November 14, 2008

The Mississippi Senate Ethics Committee is slated to hold official hearings at the Capitol on November 19th regarding state agencies use of taxpayer funds to hire contract lobbyists. The Ethics Committee conducted a six month investigation and will receive testimony from various state agencies on the matter.

Senator Merle Flowers (R-Olive Branch), Chairman of the Ethics Committee, issued subpoenas to Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board President Amy Whitten and former Executive Director Dr. Tom Meredith. “Taxpayers picked up the tab to the tune of almost $2 million for state agencies to hire contract lobbyists. At the same time, taxpayers paid the salaries of executive level agency directors who were more than competent to answer questions from the legislature. Taxpayers deserve to know how much of their hard earned money was spent and why the bureaucrats spent it,” said Flowers.

In April, Flowers appointed Senator David Baria (D-Bay St. Louis) as chairman of the Government Accountability subcommittee. “My subcommittee has worked on this issue for six months. I’m confident the hearings will provide the public with useful information about how state agencies operate. We anticipate some good government policy decisions will be derived from our work on this issue,” said Baria.

In addition to IHL, the Department of Transportation, Division of Medicaid, Technology Alliance, and several other agencies will testify. The hearings will take place in Room 216 of the Capitol beginning at 9:00 a.m. on November 19th. Policy and regulatory experts will also provide testimony the following day on November 20th, including Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the Stennis Institute, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and PEER Executive Director Dr. Max Arinder. The hearings are open to the public.