labor issues.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said, “Rep. Harper has shown through his support that he cares about retailers big and small, and values the role these businesses play in communities across the country. Rep. Harper is an advocate for a thriving Main Street and for the long-term growth of the retail industry -- our nation’s largest job creators and the catalyst for continued growth and opportunity for our nation’s economy.”

The Hero of Main Street award was created by NRF in 2013 to recognize members of Congress for support of the retail industry’s public policy priorities. Eligibility is based on NRF’s Retail Opportunity Index, bill sponsorship and advocacy to advance the industry’s priorities. The “heroes” have supported policies and initiatives defined by NRF that recognize the contributions of the retail industry, and have worked to encourage a “vibrant, sustained and healthy” retail sector.

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s This is Retail campaign highlights the industry’s opportunities for life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the critical role that retail plays in driving innovation. nrf.com

Rep. Gregg Harper Press Release
5/24/16


Posted May 24, 2016 - 4:03 pm

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Is Mississippi getting its money’s worth from nation’s highest paid education chief?

Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright is the nation’s highest paid leader of a state school system, according to figures provided by Ballotpedia.

Wright earns $307,000 per year, a figure that outpaces Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart‘s salary by $31,000. Mississippi’s state superintendent has been paid at that level since 2008.

Wright makes more than Gov. Phil Bryant ($122,160 per year), Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves ($60,000) and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann ($90,000) combined.

MS Watchdog
5/24/16

Posted May 24, 2016 - 2:36 pm

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Democrats, Republicans select convention delegates

Mississippi Democratic delegates pledged to Hillary Clinton

Mississippi Democratic chairman Rickey Cole
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson
Attorney General Jim Hood
House minority leader David Baria
Addie Green
Barbara Brooks
Bear Atwood
Bill Wheeler
Carlos Moore
Charles Taylor
Cindy Ayers Elliot
Curley Clark
David Jordan
Debbie Dawkins
Dorsey Carson

MS Today
5/24/16

Posted May 24, 2016 - 12:09 pm

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Palazzo Praises Passage of National Defense Authorization Act

Washington, DC – Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-4) released the following statement today praising House passage of the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA:

“Providing for the common defense of this nation is our number one constitutional responsibility in Congress. Our men and women in uniform are the best in the world at what they do, and we owe it to them to ensure they always have the tools and resources they need to get the job done.

“Recognizing the significant role South Mississippi plays in our national security efforts, this bill also continues to support our military assets, including funding for an additional DDG-51 Naval destroyer and full funding for the next generation of amphibious ships to be built at Ingalls Shipbuilding.

“Once again, the president is already threatening to veto this legislation. His inability to understand the importance of funding the military is not only baffling, but dangerous. Furthermore, it reinforces my strong belief that we should have a mandatory requirement for our president to have military experience before serving in office.”
The NDAA fully restores funding to the levels set before sequestration went into effect in order to adequately support our military readiness mission. The bill also provides our troops with the 2.1% pay raise increase they earned, prohibits increases on out of pocket costs for TRICARE recipients and once again prevents BRAC. There are also provisions included to prevent the closure of Guantanamo Bay and fund Israeli missile defense against Iran.


5/18/16

Posted May 24, 2016 - 6:59 am

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Gov. Bryant declares Hurricane Preparedness Week in Mississippi



Gov. Phil Bryant has declared May 23 through May 27 as Hurricane Preparedness Week.

He wants residents to in Mississippi to be prepared for the upcoming tropical weather season.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency plans on providing valuable preparedness information throughout the week.



WJTV
5/23/16


Posted May 24, 2016 - 6:56 am

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Blackwell touts session successes



District 19 state Sen. Kevin Blackwell has been active in politics for a number of years as chairman of the DeSoto County Republican Party and in past efforts to run for political office.

But once the new state Senator finally achieved election and started his first term as a legislator in Jackson, there were some things that still seemed quite new to Blackwell....


...Blackwell added the $6.16 billion budget the Legislature passed included more than $2.5 billion for public schools and, while most state agencies saw budget cuts due to a lack of funding, education was not cut.

While it will not go into effect until 2018, Blackwell said the “Taxpayer Pay Raise Act” will eventually provide some tax relief to Mississippians.



Desoto Times
5/23/16

Posted May 24, 2016 - 6:49 am

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Mississippi House members sent a letter to the state Board of Education demanding that they ignore the Obama administration school bathroom directive.

Joining 70 House Republicans were six Democrats - Representatives Nick Bain, Angela Cockerham, Deborah Dixon, Michael Evans, Tom Miles, and Preston Sullivan.

MS House LettertoMDEBoard 2016




5/23/16

Posted May 24, 2016 - 6:36 am

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RELEASE:


Wicker, Cochran Support Efforts to Renew Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Law


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., are supporting a proposal to reauthorize the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act, a 2008 law that is set to expire next year.

The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016, S.2854, would renew the law that authorized collaboration between the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and state and local law enforcement to investigate unsolved civil rights-era violence.

“This important law has helped deliver justice for victims and families who suffered terrible crimes during that bitter, painful period of our nation’s history,” Wicker said. “However, many of these cases still remain unsolved, leaving families without answers. I am hopeful that the Senate will give the law new life to keep these critical investigations ongoing.”

“It is important that special emphasis be placed on reconciling the tragedies of the civil rights movement. The evidence and witnesses to these crimes become scarcer as time goes by, and we must act now,” Cochran said. “Reauthorizing the Emmett Till law would allow federal, state and local investigators to continue pursuing these cold cases.”

In addition to reauthorizing the 2008 law, S.2854 contains important updates, including promoting greater collaboration with civil rights organizations, universities, and other entities that engaged in this work and allowing such organizations to apply for grants. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Cochran and Wicker supported enactment of the original 2008 law, which is named for the African-American teenager who was brutally murdered in 1955 while visiting relatives in Mississippi.


5/23/16

Posted May 24, 2016 - 4:52 am

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WJTV
5/23/16

Posted May 24, 2016 - 4:46 am

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A SYMPOSIUM HOSTED BY TOUGALOO COLLEGE EXAMINES FUTURE OF STATE

Wiseman says talking about race relations and compromise is important. Panelists Professor Daphne Chamberlain from Tougaloo College, James Barksdale with Barksdale Management and Senator John Horhn of Jackson, talked about education. They said all Mississippi students must receive a quality education to make the state competitive in the global economy. Horhn criticized majority African American operated school districts saying they can do better.

"We've go to quit turning these school districts into employment agencies, where we're not focused on turning out a good product but we're looking at how we can get our soror or our frat brother hired. It's ridiculous." said Horhn.

MPB
5/23/16

Posted May 23, 2016 - 12:04 pm

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Mississippi Justice Institute Represents Newspaper Advocating Government Transparency

Seeks to Uphold Ethics Commission Decision on Appeal Finding City of Columbus Violated Open Meetings Act

(COLUMBUS, MISS—MAY 23) – The Mississippi Justice Institute is now representing the Commercial Dispatch, a Columbus newspaper, in an appeal involving Mississippi’s Open Meetings Act. The Mississippi Ethics Commission ruled the mayor and city council of Columbus violated the Open Meetings Act in a complaint filed by a now-former Commercial Dispatch reporter. The mayor and city council appealed the decision to the Lowndes County Chancery Court.

In 2014, the Columbus mayor scheduled multiple meetings with council members, which were not announced or open to the public, to discuss policy issues and determine matters involving economic development projects and renovation of city property. At the time, the mayor excluded a Commercial Dispatch reporter from some of these meetings. The Ethics Commission held that the mayor and council circumvented and violated the Open Meetings Act when they “divided into two groups and conducted meetings involving less than a quorum of the council [where] [t]hese meetings were pre-arranged and, while conducted separately, involved the same subject-matter [and] . . . included deliberations by the council members concerning matters specifically under the jurisdiction of the council.” The Ethics Commission did not levy fines against the mayor or council, but instructed the mayor and council to refrain from further violations and to comply strictly with the Act.

This case is one of only two cases ever appealed from the Ethics Commission to a Chancery Court involving the Open Meetings Act. (It is a separate case from the Ethics Commission’s decision last week to fine Columbus’s mayor $500 for violating the Open Meetings Act in a more recent matter.) The Chancery Court denied a request by the Ethics Commission to intervene in the appeal.

Peter Imes, general manager of the Commercial Dispatch said, "Ensuring government openness is one of our core duties as a newspaper. Since the state ethics commission is not able to participate in the city's appeal, we appreciate the Mississippi Justice Institute's efforts to help provide a counter-argument to the city."

“This is an important case in upholding our laws and holding government accountable through transparency,” said Mike Hurst, counsel for the newspaper and Director of the Mississippi Justice Institute. “Our government leaders should not be circumventing the law, shutting people out, deliberating and determining matters in back rooms, and keeping citizens in the dark as they conduct the people’s business. Sunlight is one of the best disinfectants by which we plan to clean up our government.”

Hurst noted the Mississippi Justice Institute has filed a motion to substitute the Commercial Dispatch in the appeal for its now-former reporter, who originally filed the complaint under his name but no longer works for the newspaper.

The Mississippi Justice Institute represents Mississippians whose state or federal Constitutional rights have been threatened or violated by government actions. It is the legal division of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, said, "We believe the legitimate power of government is derived from the consent of the governed. Operating behind closed doors prevents citizens from knowing what their government is doing. Whether citizens agree or disagree, they are unable to give or withhold consent when they're kept in the dark."


5/23/16

Posted May 23, 2016 - 11:39 am

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Like mother, like son: Youngest legislator and his mom graduate from college




When Mississippi House Rep. Jeramey Anderson won his seat in November 2013 at age 21, he became the youngest to be elected to the state's legislature and the youngest African American elected to a legislature in U.S. history.

Now he's reached another milestone, graduating from Tulane this month just a few weeks after finishing one of the busiest and most controversial legislative sessions our state has seen in years.



Gulflive
5/20/16

Posted May 23, 2016 - 6:56 am

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DAILY JOURNAL: OUR OPINION: Farm spending bill has much to help Mississippi



The era of congressional earmarks has officially ended, but skilled legislators still can take care of the most important interests for their states in the regular process.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, the Mississippi Republican who chairs the Appropriations Committee, on Thursday released a summary of 2017 budget numbers specific to agriculture in our state, and those numbers reflect how business works in the Capitol.

The bill addresses agricultural research, rural development and water use research, elements that impact Mississippi’s huge farm economy.

The Appropriations Committee’s approval is an important step in winning eventual passage of appropriations that Cochran’s statement says “supports agriculture production, research and conservation programs in Mississippi.”



Daily Journal
5/22/16

Posted May 23, 2016 - 6:49 am

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Legislative Dems, Bryant find common ground on Personnel Board



If legislative leaders attempt to override the veto of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant on at least one piece of legislation, he will have the backing of an unusual group – legislative Democrats.

Earlier this month, the governor vetoed a bill to take the state Department of Education out from under the regulations of the Mississippi Personnel Board.

The effort to remove Personnel Board protection, or civil service protection, for state workers has been an ongoing battle for more than a decade in the Mississippi Legislature.



Daily Journal
5/22/16

Posted May 23, 2016 - 6:45 am

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Mayor's races shaping up 1 year out from elections



In Hattiesburg, Democratic Mayor Johnny DuPree has already said he intends to seek a fifth term in 2017 — and if that election cycle is anything like the last one, he won't have it easy. After DuPree won the June 2013 election, Republican candidate Dave Ware challenged the outcome. A judge cited voting irregularities and ordered a new election in September 2013. DuPree again defeated Ware...


...Bill Luckett, the Democratic mayor of Clarksdale, told The Associated Press on Friday that he plans to seek a second term in 2017. He said tourism is thriving with travelers from Australia, England and other countries who are seeking an authentic Mississippi Delta blues experience...


...Former state Rep. Chuck Espy told the AP in a separate interview Friday that he hasn't ruled out running for mayor of Clarksdale next year. He lost to Luckett in the 2013 Democratic primary in a race to succeed his father, Henry Espy, who was the city's first black mayor and served 28 years.




Hattiesburg American
5/22/16

Posted May 23, 2016 - 6:41 am

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Jackson mayor's mortgage vanishes after election



A few weeks after being elected Jackson mayor in 2014, Tony Yarber stood in his pulpit at Relevant Empowerment Church and spoke of his blessings — the bank “washing away” his nearly $100,000 mortgage.

“Election is over. We trusted God. Y’all talked all that noise,” Yarber said in his sermon. “And while they was running their mouth, a letter came in the mail from Wells Fargo. The letter said, ‘Dear Mr. Yarber, concerning loan number whatever it was, at 1605 whatever street you stay on, we have no more interest in that property. Consider the $92,000 that you owe us washed away.’”

The audience cheered.

Two years later, and about a year out from the next mayoral election, that revelation is fodder for Yarber detractors, who believe his house was paid off.



Clarion Ledger
5/22/16

Posted May 23, 2016 - 6:38 am

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WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi


WLOX
5/21/16

Posted May 23, 2016 - 6:35 am

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RELEASE:



Wicker, Cochran: Obama Transgender Directive Lacks the Force of Law

In Letter, 25 Senators Say Federal Law Does Not Require Schools to Follow Guidance


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today signed a letter clarifying that federal law does not require states and schools to adhere to a new transgender directive issued by the Obama administration.

Signed by 25 Senators, the letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. states that the administration has no legal justification to dictate to the nation’s public schools which restrooms, locker rooms, and showers transgender students may use. The administration late last week issued transgender guidelines to schools and threatened to withhold federal funding to schools and states that do not adhere to the guidance.

“As I have stated before, these are local issues best decided by those who live in our communities,” Wicker said. “A clear understanding of the law shows that the Administration does not have the authority to act like a National School Board. It is wrong to threaten to withhold federal funding from schools that choose to handle this matter in their own way.”

“This another example of federal overreach by the Obama administration that should be challenged. State and local officials are best equipped to make decisions regarding student facilities in a practical, safe and respectful way,” Cochran said.

The letter was led by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. It stresses that the “guidance” issued to schools lacks the force of law. It also points out that the Senate rejected similar transgender mandates amendment to the Every Student Achieves Act last year.

“Every transgender person is someone’s child and should be treated with respect. But that does not justify a federal executive agency acting as a national school board telling 100,000 public schools how to resolve this issue,” the letter states.

It goes on to say, “It may be appropriate for the U.S. Department of Education to answer questions or issue guidance about its opinion of the existing law. But federal law does not require states and school districts to follow that guidance. Until Congress or the courts settle the federal law, states and school districts are free to devise their own reasonable solutions.”

The following is the full text of the Senators’ letter:

Dear Attorney General Lynch and Secretary King,

Every transgender person is someone’s child and should be treated with respect. But that does not justify a federal executive agency acting as a national school board telling 100,000 public schools how to resolve this issue.

Deciding which bathroom, locker room, or shower transgender students should use is the kind of issue the states, parents, school boards, communities, students, and teachers should work out in a practical way with a maximum amount of respect for the individual rights of the students who are transgender as well as the rights of those who are not. If the solutions developed by states and communities violate the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution or federal civil rights laws, federal courts are available to protect students’ rights.

It is not appropriate for a federal executive agency to issue “guidance” for every school as if it were the law. Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the exclusive right to make laws. In some cases, executive agencies may issue regulations, but these regulations must be authorized by law and are subject to strict procedural requirements. The Supreme Court, Congress and the Obama administration itself all have made clear that such guidance does not have the force of law. This issue involves circumstances that were never envisioned by existing laws. During Senate debate last year on the Every Student Succeeds Act, an amendment was offered to do, by statute, what the administration is now trying to enforce in guidance as if it were the law. The Senate voted not to adopt the amendment.

It may be appropriate for the U.S. Department of Education to answer questions or issue guidance about its opinion of the existing law. But federal law does not require states and school districts to follow that guidance. Until Congress or the courts settle the federal law, states and school districts are free to devise their own reasonable solutions.

In addition to Cochran and Wicker, the Alexander letter was signed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mon.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tim Scott (R-S.C), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).



5/19/16

Posted May 20, 2016 - 9:44 am

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RELEASE:



SENATE PASSES FY17 FUNDING FOR THE VA, TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING & ZIKA VIRUS

Appropriations Measure Also Provides Funding to Combat Zika Virus


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today praised Senate progress on FY2017 appropriations bills with the Senate today completing work on two bills to fund veterans’ benefits, transportation infrastructure and the American response to the Zika virus.

The Senate today voted to approve a spending package (HR.2577), which includes the FY2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Act, the FY2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Act, and $1.1 billion for medical and public health preparedness and response capabilities related to the Zika virus. The legislation was approved on an 89-8 vote.

“Senators have now worked through three appropriations bills and I look forward to additional cooperation as other FY2017 bills are brought to the floor,” Cochran said. “The appropriations measure approved today makes fiscally responsible investments in programs of national importance and reflects the thorough oversight and line-by-line analysis of the federal budget that is the responsibility of the Appropriations Committee.”

The THUD section of the legislation appropriates $56.474 billion in discretionary spending, an $827 million decrease from FY2016 current enacted levels and $2.9 billion below the President’s budget request. The THUD allocation accounts for certain rescissions and estimated receipts that are not reflected in the fiscal year 2016 total. The bill also ignores gimmicks in the President’s budget request that would shift $7.4 billion in certain accounts from discretionary to mandatory spending.

The MilCon-VA section of the bill provides $83 billion in discretionary funding, $3.1 billion above the FY2016 level. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, this increase represents a 4.8 percent increase over the FY2016 level, including increases for health care, benefit claims processing, the Board of Veterans Appeals, the VA Inspector General, medical and prosthetic research, and information technology.

On a 68-30 vote, the Senate agreed to an amendment to provide $1.1 billion to increase U.S. efforts to combat the Zika virus, which can be particularly harmful to infants and pregnant women. U.S. health officials predict that Zika-carrying mosquitoes could pose a threat to Americans in many states, particularly in the Southeast United States.

“The agreement to fund our response to the Zika virus was developed in a bipartisan and good-faith manner. It would provide U.S. and international agencies with resources to address the immediate threats posed by the Zika virus to the Unites States and other nations,” Cochran said. “Combined with the use of existing unobligated funding, this package represents a responsible response to the Zika problem.”

In addition the MilCon-VA and THUD appropriations bills, the Senate earlier this month approved the FY2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. Another three bills have been approved by the committee and are available for consideration by the full Senate.


5/19/16

Posted May 20, 2016 - 9:42 am

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Clarion Ledger
5/19/16

Posted May 20, 2016 - 9:39 am

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MDE administrator moonlights as consultant


A Mississippi Department of Education administrator serves as CEO for a consulting company that does out-of-state work, including some project work that requires his full involvement more than 1,000 miles away.

JP Beaudoin, who oversees six MDE offices as chief of research and development, is listed as CEO of Baton Rouge-based Research in Action Inc. in a contract with the Delaware Department of Education.

Beaudoin, who would not comment, began his post with MDE last August after his company provided $225,104 in contract work to the department. He earns a salary of $158,000 from MDE, according to Mississippi Board of Education meeting minutes, and was initially appointed to lead the office of student assessment and accountability.



Clarion Ledger
5/19/16

Posted May 20, 2016 - 9:23 am

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Special Agent Joel Honored With Top Cop 2016 Award

Today, Thursday, May 19, 2016, is officially recognized by the State of Mississippi as Peace Officers Memorial Day. In conjunction, the Mississippi Center for Police & Sheriffs hosts the annual Police Memorial and Appreciation Day in Jackson. Each year, officers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty are honored with a Top Cop award. This year, the State Auditor’s Office is proud to announce that Special Agent Jeff Joel has been awarded a Top Cop for 2016.

Special Agent Jeff Joel joined the Office of the State Auditor, Investigation’s Division, in 2012. In just four short years, Agent Joel has investigated over 65 cases, issued over $800,000 dollars in demands, and he helped prepare over 40 counts in indictments.

Jeff has truly excelled in his short tenure with the Auditor’s Office and is respected by his peer agents, as well as the command staff for his attention to detail and aggressive pursuit of public corruption. In fact, given his efficient and effective work ethic, he has respectfully earned the nickname “Pac-Man.”

“Jeff serves as a great example not only to the agents on our staff, but also to agents and officers across the state,” said Auditor Pickering. “We are honored to have him serve in our office as we work to protect Mississippi taxpayers.”

Agent Joel lives in Cleveland, MS. and is the State Auditor’s “TOP COP” for 2016.


Posted May 19, 2016 - 3:52 pm

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COCHRAN & WICKER: OBAMA TRANSGENDER DIRECTIVE LACKS THE FORCE OF LAW



In Letter, 25 Senators Say Federal Law Does Not Require Schools to Follow Guidance



WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today signed a letter clarifying that federal law does not require states and schools to adhere to a new transgender directive issued by the Obama administration.



Signed by 25 Senators, the letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. states that the administration has no legal justification to dictate to the nation's public schools which restrooms, locker rooms and showers transgender students may use. The administration late last week issued transgender guidelines to schools and threatened to withhold federal funding to schools and states that do not adhere to the guidance.


"This another example of federal overreach by the Obama administration that should be challenged. State and local officials are best equipped to make decisions regarding student facilities in a practical, safe and respectful way," Cochran said.



"As I have stated before, these are local issues best decided by those who live in our communities," Wicker said. "A clear understanding of the law shows that the Administration does not have the authority to act like a National School Board. It is wrong to threaten to withhold federal funding from schools that choose to handle this matter in their own way."



The letter was led by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. It stresses that the "guidance" issued to schools lacks the force of law. It also points out that the Senate rejected similar transgender mandates amendment to the Every Student Achieves Act last year.



"Every transgender person is someone's child and should be treated with respect. But that does not justify a federal executive agency acting as a national school board telling 100,000 public schools how to resolve this issue," the letter states.


It goes on to say, "It may be appropriate for the U.S. Department of Education to answer questions or issue guidance about its opinion of the existing law. But federal law does not require states and school districts to follow that guidance. Until Congress or the courts settle the federal law, states and school districts are free to devise their own reasonable solutions."


The following is the full text of the Senators' letter, which is also available here http://1.usa.gov/1Xn11Qz

Dear Attorney General Lynch and Secretary King,

Every transgender person is someone's child and should be treated with respect. But that does not justify a federal executive agency acting as a national school board telling 100,000 public schools how to resolve this issue.

Deciding which bathroom, locker room, or shower transgender students should use is the kind of issue the states, parents, school boards, communities, students, and teachers should work out in a practical way with a maximum amount of respect for the individual rights of the students who are transgender as well as the rights of those who are not. If the solutions developed by states and communities violate the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution or federal civil rights laws, federal courts are available to protect students' rights.

It is not appropriate for a federal executive agency to issue "guidance" for every school as if it were the law. Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the exclusive right to make laws. In some cases, executive agencies may issue regulations, but these regulations must be authorized by law and are subject to strict procedural requirements. The Supreme Court, Congress and the Obama administration itself all have made clear that such guidance does not have the force of law. This issue involves circumstances that were never envisioned by existing laws. During Senate debate last year on the Every Student Succeeds Act, an amendment was offered to do, by statute, what the administration is now trying to enforce in guidance as if it were the law. The Senate voted not to adopt the amendment.

It may be appropriate for the U.S. Department of Education to answer questions or issue guidance about its opinion of the existing law. But federal law does not require states and school districts to follow that guidance. Until Congress or the courts settle the federal law, states and school districts are free to devise their own reasonable solutions.

In addition to Cochran and Wicker, the Alexander letter was signed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mon.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tim Scott (R-S.C), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker
5/19/16


Posted May 19, 2016 - 2:28 pm

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FY2017 AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATIONS BILL ADDRESSES MISSISSIPPI INTERESTS

Senate Measure Addresses Ag Research, Rural Development, Water Use Research

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today continued the Senate charge to complete FY2017 appropriations bills as early as possible this year with successful committee passage of a measure that supports agriculture production, research, and conservation programs in Mississippi.

Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today supported approval of the FY2017 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Bill. With today's action the committee has approved six of the 12 annual appropriations bills for next year.

The Senate bill supports federal agriculture, rural development, conservation programs, food safety, and nutrition assistance for children, families and seniors.

"This appropriations bill would help protect public health, enhance agricultural research and promote rural development throughout the country. In Mississippi, it is an important source of federal funding for research conducted by our universities, in addition to support for rural development," Cochran said. "I look forward to consideration of this and other appropriations measures before the full Senate."

The Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program is funded for the first time since FY2010, with $150 million available for this Natural Resources Conservation Service program. Flood control, sediment reduction and related projects in Mississippi will be eligible for these resources.

The bill provides $9.5 million in Agriculture Research Service (ARS) funding for water supply and sustainable water use research activities, some of which is expected to be used to address decreasing water levels within the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer on which Mississippi and other Mid-South states rely.

The legislation restores $47.6 million in ARS extramural research program funding that the President's budget request recommended eliminating. Of this funding, $15.1 million will support work conducted at Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi and the USDA-ARS research center at Stoneville. In addition, $1.5 million in ARS funding is included to increase research capacity for cotton ginning laboratories, one of which is located in Stoneville.

In addition, the Senate measure prevents the USDA from closing Farm Service Agency county offices.

Other items of interest to Mississippi in the FY2017 Agriculture & Rural Development Appropriations Bill include:

Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS): $1.03 billion for food safety and inspection programs. The bill includes language clarifying congressional intent on the timeframe for domestic and foreign compliance with the FSIS catfish inspection program.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS): Within APHIS funding, $11.5 million is provided for Cotton Pests, $25.4 million for the national feral hog program, and an additional $1.0 million to support aquaculture damage management and research efforts.

Rural Development: Within USDA Rural Development, $3.0 million is provided for the Delta Regional Authority and $3.0 million is provided for a competitive grant program for rural health care services. The bill makes up to $16.9 million available to the circuit rider program that benefits rural water associations in Mississippi.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The bill includes language encouraging the FDA to utilize innovative clinical trial methodology that is being pioneered at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. It also has language directing the FDA to provide the cotton industry with technical assistance when developing food safety regulations for the use of cottonseed in animal feed.


Sen. Thad Cochran
5/19/16

Posted May 19, 2016 - 2:27 pm

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Central MS Tea Party Meeting

General Meeting
Tuesday, May 24th, 6:00 pm
2101 Airport Rd N, Flowood, MS 39232

Dear Patriots,

Please plan to attend the general meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 216. Our special guess will be Melanie Sojourner, former MS state senator representing the 37th District of Mississippi which includes parts of Adams, Amite, Pike and all of Franklin County. Melanie has been a long time friend to the MS Tea Party and fought for our core principles while in the MS Senate and while on the campaign trail for Senator Chris McDaniel during his run for the US Senate.

Melanie has most recently spearheaded the movement generally called the Precinct Project, which was focused on electing conservative representatives to our county Republican Executive Committees as well as delegates to this year's state and national GOP convention. She will give us a summary on her experience organizing that grassroots effort that many of us were involved in and provide insight on lessons learned for the next time.

As always we will conclude our meeting with general business discuss current issues of concern to the body of the CMTP that we should be involved in regarding state and national politics.

Looking forward to seeing many Patriots this Tuesday night!


Posted May 19, 2016 - 2:26 pm

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Posted May 19, 2016 - 2:23 pm

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BRIAN PERRY/Republicans convene



This past weekend at the Mississippi Rep ublican Party State Convention, delegates from the assembled counties chose members of the state executive committee, delegates to their national convention and a slate of electors for the Electoral College pledged to presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

There were no big surprises or shocking changes. Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour and Committeewoman Jeanne Luckey both were reelected; a new state executive committee reelected Joe Nosef to serve as Chairman; a majority of state delegates approved a slate of national delegates to the national convention acceptable to Governor Phil Bryant and the Mississippi Trump campaign.

If Donald Trump wants a united Republican Party behind him; achieving that unity belongs to him. But fortunately for him, his greatest tool in bringing factions together is named Hillary Clinton. Many Republicans I spoke to at the Convention made their decision quite simple: #NeverHillary. They believe the only way left to stop Hillary Clinton is to elect Trump.



Madison County Journal
5/18/16


Posted May 19, 2016 - 8:56 am

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Sid Salter: Mental health funding is nonpartisan failure



Don’t take this statement the wrong way or interpret it as one that is short on sympathy for the mentally ill in Mississippi. That’s not at all the case.

But by any reasonable standard, the funding of public mental health treatment in Mississippi over the last 20 years or so has been, and there’s really no other word for it, rather schizophrenic.

It been rather strange to watch the current iteration of complaints about mental health treatment funding in Mississippi unfold. While the last legislative session wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty in terms of public policy, the notion the current Republican leadership created the current mental health treatment furor is a claim that defies both logic and history.


Clarion Ledger
5/18/16

Posted May 19, 2016 - 8:53 am

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Clarion Ledger: No special treatment for public information on officials


When it was all over, most of the information we sought concerning Burton’s accident and arrest was released. That doesn’t excuse the fact authorities clearly took unusual measures, directing the flow of information and providing extra scrutiny than would have been required for most any other citizen.

We realize the Highway Patrol has new leadership. We believe the rigamarole to be law enforcement exercising extreme caution in an attempt to politically protect themselves and not some attempt to hide the truth. After all, the facts here are clear and routine.

Hopefully this is a learning experience. Public information is public. It shouldn’t be restricted, especially when a public official is involved, lest such a restriction give off the appearance of impropriety.



Clarion Ledger
5/19/16

Posted May 19, 2016 - 8:50 am

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Lumumba, Graham running for Jackson mayor


Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the son of late Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, and Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham are running to be mayor of the capital city in 2017.

Lumumba was the first to officially announce his candidacy and has strength in organization already with an active Facebook page gaining traction.



Clarion Ledger
5/18/16


Posted May 19, 2016 - 8:48 am

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Executive Director Jennifer Riley-Collins issued the following statement:

“The Mississippi GOP Representatives’ response and threat to the State Superintendent is, yet, another step in the wrong direction. Transgender youth are entitled to the same educational opportunities, anti-harassment protections, and expressive freedoms as other students.

The Obama administration’s guidance is simply providing schools with clarity as to the legal obligations that they already had under Title IX. With this guidance, there should now be absolutely no question as to what schools need to do to ensure they are upholding their obligations under federal civil rights law regarding the treatment of transgender students.

Schools must enforce their dress codes equally and equitably. Schools should permit transgender students to comply with the dress code that reflects their gender identity. The obligation of schools to keep transgender students safe extends to bathrooms and locker rooms. A transgender student should be able to use the bathroom that reflects his or her gender identity. Isolating transgender students, as well as threatening a government official who is asked to follow the law (Title IX), sends, yet, another message that it is acceptable to discriminate in Mississippi.

The ACLU of Mississippi stands ready to defend any student treated differently because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. School should be a safe place for all students.”


5/18/16




Posted May 19, 2016 - 8:15 am

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http://www.wtok.com/home/headlines/Burton-Not-Commenting-on-DUI-380018071.htmlBurton Not Commenting on DUI


State Sen. Terry Burton says he's not talking about his weekend DUI charge on the advice of his attorney.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol says the Newton Republican was charged after running his vehicle off Interstate 20 and hitting a sign Saturday night in Scott County.



WTOK
5/18/16

Posted May 19, 2016 - 8:12 am

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Release from Human Rights Campaign:


Mississippi Refuses to Comply With Obama Administration’s Guidance on Protecting Trans Students


Today, HRC Mississippi, blasted Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and state Republican lawmakers for bullying the state Department of Education into rejecting new federal guidance meant to ensure that transgender students are treated with dignity and respect in their public or federally-funded schools, including ensuring they have access to restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Mississippi School Superintendent Carey Wright initially underscored the importance of a “a safe and caring school environment” learning environment in a release saying the state would comply with the Department of Education's guidance. Following threats from Republican lawmakers calling for her resignation, she has now reversed course.

“Mississippi lawmakers are playing politics with the lives of transgender students, yet recklessly claim that they’re the ones being bullied,” said HRC Mississippi State Director Rob Hill. “Transgender young people have every right to the same opportunities as their peers and are already targets of violence, bullying and harassment. Mississippi’s action exacerbates risks to transgender students by creating a hostile environment in one of the places young people should feel safest. Make no mistake, these lawmakers are the bullies and their dangerous interference with guidance sought by their own teachers is also endangering billions of dollars in federal funding for our schools.”

Last week, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued guidance for school districts to ensure transgender students are treated with dignity in public and federally-funded schools, including having equal access to restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. While this guidance is consistent with previous guidelines and enforcement by the Departments, the treatment of transgender students has become national issue following the recent passage of the discriminatory HB2 law in North Carolina. Among its shameful provisions, HB2 prohibits public school students from using restrooms and other school facilities consistent with their gender identity.

For several years, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice have been interpreting and enforcing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sex stereotyping as unlawful sex discrimination. Additionally the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit recently upheld the Department of Education’s assertion that the nation’s civil rights laws protect transgender students from discrimination, including in the provision of bathrooms.

Last month, Mississippi gained national attention for its passage of HB1523, a horrific law that allows almost any individual or organization to use religion as a justification to discriminate against LGBT people in some of the most important aspects of their lives, including at work, at school, and in their communities.

A survey by the HRC Foundation found that three-quarters of transgender students feel unsafe in school settings. A report by the Williams Institute found that half of transgender adults who were bullied in school had attempted suicide. These startling numbers can only be expected to rise if the North Carolina law, and other similar bills proposed in other states, continue to target these young people.



5/18/16

Posted May 18, 2016 - 2:52 pm

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COCHRAN COSPONSORS WOOD CONSTRUCTION INNOVATION BILL

Legislation Could Result in Use of Miss. Forest Products to Construct Taller Wood Buildings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today announced his support for legislation to increase research and development into wood products that could lead to the construction of taller wood buildings.

Cochran is cosponsoring the Timber Innovation Act of 2016 (S.2892). The bill would authorize a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant program to spur research and develop wood products technologies that can be used in engineering and building systems. The program would focus on discovering innovations that would permit the use of wood products to construct buildings taller than 85 feet, roughly seven stories.

“The ability to use wood products beyond more traditional construction projects could have multiple benefits. Innovation by Mississippi State University and other institutions could help create new markets for Mississippi timber growers,” Cochran said.

The legislation would authorize matching grants through the USDA Forest Products Laboratory to public, private and tribal entities and partnerships. The grants are intended to advance technologies leading to taller wood building design and construction. Most wood buildings today typically do not exceed three or four stories in height.

The bipartisan measure has strong industry and university support, including the backing from the Mississippi Forestry Association, Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association, Mississippi State University, the National Wildlife Federation, and other organizations.

There are 19.7 million acres of forestland in Mississippi. The industry earned $1.16 billion in value of production in 2015, a $138 million increase over 2014.

S.2892 has been referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee, on which Cochran serves as a senior member. The legislation was authored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).


5/18/6

Posted May 18, 2016 - 2:48 pm

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KINGFISH looks at Cleveland school desegregation issue
Are Cleveland schools already integrated?

The press release and newspaper article oddly enough do not state the racial composition of the actual schools. The information is readily available on the Department of Education website (Until Dr. Wright scrubs it as other information has either disappeared or is no longer updated.). The demographic information* for each school is:

Cleveland High School
White: 298 students (47.76%)
Black: 281 students (45.03%)
Hispanic: 32 students

East Side High School
Black: 368 students (>95%)
Other: 0

Now for the middle and junior high schools.

Margaret Green Junior High School
Black: 264 students (50.48%)
White: 225 students (43.02%)
Hispanic: 28 students

D.M. Smith Middle School
Black: 245 students (99.59%)

Kingfish
5/18/16


Posted May 18, 2016 - 1:17 pm

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Senators' Letter to Wright 5/16 photo image_zpseaahavyo.jpeg

5/18/16

Posted May 18, 2016 - 9:52 am

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A group of legislators sent Mississippi Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright a letter this week demanding she reverse course and not adhere to the Obama administration’s recent transgender directive regarding school bathroom and locker rooms, a move Gov. Phil Bryant has also criticized.

In a release Wednesday morning, State Superintendent Wright did just that, instructing MDE to “take no action at this time regarding the non-regulatory guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education.”

Coast lawmakers were not listed among those who signed the letter to Dr. Wright, however south Mississippi senators and representatives expressed strong opinions on the issue.

“It’s hard to believe that anyone would take the position that having men/boys in a restroom or shower with females is a good idea,” state Rep. Manly Barton (R) said Wednesday. “I can’t imagine this happening to my daughter or wife. I think the federal government has finally gone so far over the line that many states are going to fight back.”

State Rep. Charles Busby (R) agreed.

“The directive is just another example of federal overreach, once again using the oval office to attempt to progress a liberal agenda,” Busby said. “It appeases a miniscule portion of the population with no regard for the position of most Mississippians.”

Busby added, “MDE is a political subdivision of the state of Mississippi and as such are answerable to our governor, legislature and citizens. They should ignore Obama’s directive.”

Rep. Barton is prepared for a legislative fight or even a legal battle with Dr. Wright should she and the Board of Education return to their original stance of adhering to the directive.

“I believe the State of Mississippi has a stated position. The leadership has indicated they will fight this in court if necessary,” Barton said. “If Dr. Wright can’t bring herself to act in the best interest of our kids and work with the leadership in opposing this then she should resign or be terminated. If she wants a fight with the legislature she can certainly get that.”

State Sen. Michael Watson (R) took to Facebook Tuesday evening to express his disdain of the Mississippi Department of Education’s willingness to comply with the school directive while urging citizens to contact the state Board of Education and also calling for Dr. Wright’s resignation or removal.

Watson wrote: “…Not only did Dr. Wright decide to impose her political leanings on the entire state, but she also acted unconstitutionally in doing so by unilaterally deciding the MS DOE would adhere to the joint guidance issued by the U.S. DOE and the U.S. DOJ. It's the board's job to formulate policy, not hers. It's time for her to go. Her work here is done. If you haven't already, I encourage you to contact every board member and make sure your voice is heard…”

The impact of this federal directive on coast schools is being considered by school administrators and lawmakers. Rep. Busby has not been made aware of any issues this new edict would address in schools within his House District.

“I saw that Superintendent Rodolfich said he knew of no transgender students in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District so there’s no impact there,” Busby said. “I haven’t heard from Dr. Potter or Dr. Vincent at Ocean Springs and Moss Point but I haven’t heard of any issues with this subject matter prior to Washington’s problem-seeking-solution.”

Rep. Barton is concerned that this directive will impact public school attendance and even perhaps federal funding should the state have to take a stand against the administration.

“If this is allowed I believe the impact on our schools will be terrible. I believe you’ll see more parents take their students out of public school and send them to a private schools or home school,” Barton said, “If it came down to losing funding for our schools I’m not sure how we handle that right now. It’s certainly something we have to prepare for. But that’s what the court is for.”

Rep. Scott DeLano (R) said he expects school officials to look at safety first and such policies should be discussed on the local level.

"We entrust in our school boards and school administrators the safety of our children. This is paramount to any other responsibility they have," DeLano said. "If our local school boards and/or superintendents feel this DOE/DOJ directive will cause disruption in our schools or jeopardize the safety of our children in any way whatsoever, I expect them to take appropriate actions, including ignoring this directive."

DeLano added, "In this specific case, our local school boards and administrators are tasked with establishing policies and practices to deal with a wide variety of social issues, including dealing with transgender students. Each school district and, for that matter, each school building may require a different policy. I am confident our local school officials are more than capable of addressing this issue. No blanket federal mandate is needed or warranted."

State Senator Brice Wiggins (R) expressed his faith in local school officials to make the right choice for Mississippi citizens.

“Rest assured that I have faith in our local school superintendents that they understand we operate by Mississippi values, not D.C. values,” Wiggins said in a statement to constituents. “Should I hear something to the contrary, I will be happy to use whatever influence I have.”


Posted May 18, 2016 - 9:00 am

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Statement from State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright on U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Guidance

CLINTON, Miss. – Pending a discussion with the Mississippi State Board of Education, I am instructing the Mississippi Department of Education to follow the lead of state leadership and take no action at this time regarding the non-regulatory guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education.


5/18/16

Posted May 18, 2016 - 8:45 am

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Gov Bryant signs bond bill, last of 2016 measures



Other bills Bryant signed on Tuesday's deadline were:

House bill 289, to authorize the state Board of Health to increase fees for some services based on the cost of providing them.

House Bill 298, technical corrections to state assessments, imposition, collections and deposits

House Bill 1643, the appropriations bill for the Department of Education

House Bill 1665, the appropriations bill for the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks

House Bill 1646, appropriations bill for the Arts Commission.



Clarion Ledger
5/171/6

Posted May 18, 2016 - 6:47 am

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Mississippi law: Pharmacies can decline to sell drugs



A new Mississippi law will allow a pharmacy in a network to decline to provide drugs or service if the pharmacy is paid less than the acquisition cost for the product.

The law, which goes into effect July 1, was pushed by independent pharmacists in the state, but will benefit all pharmacists, said the bill's author, House Public Health and Welfare Chairman Sam Mims, R-McComb,

The Legislature passed House Bill 456 this year and it has been signed by Gov. Phil Bryant.



Clarion Ledger
5/17/16

Posted May 18, 2016 - 6:44 am

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Public Service Commissioner pushes to expand services to rural areas



Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley is continuing his campaign to expand services to people in the most rural areas of Mississippi.

Presley spoke Tuesday afternoon to the Columbus Rotary Club. Presley says the most common requests from his office are from people wanting to connect to high speed internet service but don’t have the capability.

He says at the same time they want to bring natural gas to these residents and businesses.



WTVA
5/17/16

Posted May 18, 2016 - 6:41 am

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Trump’s plan to rehabilitate his image: Explain past controversies



Some Republican operatives are skeptical that Trump’s attempts to polish his image will work. “If he can get out there and seem genuine . . . I don’t know. Maybe,” said strategist Austin Barbour.

Others are more optimistic. Charlie Gerow, who chaired Republican Carly Fiorina’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, said she and other Trump rivals repeatedly tried to paint the billionaire as an obnoxious bully but struggled to make the tag stick.



Washington Post
5/17/16

Posted May 18, 2016 - 6:35 am

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State treasurer mistaken in picking mayor out

Of course public money should be spent responsibly, but there is nothing wrong with funding special projects – as long as the money is fairly spread around the state over time. We get some this year; somebody else gets it next year.

While Tanglefoot Trail is operating quite successfully as it is, New Albany’s sections can add even more value by providing a parking lot (and welcome center) that matches the quality of the trail project.

Yes, it will primarily help New Albany, but providing better amenities for out-of-state visitors will also help provide a positive impression of the state as a whole and leave them much more likely to return – and tell their friends about their experience.

We have had no quarrel with treasurer Fitch in the past but she was wrong to pick on Mayor Kent and that $100,000 can indeed provide 20 years’ worth of benefit.


New Albany Gazette Editorial
5/18/16

Posted May 18, 2016 - 6:02 am

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Bryant signs $250M bond bill into law



Legislation authorizing the issuance of nearly $250 million in state debt through the sale of bonds was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Phil Bryant.

At the time the legislation passed last month near the end of the 2016 session, Republican state Treasurer Lynn Fitch criticized the size of the proposal and the fact that it contained money for local projects that should not receive state funding.

Despite the controversy surrounding the bill, most observers believed the governor would sign it into law.



Daily Journal
5/17/16



Posted May 18, 2016 - 5:18 am

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GOP lawyer says Eaton election lawsuit should be dismissed




In pleadings filed last week, lawyer Michael Wallace wrote that the suit filed by five Smith County voters is flawed. Plaintiffs want Democrat Bo Eaton of Taylorsville restored to the seat that the House voted 67-49 in January to award to Republican Mark Tullos of Raleigh.

Wallace says the Legislature, House Speaker Phillip Gunn and four other Republican members are immune from being sued, that a federal judge lacks jurisdiction over state election disputes not alleged to involve racial discrimination, and that the House correctly followed Mississippi law.



WJTV
5/17/16



Posted May 18, 2016 - 5:14 am

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Wicker: Senate Backs Emergency Zika Funding

Miss. Senator Supports Amendment to Provide Additional Resources for Fighting Disease

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today voted in favor of a proposal to allocate emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, which poses a public health threat that can be especially harmful to pregnant women and newborn babies. The bipartisan provision, authored by Senators Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., was successfully added to a spending bill to fund transportation, military construction, and veterans affairs programs by a vote of 68-29.

“Fighting Zika is a public health priority,” Wicker said. “Experts have said that these emergency resources are absolutely necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of all Americans. The legislation would remove many regulatory burdens facing researchers and would incentivize the development of new medicines.”

Specifically, the Blunt-Murray amendment would provide $1.1 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of State, and the United States Agency for International Development to combat the Zika virus. It would also reimburse certain funds toward fighting Zika that had been previously repurposed. Additionally, it would provide funds administered through current federal programs for targeted work in Puerto Rico and other territories, where cases of the virus in pregnant women have been confirmed.

There have been three confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Mississippi, each one travel-related. Health officials have reported that the virus can be transmitted through the Aedes albopictus mosquito, which can be found in many parts of the state.

The Obama Administration has requested $1.9 billion for Zika response efforts. In April, the Administration announced that it would reprogram $589 million for Zika, including $510 million in unobligated Ebola funds.

Wicker also supported an amendment offered by Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would provide $1.1 billion for Zika response efforts but was offset by redirecting money from Obamacare’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. This amendment failed to reach the mandatory 60-vote threshold.



5/17/16

Posted May 18, 2016 - 5:12 am

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Reeves Issues Statement on Burton Arrest



State Sen. Terry Burton is still not speaking publicly about his DUI arrest over the weekend, but at least one legislative leader is.

Burton is the president pro tem of the Mississippi Senate, presiding when Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is not there.

Reeves said in a statement Tuesday that Mississippi has strong DUI laws and he trusts the judicial system to fully and fairly enforce them in this case.



WTOK
5/17/16



Posted May 18, 2016 - 5:05 am

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RELEASE:


Mississippi Democratic Party Statement on Desegregation of Cleveland Schools





Jackson, MS – Following the court's order to desegregate schools in Cleveland, Mississippi, Mississippi Democratic Party spokesperson, Ouida Meruvia, issued the following statement:



"It is fitting that on the eve of the 62nd anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the court has ordered Mississippi to make a significant stride forward in achieving the ideal set forth in Brown - equality in our public school system.

"However, with the court's ruling, we're reminded that equality in our state's public education system has not been pursued 'with all deliberate speed,' but instead has been a long, hard struggle that many Mississippians have fought for, and continue to fight for, to this day.

"Democrats in Mississippi will continue our work to ensure that all students, regardless of race or zip code, will have equal access to a quality, fully-funded public education system."


5/17/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 1:38 pm

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Gov. Phil Bryant vetoed HB 199 on Monday, sending a letter to the Mississippi House stating his opposition of adding a third year to the Department of Education being outside of the purview of the state Personnel Board.

The initial intent of the legislation was to allow the agency to streamline services through reorganization.

However, as Bryant noted in the veto message, the Department of Education has used the exemption to increase the overall cost of the agency's administration through increasing salaries, some upwards of $20,000.

There does not appear to be any attempt to override Bryant's veto within legislative leadership at this time.

When asked if House leadership would seek to override the veto, Speaker ProTem Rep. Greg Snowden told Yall Politics, "I can't imagine any attempt at an override."

Other legislators YP contacted expressed a similar opinion.


5/17/16


Posted May 17, 2016 - 9:11 am

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Attorney General Jim Hood and Police Chiefs Host Sixth Annual Candlelight Vigil for Mississippi’s Fallen Law Enforcement Officers

The sixth annual Mississippi Fallen Law Enforcement Officers Candlelight Vigil will be held on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Statewide Fallen Officers Memorial off High Street across from the Capitol in downtown Jackson. Attorney General Jim Hood will join the Mississippi Chiefs of Police in hosting the ceremony.

“Sadly etched on the granite walls of the memorial are the names of 235 Mississippi officers who paid with their lives trying to make our communities safer,” Attorney General Hood said. “We must do our part in honoring their memories and pay respect to the service of these heroic officers who were killed in the line of duty last year. This ceremony is one small way we pay tribute to these fallen heroes. They gave us more than we can ever give back, and we will continue to remember them for doing so.”

The candlelight vigil coincides with National Police Week. The names of six Mississippi fallen law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty in 2015 have been added to the wall this year. They are:

John B. Gorman 1/21/2015 Director of Investigations Mississippi Gaming Commission
Johnny E. Gatson 3/10/2015 Deputy Sheriff Warren County Sheriff's Office
Josie Wells 3/10/2015 Deputy U.S. Marshal U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Marshals Service
Benjamin J. Deen 5/9/2015 Patrolman Hattiesburg Police Department
Liquori T. Tate 5/9/2015 Patrolman Hattiesburg Police Department
Iris J. Smith 5/25/2015 Sergeant Mississippi Department of Corrections

"The names listed on this wall represent brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice as part of the ‘thin blue line’ which stands strong between order and chaos in our society,” said Ken Winter, Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police. “We come to honor them for that sacrifice and to stand beside their loved ones in remembrance."

The keynote speakers for the event are Attorney General Jim Hood and Gov. Phil Bryant.

Law enforcement agencies statewide and members of the public, along with family and friends of any Mississippi law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, are invited to join officers from the Mississippi Chiefs of Police Association, the Mississippi Sheriffs Association, the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the Mississippi Wildlife and Fisheries Department, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office at the event.

The Mississippi Statewide Fallen Officers Memorial is located between the Sillers and Gartin Justice Buildings in downtown Jackson. In the event of inclement weather, we will move the location of the event to the Trade Mart building located at 1200 Mississippi Street in Jackson.


AG Jim Hood Press Release
5/17/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 8:30 am

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Legislative Session Recap

Since the 2016 Session of the Mississippi Legislature ended a couple weeks ago, I have taken some time to reflect on my first Session’s ups and downs. Despite what you may have read in the papers, the Session was productive on many fronts. We worked to foster economic growth and personal liberty, improve education, and reduce the burden of government on taxpaying citizens. Major legislation was adopted in several areas. It’s long, but you can skim the following summary for specific bills of interest:

Fiscally Conservative Budget, Pro-Growth Tax Relief

That old saying, "You can't believe everything you read in the papers," applies in spades to much of the reporting on the state budget. The Fiscal Year 2017 State Support budget totals approximately $6.3 billion. Public schools will continue to receive more than $2.5 billion, including $2.2 billion for the school funding formula. Universities and community colleges were essentially funded at current year levels, at $748.2 million and $264.7 million respectively. Most other agencies saw cuts – but the sky is not falling. This budget keeps us within our means, while forcing agencies to prioritize spending.

We also initiated some significant reforms in budgeting that will lead to more transparency and save tax dollars. Senate Bill 2362 eliminates interagency charges and frees up about $123 million of special funds from sixteen affected agencies that will now go to the General Fund. About $104 million in nonrecurring money will be used to balance the FY16 budget. Additionally, this creates $19 million in recurring General Fund dollars that can be spent in future years.

Senate Bill 2922 includes a reauthorization of the Historic Property Income Tax Program, which has been used by investors to restore buildings and grow commerce around the state. This measure expands allowable credits an additional $60 million to $120 million, with an annual cap of $12 million.

Senate Bill 2858, the Taxpayer Pay Raise Act of 2016, provides tax cuts aimed at economic competitiveness and fairness for every taxpayer. Phased in over ten years beginning in 2018, this legislation will eliminate the three percent individual income tax bracket and the franchise tax and ease the burden on self-employed Mississippians.

The delay in implementation affords time to study both revenue and spending. We also started looking at agency consolidations this year. In upcoming Sessions, look for more proposals to reform both our taxes, and how we spend tax dollars.

Significant Education Reforms

The Republican majority is building a strong record on education. People are taking notice. Mississippi was recently named as the 2016 recipient of the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation for transformational education reforms.

This Session, Senate Bill 2438 requires that all local school superintendents be appointed after January 1, 2019. Senate Bill 2161 changes the Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013 by permitting students in C-, D- and F-rated school districts to cross district lines to attend a charter school. Senate Bill 2157 increases the rigors of the “Third Grade Reading Gate,” which was passed a few years ago to raise Mississippi’s achievement level in reading.

The 2016 Legislature also continued the trend toward district consolidation. Since 2012, the Legislature has reduced the number of school districts from 152 to 139. By consolidating, more money will go into classrooms instead of to support administrative costs.

Transportation Infrastructure
One unresolved issue is funding for roads and bridges. Serving on the Transportation Committee, I spent a good bit of time listening to concerns about our infrastructure needs and debating how to pay for improvements. While we did not settle on a plan to do that, House committee members plan to take a hard look at MDOT and ways to increase efficiency in road projects before next Session.

Stay tuned.

Elections Reforms
Another “big one that got away” is election reform, including strengthening our campaign finance laws. An election code “clean-up” bill died because of opposition to campaign finance provisions added to the final conference report. I served on the conference committee on House Bill 797, and the campaign finance reforms included in the final version were both workable, and needed. Campaign finance and election reform will be back next year.

Other legislation this Session:

Senate Bill 2179 sets up the Department of Child Protection Services to begin the process of correcting Mississippi’s child foster care woes. The ultimate goal is an agency whose sole focus is to address the treatment of foster children. Currently, caseloads are very high with one social worker for every 40 children. With the establishment of the new agency, the goal is to have one social worker for every 14 children. House Bill 1240 addresses the termination of parental rights by amending existing laws that caused problems to ensure faster, permanent placement for abused and neglected children.

Senate Bill 2162 expands the board of the Jackson Airport Authority to include members appointed not only by the City of Jackson, but also Rankin and Madison counties, the National Guard Adjutant General, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. This revamp of the board may well lead to better performance of an important regional economic asset.

House Bill 1223, the “Go Cup” bill, authorizes certain municipalities and counties to establish Leisure and Recreation Districts. Once approved, permit holders may serve beverages in an outdoor environment within the boundaries of the district. If there is interest, we may look to add more Madison County communities next year.

House Bill 1523, the Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act, might qualify as the lightning rod of the Session. I had reservations about parts of HB1523. However, I stand by my vote for the bill, especially given the Obama Administration’s public school transgender bathroom edict this past week. Something needs to be done to protect religious freedom and freedom of conscience from the rush to intolerance from the left. My vote for the bill was to accommodate both the newly-created right to marry as one chooses and the bedrock rights to religious faith and freedom of conscience.

Finally, a couple stands for life: Senate Bill 2238 defunds Planned Parenthood and prohibits tax dollars from being spent with the abortion provider. The bill stops funding to the nation’s largest provider of abortions but continues spending on family health services to other providers. House Bill 519, the Mississippi Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which bans that horrific method of abortion.

All in all, a busy Session. And the work does not stop in the “off season.” I am excited to have been nominated by Speaker Gunn as one of GOPAC’s 2016 Class of Emerging Leaders, a yearlong initiative to develop state legislators from across the country on how to be effective legislative leaders. In addition, the coming months are the time to offer feedback and ideas for next Session.
Safe travels, congrats to our graduates and the families who invest in them, and have a great Summer! Thank you for your engagement in the process. I am honored to work for you at the Capitol!

Rep. Cory Wilson
5/17/16


Posted May 17, 2016 - 7:42 am

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Gov. Bryant veto 5/16/16 photo image_zpstxmkuqvb.jpeg


5/16/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 7:41 am

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Tax bill aimed at helping small businesses



In a rarity for a freshman lawmaker, Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, not only got one of his first bills through both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature but it's been signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant.

The bill, which doesn't feature a "catchy' name like many bills, is simply known as House Bill 1560.

The bill, which will go into effect as a new law on July 1, 2016, is aimed at relieving small businesses from having to undergo costly and in many cases unnecessary audits every four years by the Department of Revenue, according to Foster.



Desoto Times
5/16/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 7:24 am

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Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ law drafted out of state

House Bill 1523 was drafted by attorneys and policymakers at Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a coalition of Christian organizations including Tupelo-based American Family Association and Colorado-based Focus on the Family, among others.

It is not uncommon for national groups to draft model legislation for Mississippi lawmakers. Groups such as the National Conference of State Legislators and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission often offer model legislation to Mississippi lawmakers. Both groups indicated they were not involved in drafting House Bill 1523.

On its website, the Alliance Defending Freedom says it operates with the goal of "defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding and litigation." The group's role in drafting the Mississippi bill was learned through a series of interviews with Mississippi politicians and strategists who worked with ADF.

Representatives of the alliance did not return numerous requests to discuss the drafting process with Mississippi Today. The group sent the following statement to Mississippi Today shortly after Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law April 5: “Alliance Defending Freedom has been asked to advise many state legislators, including in Mississippi, on the constitutionality of religious liberty, government discrimination and privacy legislation as they work to affirm and uphold citizens' fundamental freedoms.”

MSToday
5/16/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 7:20 am

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SID SALTER: Two-party system will be tested by 2016 ballots



As we watch the 2016 primaries evolve in the U.S., the fact is that an avowed Socialist in Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is giving the traditional Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fits.

And on the Republican side, a billionaire reality TV star blew both establishment Republicans and Tea Party favorites out of the race as Donald Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee.

So the question remains, can our traditional two-party system survive in a political environment where division – even in the two historically dominant political parties that enjoy an electoral structure, according to Duverger’s Law, that should nurture and protect a two-party system?



Daily Journal
5/16/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 7:19 am

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MAY 17, 2016

Dr. Carey Wright
State Superintendent of Education
Mississippi Department of Education
P.O. Box 771
Jackson, MS 39205-0771

Dear Dr. Wright,

The representatives of Desoto County, the State of Mississippi and it's citizens stand with Gov. Bryant asking the Mississippi Department of Education to disregard the recent edict handed down by the federal government on school bathroom policy. The demand that all state public schools allow students to use the bathroom and locker room of the “sex they identify as” is nonbinding, and does not carry the force of law.

We ask you, Dr. Wright, to withdraw the recent policy statement made on May 13, 2016, that states the Mississippi Department of Education will adhere to the “joint guidance” issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Departement of Education. The policy of allowing boys or men into bathrooms and locker rooms with girls poses a threat to the safety and well-being of every school-aged girl in this state. This policy is in direct opposition to the morals and values of the people of Desoto County and Mississippi and puts our children in danger.

Dr. Wright, if you are unable or unwilling to protect our children by reversing this policy we ask that you step down from your position as leader of our educational system. The people of this State demand a leader who shares our goals and values and who is willing to protect our children even under pressure from federal agencies to do otherwise. We also expect a swift and public reversal of this decision.

Respectfully,

Rep. Dana Criswell, District 6
Rep. Dan Eubanks, District 25
Rep. Robert Foster, District 24
Rep. Jeff Hale, District 28
Rep. Ashley Henley, District 40
Rep. Becky Currie, District 92
Rep. Bill Kinkade, District 52
Rep. Steve Hopkins, District 7
Rep. Vince Mangold, District 53
Rep. Shane Barnett, District 86
Rep. Lester “Bubba” Carpenter, District 1


Posted May 17, 2016 - 7:03 am

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Mississippi Republican Party chairman Joe Nosef appeared on the Paul Gallo Show on SuperTalk Tuesday morning and addressed the claims of Bill Marcy regarding his interaction with a state trooper at the Convention.

Marcy told Gallo he and the trooper were eye brow to eye brow, that he felt the brim of his "Smokey the Bear" hat, and could tell what he had for breakfast.

Nosef said unless the trooper's hat was 20 feet long Marcy and the trooper were not as close as described.

Hear Nosef's interview with Gallo on SuperTalk here. Click on the 2nd hour of 5.17.16.


5/17/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 6:47 am

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Bill Marcy Meets the Hwy Patrol at the MS GOP Convention


Listen to the interview with Paul Gallo on Supertalk here.


SuperTalk
5/16/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 6:41 am

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Harrison County to take over control of Coast Coliseum



The Harrison County Supervisors now will have oversight of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum Commission instead of the state.

The Sun Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1NwwhuI) Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1203 on Friday.

Effective July 1, the bill ends the governor's appointments to the Coliseum Commission and the legislature's control of the budget and the $7 million trust fund.



AP
5/17/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 6:37 am

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SAM HALL: Spare us righteous indignation over mental health cuts



The letter urged Bryant to call a special session to help fix deep cuts to mental health. It was signed by most of the Democrats in the Legislature, along with Ed LeGrand, the former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.

As someone said last week, it takes some gall for LeGrand and most of those Democrats to sign this letter. After all, they are more responsible for the sad shape of mental health care in Mississippi than Bryant or the current Republican legislative leadership.

LeGrand and Democrats resisted efforts to build up community-based health care for patients with mental illness. They argued against the successes being found in other states and the advice of mental health experts who wanted to reform our pitiful system in Mississippi. So they should spare us all the righteous indignation.



Clarion Ledger
5/16/16


Posted May 17, 2016 - 6:33 am

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Bryant vetoes Ed Dept. personnel board exemption


Gov. Phil Bryant has vetoed a measure the Legislature passed that would have extended an exemption from civil service protection for Mississippi Department of Education employees, saying the agency has used the exemption to hand out big raises instead of restructuring for efficiency and improved services.

In his veto message, Bryant said MDE has given 331 raises to 247 employees — some increases of $20,000 or more. He said the agency also has hired 203 new people, with some making as high as $195,000 a year "which is well over the statutory maximum."

"Since becoming exempt from the rules of the Mississippi State Personnel Board, the Mississippi Department of Education appears to have increased the overall cost of its administrative functions through handsome raises for existing employees and high salaries for new employees," Bryant said in his veto message.


Clarion Ledger
5/16/16

Posted May 17, 2016 - 6:28 am

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Mississippi Today startup pursues role of government watchdog

The nonprofit posted its first stories in late March and has since covered budget issues and contentious legislation, such as a “religious freedom” law that allows public employees and businesses to refrain from offering same-sex couples services if they oppose homosexuality based on their religious beliefs.

Through the Mississippians Together Annual Fund, the organization has attracted members including both students and CEOs of major corporations, Hederman said. Membership benefits include priority registration for events, emails from the co-editors and a welcome kit with a bumper sticker and tote bag.

Mississippi Today also plans to hold free policy-related events, especially in the run-up to the presidential election.

“We are a nonpartisan group, which means that our one goal is to report all the facts, hopefully offering context on events and then allowing our readers to determine which side of an issue they fall on,” Moore said. “We’re not in any way going to try to take a partisan view on one issue.”


Current.org
5/16/16

Posted May 16, 2016 - 2:12 pm

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TAXPAYER PAY RAISE ACT
Jay C. Moon, CEcD, FM, HLM President and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association


During the recent legislative session, a comprehensive bill known as the Taxpayer Pay Raise Act was passed by the legislature. On May 13, 2016, this bill was signed by the Governor. One of the provisions of that bill is a ten year phase out of the franchise tax. In my opinion, that is smart public policy. The franchise tax levies $2.50 per $1,000 of capital in the state. Most states don’t have a franchise tax. That makes Mississippi non-competitive. And, to compound the problem, we are one of nine states that levy this tax on all capital a business has in the state.

Recently, several individuals and organizations have commented on the wisdom of this reduction. According to critics “our legislature has created a budget shortfall so severe that Mississippi cannot afford to take care of her children.” Further “over the last several years, a majority of legislators have voted repeatedly to reduce state revenue through enormous tax breaks at the request of corporate lobbyists.” These critics may talk a lot about education, but, in my opinion, their education is in need of an update.

Geography – We compete with countries around the world in a 21st century marketplace.

Mathematics – Throwing money at something does not add up to a positive result.

Economics – If one state charges you for operating in its borders and most of the others do not, where do you think the businesses will locate or expand?

History – Doing the same thing over and over will only get us the same results.

No one argues with the importance of education. The business community relies on the availability of an educated workforce. However, it would seem obvious that if Mississippi does not compete for good paying jobs, then those who graduate from our schools and training centers will do what many have done in the past – leave.

Posted May 16, 2016 - 2:03 pm

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Cleveland schools must desegregate

U.S. District Judge Debra Brown, who made the ruling, ordered the parties to submit a proposed timeline to implement the United States’ plan in such a way as to ensure the immediate termination of the school district’s dual system in its high schools and middle schools. She set the deadline for no later than 21 days from the entry of her opinion, which was issued Friday, May 13.

"The delay in desegregation has deprived generations of students of the constitutionally-guaranteed right of an integrated education," Brown said in the 96-page opinion. "Although no court order can right these wrongs, it is the duty of the District to ensure that not one more student suffers under this burden."


Clarion Ledger
5/16/16

Posted May 16, 2016 - 12:27 pm

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Senate President Pro Tem Terry Burton faces DUI charge

State Senate President Pro Tempore Terry C. Burton, R-Newton, faces a charge of DUI after a minor single-car wreck on Interstate 20 in Scott County on Saturday night.

In a written statement, Highway Patrol Capt. Johnny Poulos said the Highway Patrol responded to a report of a wreck on Interstate 20 in Scott County at about 10 p.m. He said Burton, 60, was driving a 2013 Chevrolet Equinox eastbound when it left the interstate and collided with a traffic sign.

"Burton was transported to the Scott County Detention Center and charged with driving under the influence," Poulos said. "The crash remains under investigation by the Mississippi Highway Patrol."


Clarion Ledger
5/16/16

Posted May 16, 2016 - 12:26 pm

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Editor is clearly a partisan hack

Former ED of state Dems still pushes the party line

As I have mentioned before and most people are aware, Jackson Clarion.Ledger executive editor Sam Hall previously served as executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party. During his tenure as editor, Hall has made it pretty obvious he intends to make the state’s largest newspaper an organ of the Democrat Party. The headline of Hall’s Sunday column was “Bankruptcy of leadership among state leaders.” It was a huge headline on the front page of the Perspectives section. I agree with a couple of text messages and emails I received about Hall’s column. One comment was do you think the Gannett newspaper would ever hire a former executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party?


Weidie Report
5/16/16

Posted May 16, 2016 - 10:16 am

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2016 National Convention

Delegates

Roger Wicker
Trent Kelly
Keith Heard
Ellen Jernigan
Donna Ruth Roberts
Doc Holiday
Phil Bryant
Philip Gunn
Henry Barbour
Jim Herring
Tim Timbs
Gregg Harper
Lynn Fitch
Delbert Hosemann
Becky Currie
Joe Nosef
Megan Mullen
Rita Wray
Gary Harkins
J.L. Holloway
Quinton Dickerson
Charles Porter
Spence Flatgard
Wally Carter
Jeanne Luckey
Steven Palazzo
Joey Fillingane
Nell Frisbie
Don Halle
Wayne Tisdale
Brian Sanderson
Dane Maxwell
Mark Formby
Jason Dees
Cindy Moore
Curt Hebert
Alex Monsour
Lucien Smith
June Geddie
Tyler Norman

Alternate Delegates

William Alias
Morgan Baldwin
Karen Elam
Jerry Windham
Geoffrey Yoste
Kendall Prewitt
Jimmy Stephens
Norma Sanders
John Dean
Lydia Chassaniol
J.R. Jones
Stephen Snell
Bobby Morgan
Bernie Reed
Dana Stringer
Mike Hurst
Paul Breazeale
Sampat Shivangi
Hunter Foster
David Clanton
Randy Rushing
John Taylor
Terry Reeves
Jamie Peavy
Michael Watson
Joe Cloyd
Raymond Brown
Frank Genzer
Ashley Skellie
Brandon Payne
Mark Cumbest
Todd Hairston
Keith Davis
Sue Morrison
Boyce Adams
Denise Doyle
Diane Hawks


Posted May 16, 2016 - 8:54 am

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RELEASE:



Wicker Champions Mississippi Priorities in Defense Bill

Legislation Would Not Authorize New Round of Base Closings


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today announced that this year’s “National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA) includes several provisions that would benefit Mississippi’s soldiers, veterans, military installations, and defense manufacturing. The measure has been approved by the committee and now awaits floor consideration.

“From an aggressive North Korea to an emboldened Russia and an insurgent Islamic State, our nation’s military is facing new and changing threats,” Wicker said. “They need the equipment, resources, and authority to fight and contain our foes. This year’s blueprint would provide them with those essential tools and commits the full support of the United States government to a strong and capable defense.

“The bill would also have a positive impact on the jobs and lives of many Mississippians. For example, funding to construct new amphibious ships for the Navy would provide job certainty for thousands of families in south Mississippi. Similar benefits could come from investments in unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters, radar systems, and other electronic warfare technology. I am especially pleased that the bill does not authorize the Administration to initiate a new round of base realignment and closures.”

The legislation includes provisions supported by Wicker to maintain National Guard personnel levels and Army aviation force structure consistent with the findings and recommendations of the National Commission on the Future of the Army. In response to the Army’s unvetted proposals to cut the size of the National Guard and reallocate the number of National Guard Apache helicopters, Senator Wicker and Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., created the commission to make recommendations on the future of the Army.

Wicker also supported proposals to extend the prohibition on the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States and to bar the Administration from closing the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay.

NDAA would impact Mississippi in the following ways:
•Tupelo: Supports the recommendations of the National Commission of the Future of the Army and recognizes the importance of the Army’s Apache helicopters.
•Columbus/Meridian: Allows student pilots to have adequate training and flying hours at Columbus Air Force Base and Meridian Naval Air Station.
•Gulf Coast: Funds the full construction of 2 DDG-51 Destroyers, while providing incremental funding for a third DDG-51; advances a new LXR amphibious ship; and authorizes spending on a new LHA big-deck amphibious ship.


5/13/16

Posted May 16, 2016 - 6:51 am

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Mississippi Republicans re-elect party leaders



Members at the state convention Saturday chose attorney Joe Nosef of Jackson for another term as state chairman.

Henry Barbour of Yazoo City and Jeanne Luckey of Ocean Springs remain as Republican National Committee members.



Clarion Ledger
5/15/16

Posted May 16, 2016 - 6:49 am

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Sam Hall: Bankruptcy of leadership among state leaders



It seems that we have a bankruptcy of state leadership that very well could lead Mississippi into actual bankruptcy if someone doesn’t step up and correct course soon.

This past week has not been kind to Mississippi’s budget. It started with the announcement of an accounting error that leaves us $56.8 million short of the adopted revenue projection. It ended with Gov. Phil Bryant signing a bill that provides the largest tax cut in state history without making up one red cent of the revenue that will be depleted from state coffers.

The lack of leadership surrounding both the shortfall and the tax cut is disappointing. It’s not just the fact that the state is starting to hemorrhage funds — the governor cutting the current budget twice this year, lawmakers having to make additional budget cuts for next fiscal year and now a 1 percent accounting error larger than some state agency budgets. It’s the way in which the governor, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn have conducted themselves with these matters.

Most recently, you have Bryant making a late Friday afternoon announcement that he signed the tax cut bill. If you want to know what items a politician either a) doesn’t care about or b) really doesn’t want the public to pay attention to, then watch what they release late on Friday afternoons. It’s called a “news dump” or “trash day” for a reason.




Clarion Ledger
5/14/16

Posted May 16, 2016 - 6:39 am

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BILL CRAWFORD: City, county taxes need study, too



Legislators have been worse than reluctant to provide other options to local government for additional revenues.

Municipalities’ efforts to gain authority to implement local option sales taxes go nowhere. This year, a modest request to increase the portion of sales taxes going to municipalities from 18.5 percent to 20 percent passed the Senate unanimously and the House 109 to 11, but failed in conference as state revenue problems surfaced. The small increase would have been phased in over two years and the money targeted to infrastructure improvements – streets, bridges, sewers and such.

If legislators do conduct a comprehensive tax study, the study should include local governments. There are issues of fairness and sufficiency as well the impact on business development that should be reviewed. City taxpayers pay double for many services (e.g. law enforcement and government administration). Sales taxes in many small towns have declined substantially as the Walmarts and big box stores in nearby larger towns take customers away from local businesses. Counties face growing infrastructure and law enforcement challenges as more and more homeowners choose to live outside of municipalities.



Daily Journal
5/15/16



Posted May 16, 2016 - 5:13 am

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Analysis: 2016 budget still grim, and 2017 looking ugly, too



Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, for example, disputes the idea that less state spending is to blame for changes at the Department of Mental Health. He says the agency, which announced a series of service cuts last week, will actually come out $1 million ahead in state support after lawmakers removed the need to transfer money for lawyers, computer services and rent.

“While we’re going to experience some growing pains in this process, in the long term, the taxpayers are going to be far better off,” Reeves told Mississippi Public Broadcasting, saying the process would lead to more legislative control and efficiency. “We’re going to be able to cut expenditures.”

And cuts may be needed. There could be at least another $120 million in deficits already lurking in 2017. Mississippi’s Medicaid program asked for a $1.04 billion budget in 2017, but got $88 million less. That appropriation assumes the program will spend less in 2017 than this year, which almost never happens. State Treasurer Lynn Fitch also says lawmakers put $31 million less than needed into the budget to make state debt payments next year.



Daily Journal
5/15/16



Posted May 16, 2016 - 5:06 am

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WJTV
5/15/16

Posted May 16, 2016 - 5:01 am

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WTVA
5/15/16


Posted May 16, 2016 - 4:56 am

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Bryant Signs Cut in Business, Income Taxes




Gov. Phil Bryant has signed what may be the largest tax cut in Mississippi history.

Senate Bill 2858 cuts $415 million in taxes over 12 years.

The law will phase out Mississippi's $260 million-a-year corporate franchise tax, a long-held goal of business groups.



WTOK
5/13/16



Posted May 16, 2016 - 4:51 am

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Legislative Democrats call for special session to address MS mental health 'crisis'



Friday, Mississippi legislative Democrats, including several from the Gulf Coast, penned an open letter to Gov. Phil Bryant calling for a special session to find additional funding to deal with the crisis.

You can read the full letter here:

Dear Governor Bryant,

It is no secret that the state of Mississippi has had to make difficult budgetary decisions this legislative session. We understand that there are sacrifices that all Mississippians are called to make, and no one is more aware of this reality than the men and women who work in the field of mental health.

Speak with any of Mississippi’s hard working mental health workers, and they will acknowledge that they have stretched to make things work. However, this recent round of cuts has simply gone too far. Mississippi is in serious danger of losing its matching federal funds for services. We are in crisis; there is no other word to describe it.

With the loss of matching funds will come even more consequential cuts to necessary services. People in need of rehabilitation and medical care will instead end up in prison, where they will not receive treatment, but become an additional burden on the taxpayers of Mississippi. These cuts will undoubtedly lead to significantly more costs—economic and human-- in the very near future.

Accordingly, we, the undersigned members of the Mississippi legislature, feel compelled to ask you to call a special session for the purpose of finding additional funding to deal with this crisis.


Sincerely,

Ed LeGrand
Former Executive Director
MS Dept. of Mental Health

Senator John Horhn, District 26
Senate Minority Leader

David Baria, District 122
House Minority Leader

Sonya Williams-Barnes
Legislative Black Caucus Chair

Senator Juan Barnett, District 34
Senator Barbara Blackmon, District 21
Senator David Blount, District 29
Senator Hob Bryan, District 7
Senator Albert Butler, District 36
Senator Deborah Dawkins, District 48
Senator Bob Dearing, District 37
Senator Hillman Frazier, District 27
Senator Robert L. Jackson, District 11
Senator Sampson Jackson II, District 32
Senator Russell Jolly, District 8
Senator David L. Jordan, District 24
Senator Sollie B. Norwood, District 28
Senator Derrick T. Simmons, District 12
Senator Willie Simmons, District 13
Senator Bill Stone, District 10
Senator Angela Turner, District 16
Senator Tammy F. Witherspoon, District 38

Rep. Jeramey D. Anderson, District 110
Rep. Willie. L. Bailey, District 49
Rep. Nick Bain, District 2
Rep. Earle S. Banks, District 67
Rep. Christopher M. Bell, District 65
Rep. Edward Blackmon, Jr., District 57
Rep. Cedric Burnett, District 9
Rep. Credell Calhoun, District 68
Rep. Bryant W. Clark, District 47
Rep. Alyce Griffin Clarke, District 69
Rep. Oscar Denton, District 55
Rep. Jarvis Dortch, District 66
Rep. Tyrone Ellis, District 38
Rep. Bob Evans, District 91
Rep. Michael T. Evans, District 45
Rep. John G. Faulkner, District 5
Rep. Karl Gibbs, District 36
Rep. John W. Hines, District 50
Rep. Steve Holland, District 16
Rep. Gregory Holloway, Sr., District 76
Rep. Kevin Horan, District 34
Rep. Robert E. Huddleston, District 30
Rep. J.P. Hughes, Jr., District 12
Rep. Lataisha Jackson, District 11
Rep. Robert L. Johnson III, District 94
Rep. Kabir Karriem, District 41
Rep. America “Chuck” Middleton, District 85
Rep. Tom Miles, District 75
Rep. David W. Myers, District 98
Rep. Orlando W. Paden, District 26
Rep. Willie J. Perkins, Sr., District 32
Rep. Tommy Reynolds, District 33
Rep. Omeria Scott, District 80
Rep. Rufus E. Straughter, District 51
Rep. Preston E. Sullivan, District 22
Rep. Kathy Sykes, District 70
Rep. Sara Richardson Thomas, District 31
Rep. Kenneth Walker, District 27
Rep. Percy W. Watson, District 103
Rep. Adrienne Wooten, District 71
Rep. Charles Young, Jr., District 82



WLOX
5/13/16



Posted May 16, 2016 - 4:48 am

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Sheriff says MS texting and driving ban isn't working



"Nobody's writing these tickets," said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell. "Or if they are, there are not very many."

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office has never written a ticket for texting and driving. Hancock County has given out one ticket. However, Harrison County has given out 25....


...Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson had this to say about the law:

"Based on the new law, the "burden of proof" falls on enforcement to prove. For example, if we were to ask a driver after stopping them for texting and driving to see their phone and they told us no, the officer would only have two choices to further the case. Either secure the driver and phone for a search warrant to collect the evidence needed or get a court order to retrieve that persons texting information for that particular time and date. Both choices would cost taxpayers. An abundance of law enforcement time and taxpayer money for records retrieval. This all goes back to burden of proof."



WLOX
5/14/16



Posted May 16, 2016 - 4:42 am

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This week several articles have been written and comments made suggesting the legislature has done a disservice to the state by ignoring the needs of the Department of Mental Health. My colleagues and I are fully aware of the funding needs of this agency and to say we have been negligent in the appropriations process could not be further from the truth.

Since I became Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee in 2012, we have increased state support spending for the Department of Mental Health by more than $17 million. Most of this increase has been used to improve the care provided in the state's community based programs.

In this coming fiscal year's budget, which begins on July 1, Mental Health will in fact have a decrease in its state support revenue of $4.2 million. However, what has not been reported clearly is that the agency will reduce its interagency fees to be paid by $5.6 million. These are fees paid to other state agencies for costs such as rent, legal fees, and technology support that have now been eliminated as part of their budget. The net effect is that Mental Health will have a net increase in funding of $1.4 million. Thus a claim that programs and services will be drastically eliminated must be based on some other reason we are not aware of.

For future budgets, we might suggest using the line-item method in drafting the agency's appropriation bill. In this method, the legislature is very specific in its funding of each category instead of giving a lump sum for the agency to spend at its discretion. If we had done so this tight budget year, one can be assured the following expenditures for Mental Health, which were included in their request, would not be included:

$101,739 for Out of State travel
$1,399,516 for Office Furniture
$114,273 for "food for business meetings"
$4,121,002 in spending on a "Procurement Card", which is not itemized in their budget

Lastly, like many other agencies, the Department of Mental Health utilizes contract workers. In some instances, this can be a cost effective way to fill gaps in lieu of hiring a full time employee. However, it seems that when an agency has more than 500 contract workers, it's a bit much and thus blocks many individuals seeking full time employment with the agency.

The budget for the State of Mississippi cannot be viewed through a singular lens by neither the legislature nor the public. There are many agencies providing valuable services to the citizens of this state, many funded at a level below what we would like. We also believe that each agency is sincere in their requests for funding as they and their advocates fight for their share of the pie. The truth of the matter is though that each agency and each advocate is not so concerned about funding levels at other agencies. However, it is our job in appropriations to be concerned with every agency and the mission with which they are charged. The Attorney General claimed we are being negligent with the level we have funded Mental Health. I would ask him as I asked everyone this year seeking a funding increase for their agency: Whose budget do we cut further to get you to where you want your agency's budget to be? K-12? Community colleges? Institutions of Higher Learning? Medicaid? Or perhaps not fully fund the new Family and Children's Services? During the session we heard no such recommendation, from the Attorney General or others, to reduce their own budget by $4 million and send it to Mental Health.

Chairman Buck Clarke
5/14/16

Posted May 15, 2016 - 6:08 pm

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Today was the MSGOP convention in Jackson. Just a few early notes.

Generally, the convention went smoothly. Leadership had its delegates well-organized from the county conventions.

First and most notably, former State Senator Melanie Sojourner tried to lead a coup of sorts. After weeks of ranting on the "Facebooks", in the third district caucus, she moved to dissolve the caucus and move into a "committee of the whole" with the goal to challenge the slate. Her motion was ruled as out of order, but not before substantial gnashing of teeth. Lots of ranting and raving signifying nothing. Those watching characterized her effort as "pretty pathetic" and "poorly thought through".

Henry Barbour and Jeanne Luckey were re-elected as National Committee Members. Joe Nosef retained his spot as Chair of the Mississippi GOP.

More on the official lists of delegates when it is officially released.



Posted May 14, 2016 - 3:59 pm

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Congressman writes to NCAA on HB 1523's affect on hosting

Dear Mr. (Emmert):

On April 5, 2016, Governor Phil Bryant of the State of Mississippi signed into law the so-called “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.” This law purports to protect Mississippians from discrimination by government officials for practicing/observing their religious beliefs. A cursory review of MS House Bill No. 1523, reveals that this bill does no such thing: instead, it gives employers, business owners, and any other person or entity in Mississippi the explicit right to discriminate against anyone with a lifestyle they disagree with in the name of religion. Simply put, this is government-sanctioned discrimination.

Recently, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted guidelines to protect participants and spectators from being discriminated against at NCAA events as a result of a similar, facially-discriminatory bill in the state of North Carolina. These new guidelines will require sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events to demonstrate how they will provide a discrimination-free environment for those participating and spectating. And if they cannot, the institution stands the risk of losing the opportunity to host both predetermined and non-predetermined events. It is my understanding that the Board of Governors has directed the NCAA national office to finalize details related to the implementation of these guidelines.

Mississippi has eleven (11) total institutions that fall under the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) jurisdiction with six (6) institutions in Division I, two (2) institutions in Division II, and three (3) institutions in Division III. These institutions and the sports they play are an important part of our state’s culture and provide a great benefit to the state in terms of tourism dollars, community development in the areas around these institutions and a point of pride for all of our citizens.

However, there is no place for discrimination despite what my home state’s legislature and governor may think. The NCAA has often affirmed its commitment to operate championships and events that promote an equitable and inclusive atmosphere in which students, fans, coaches, and any others associated with the events can enjoy themselves without being discriminated against. I would like for you to do an immediate review of Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom” law and advise me on the following:

(1) Implications that Mississippi institutions may face as a result of this law that is tantamount to state-sanctioned discrimination;

(2) Time frame for when those possible sanctions may go into place;

(3) Whether there are any immediate financial implications that these institutions may face; and

(4) Curative actions that the state of Mississippi can take to avoid these sanctions.

The NCAA has already taken action against the State of Mississippi because of the state flag’s confederate imagery and a desire to not have that flag flying above its events and championships. Despite what our governor and legislature may think, Mississippi is not closed for business and is not devolving into a confederate state. Their actions are continuously harming our state, our institutions and our athletes and I implore you to let them know, in your response to me, just what they are putting at stake with their intolerant actions.

A copy of MS House Bill 1523 is enclosed. Again, I strongly urge the NCAA to review this law as soon as possible, and advise of all appropriate actions that may be taken against member institutions in the State of Mississippi. If you have any questions, please contact Trey Baker, Counsel in my Washington, D.C., office at 202-225-5876 or at trey.baker@mail.house.gov. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Bennie G. Thompson

Member of Congress


Clarion Ledger
5/13/16



Posted May 13, 2016 - 2:04 pm

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Statement from the Mississippi Department of Education on U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Guidance

CLINTON, Miss. – A safe and caring school environment is critical to a student’s ability to learn and achieve. The Mississippi Department of Education will adhere to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as the joint guidance issued today by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice.


5/13/16

Posted May 13, 2016 - 1:38 pm

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Bryant: Obama's transgender bathroom letter 'outrageous'

"This is the most outrageous example yet of the Obama administration forcing its liberal agenda on states that roundly reject it," Gov. Phil Bryant said of the letter in a written statement. "Public schools' restroom policies should not be shaped by federal coercion."

Mississippi Department of Education spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle said in a statement: "A safe and caring school environment is critical to a student’s ability to learn and achieve. The Mississippi Department of Education will adhere to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as the joint guidance issued today by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice."

Schools that receive federal funding can't deny benefits or treat differently a student based on sex unless Title IX authorizes them to do so. The departments consider gender identity and transgender status as sex, meaning "a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.”



Clarion Ledger
5/13/16

Posted May 13, 2016 - 1:25 pm

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Donald J. Trump announces Mississippi Celebration
With National Media Spokeswoman, Healy Baumgardner
Music by Chris Gillis

Mitch Tyner, Chair of the Mississippi Donald Trump Committee announces a Donald J. Trump celebration party in advance of the Mississippi Republican Party Convention. The party is Friday May 13th from 6pm until 9pm at the state Trump headquarters located at 5750 I-55 North in Jackson, MS. The convention will take place on Saturday May 14th at the Hilton Hotel on County Line Road.
A shuttle will be provided for Hilton Hotel guests attending the state convention. Parking will be limited, so you may park at or close to the Hilton and catch the shuttle.
All supporters and media are invited to attend. There will be food, entertainment and plenty of Trump signs, bumper stickers, Make America Great Again hats, t-shirts, etc. Dress is casual. Several of the national Trump campaign officials will be present, including national spokeswoman, Healy Baumgardner.

Admission is free, so join us this evening and help Donald J. Trump Make America Great Again.

MS Donald Trump Committee
5/13/16

Posted May 13, 2016 - 1:21 pm

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Wicker Comments on Administration’s New Title IX ‘Guidance’

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., issued the following statement regarding the Obama Administration’s new guidance to public schools related to Title IX protections:

“It would be wrong for the Administration to withhold federal funding from public schools that choose to handle this sensitive matter in their own way. These are local issues best decided by those who live in our communities. Once again, the courts will inevitably have to weigh in because this Administration continues to impose rules without having the proper authority.”


5/13/16

Posted May 13, 2016 - 12:07 pm

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Mississippi rep says state takeover of Jackson was just a joke



A state representative from Rankin County said he was just joking when he said he was drafting a proposal for the state to take over the city of Jackson.

That’s what Rep. Mark Baker told Jackson Jambalaya on Thursday. Earlier this week, Baker told 16 WAPT News that he was considering drawing up a bill that allows a state takeover, similar to what’s used to take control of a failing school district.



WAPT
5/13/16

http://www.wapt.com/news/central-mississippi/jackson/mississippi-rep-says-state-takeover-of-jackson-was-just-a-joke/39531568

Posted May 13, 2016 - 11:07 am

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Rep. David Baria: Militaristic GOP leadership gutted state budget



If a member of the House dares challenge leadership by voting consistent with his conscience or the needs of his district, it is immediately apparent due to the large screen for displaying votes called “the Board” now having been separated into two columns, organized by party affiliation. Thus, if a Republican member strays to vote "no," he may be the sole red light appearing in a sea of Republican green on “the Board.” Retributionis certain and swift. Your bills won’t be considered, your district gets shorted in the budget or in a bond bill, or you may lose membership on a key committee.

What is described above is totalitarian rule, and this is how the Republican leadership currently controls the Mississippi Legislature. However, this is not the way voters expect their government to work. Opposing opinions need to be considered in order for the best policy decisions to be made. The people of Mississippi deserve and expect the legislative process to be inclusive of all ideas and opinions. The question is what can Mississippians do about this government they elected?



Clarion Ledger
5/12/16

Posted May 13, 2016 - 7:05 am

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Dem party chair predictions


Chairman Rickey Cole is retiring from the Mississippi Democratic Party, and several names have emerged as potential frontrunners for the position, including Jackson City Councilman Tyrone Hendrix and former state Rep. Bobby Moak.

Of the two, only Hendrix confirmed he will run for the position.



Clarion Ledger
5/12/16

Posted May 13, 2016 - 7:02 am

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BILL MINOR: GOP loyalists take on hue of ‘yellow dogs’



Obviously, in the upper Republican ranks where Haley dwells, Hillary is the epitome of toxicity.

You can’t help but remember that delusional Donald, the Republican standard bearer, has traveled around for weeks with a constant case of toxicity. Amazingly, the Johnny-come-lately Mississippi Trumpeters believe the Donald has found an overnight miracle cure for toxicity.

The Mississippi Republican brass hopped aboard the Trump train without waiting to see more evidence of Trump’s conservative credentials as did House Speaker Paul Ryan. Noticeably Mississippi’s Thad Cochran was not among the early train riders unlike his Senate colleague, Roger Wicker.

There were indications last week that party elders can somehow keep the New York billionaire businessman from heading the ticket amid national fears he will preside over the death of the party.



Daily Journal
5/12/16



Posted May 13, 2016 - 5:14 am

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America’s Most (and Least) Popular Governors



A Morning Consult survey of more than 66,000 voters in all 50 states taken from January until early May found the number of voters who disapprove of Snyder has risen 17 points to 63 percent. At the same time, the percentage of voters who approve of Snyder has plummeted 13 points – the biggest swing in sentiment Morning Consult has found in any politician tracked in the past year.


Mississippi Phil Bryant 60% Approve 24% Disapprove



Morning Consult
5/12/16



Posted May 13, 2016 - 5:08 am

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Larger share of Mississippi third graders pass reading test



A larger share of Mississippi third graders passed the state’s reading test on the first try this year.
The Mississippi Department of Education says 87 percent of 41,000 public school third graders passed the computerized test.
About 85 percent of third-graders passed on the initial attempt in 2015, the first year students were required to pass. Average test scores increased slightly in 2016.

About 5,000 students still need to pass to reach fourth grade. They’ve got two more chances, one before school ends and one during summer. Some students can also advance with exemptions.



WJTV
5/12/16



Posted May 13, 2016 - 5:04 am

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Governor Bryant signs bill outlawing synthetic marijuana



JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - Governor Phil Bryant has signed into law a bill that raises penalties for synthetic marijuana. A spokesman for Bryant says he signed Senate Bill 2169.

The law, which takes effect July 1, raises penalties for growing, possessing, selling or trafficking synthetic cannabinoids. It classifies the synthetic drug in the same category as real marijuana.


WLBT
5/12/16

Posted May 13, 2016 - 5:02 am

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