Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mississippi News Notes This Week [Feb 24 through Feb 27, 2016]

Top budget writer in the Mississippi House says the state's Medicaid program needs another $52 million during the budget year that ends June 30.
 Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson also says one way to plug that hole, and to cover other deficits, is to use $66 million in lawsuit settlements announced by Attorney General Jim Hood Legislators will spend the next two months filling holes in the current budget and writing a more than $6 billion budget for fiscal 2017, which begins July 1.

Work in the Mississippi House of Representatives was delayed because black caucus members were having bills read aloud as a form of protest.
Caucus members did this to challenge a redistricting bill they say could hurt the chances of black or democratic candidates from being elected to the State Supreme Court, public service commission, or transportation commission. After a machine generated voice spent several hours on Thursday reading a 293 page bill, the house voted later that night to limit its own members’ ability to make speeches if they think their integrity is called into question.

.House Representatives approved the Mississippi Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act that would end abortion by the dismemberment of a fetus. - The bill still seeks approval from the Senate.

The Mississippi Senate passed a bill that would allow domestic violence to be added as a legal reason to file for divorce.
 "Abuse is a cycle," said Sara Holifield, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Family Shelter. "It's a cycle. A lot of the time it's more of a comfort thing for these people, and they're scared. We have children in shelter as small as two weeks old. We've had some women in shelter that have had a baby in shelter and have come back to shelter. I mean, that is a huge deal for us. We keep these people safe. So when we look at it, yeah, we're like 'this is a home run.'" Senate Bill 2418 would make domestic abuse the thirteenth cause for divorce in Mississippi. Right now, only "Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment" is listed.

Remember that bill that passed? Well, it didn’t pass.

A requirement for third-graders to score higher on a reading test, which officials initially said had passed the Mississippi Senate by one vote, actually failed. Senate President Pro Tem Terry Burton, a Newton Republican, said Thursday that votes were miscounted and that Senate Bill 2157 lost on a 25-24 vote.

This legislative session, District 108 Representative Mark Formby introduced two bills regarding vaccinations for school-age children.

The first bill, House Bill No. 939 died in committee, Formby said. “We are trying to get parents the right to choose which vaccinations they want their children to have,” he said. “It’s the same right that parents have in 47 others states. I don’t know why parents in Mississippi should be considered less intelligent.” The second bill, House Bill No. 938, would allow parents or guardians of school-age children to obtain letters of exemption or limiting the number of vaccinations from a physician for medical reasons.

The Mississippi House voted Wednesday to revise the state Supreme Court districts.

But only after a racially charged debate about whether the bill is meant to prevent African-Americans from being elected to the court. House Bill 868 passed 71-50 on a largely party line vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats against. The measure was held for the possibility of more House debate before it can go to the Senate for more work.
It would move Simpson County from the Southern District into the Central District. House Judiciary A Committee Chairman Mark Baker, R-Brandon, said the change would give all three districts an even population and racial makeup. The change also would affect districts for members of the state Public Service and Transportation commissions.

The heads of the Mississippi Legislature's transportation committee are considering raising the gas tax to maintain the state's highways and bridges.

The joint House-Senate committee heard a presentation from the Mississippi Economic Council Thursday that called for $375 million a year to meet the repair needs. The committee heard from state transportation head Melinda McGrath earlier this month. She called for $526 million more a year to repair more than one-third of highways and nearly one-fourth of bridges in the state. Read more here:

The House removed a procedural hold from a bill it passed Friday, sending it to the Senate.

House Bill 1523 says state officials, private business owners and others who provide services to the public couldn’t be punished for acting on religious beliefs that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Also:
•The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2418, which would add domestic abuse as a 13th ground for divorce. The bill moves to the House.
-The House passed House Bill 880, which would allow state employees to qualify for pensions in four years, not the current eight years. The bill moves to the Senate.
•House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson said the Medicaid program needs another $52 million during the budget year that ends June 30.

HB 1044: An act to authorize open enrollment in charter schools

Sponsor: Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula
With this act, students could attend a charter school operating in a school district in which they don't live. Debate over this bill ignited controversy in the House Education Committee, with Rep. Jarvis Dortch, D-Raymond, throwing pretenses to the wind and motioning to amend it to open charter schools in all school districts—not just D and F ones, like the current law allows.
House Education Committee Chair Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon, also authored a bill seeking charter-school enrollment across district lines.

HB 943: An act to rename the 'Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act" to the "Equal Opportunity for All Students Act."

Sponsor: Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon
As presented by Rep. Joel Bomgar, R-Madison, the bill revises eligibility for Education Savings Accounts to include low-income as well as special-needs students, with special-needs students still receiving the $6,500, and students from low-, middle- and high-income families receiving $5,000, $4,000 and $3,000, respectively. As of the beginning of the year, families utilize 131 of the 433 vouchers available under the current program.

HB 76: An act to require county school-board members to declare party affiliation

Sponsor: Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon
Legislation so far in 2016 has called for the appointment of superintendents—except for the office of state superintendent, which Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, thinks should be elected—and the reduction of school-personnel participation in politics, except in the case of county school-board members. SB 2743, authored by Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, also requires the nonpartisan election of county school board members.

HB 1481: An act to implement juvenile-justice reforms

Sponsor: Rep. Linda Coleman, D-Mound Bayou
This 113-page bill outlines juvenile-justice reform measures to be implemented as "per task force reports." The bill tasks DPS to "adopt rules setting standards for juvenile-detention facilities" and requires MDE to bring juvenile-detention centers up to par regarding education licensing standards. The bill would execute mock reviews of juvenile-detention facilities by Oct. 1, 2016.


Hey, maaaaa!’s that Stokes dude again!!

Councilman Stokes said he wanted to name the building in honor of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. But one woman suggested naming it after local resident ElPort Chess. Stokes attempted to speak to the woman but Melvin Priester cut him off saying he would not allow Stokes to disrespect the woman.
“But you’re going to sit here and disrespect me? I'm not going to let you disrespect me,” Stokes told Priester. Priester said he was responding to Stokes’ disrespect and told him he could leave.
“I felt it should be named after a Jacksonian because I felt our children should know our history,” the woman said.

Senate Bill 2146 would increase the sales tax diversion to cities to be used for infrastructure. Information Here:

Bussing from Lumberton

Sen. Gray Tollison, who is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, introduced Senate Bill 2500, which would "abolish the Lumberton School District and send students to Lamar or Pearl River County Schools. This is following the administrative consolidation and provide for the transfer of school district assets and liabilities" starting July 1, 2018. The bill has passed through the Senate Education Committee.

The Barbours. Theeeyyyy're baaaack!

The Barbours, or Henry Barbour in particular, has joined the efforts to curb a conservative from getting a Republican nomination by endorsing Marco Rubio over Ted Cruz. The Republican establishment is apparently going to push a plan similar to what they did against state Senator Chris McDaniel when they went out of their way to make sure a conservative did not get elected, and keep it in the hands of liberal Republican Thad Cochran. The Clarion-Ledger reports the endorsement comes one week ahead of the so-called SEC Primary of 11 states, though Mississippi does not hold its primary until March 8.
So far Barbour efforts this year have failed as he was an adviser to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race before the Iowa caucuses. You'd think he might support the same guy Perry is endorsing (Ted Cruz) but it just goes to show that when it comes to the Barbour's all about them...nothing more nothing less. His brother, Austin Barbour, ran Perry's super PAC, then joined former Gov.
He is the nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Henry Barbour came under fire from tea party members in 2014 for his role in getting black Democrats to help re-elect Sen. Thad Cochran by urging them to vote in a Republican primary runoff to help beat back a challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel.


The Mississippi House has passed a bill that would cut the years state employees must wait to qualify for retirement benefits.

House Bill 880 would cut the wait from eight years to four years to be a member of the state Public Employees Retirement System.
The bill passed 113-7 Wednesday and moves to the Senate for more work. The cut would give more state employees retirement benefits and shorten the time future workers must wait to get those benefits.
The changes to the retirement program wouldn’t cost much more than the program costs now, according to a joint committee of the House and Senate. The committee says the change would have a “negligible” financial effect while attracting potential new employees.


The design of the Mississippi state flag will not be addressed this year.

It is one of many bills that died in committee before getting an actual debate. Lawmakers say it’s because they couldn’t decide on a replacement. Suggestions from a whole new design the replace the confederate emblem, to reinstating the former Magnolia Flag were offered.
Another bill also suggested separate-but-equal flags which would allow the state to keep the current flag and also have a second one flown with the image of a magnolia tree on it.

If you leave in Jackson, Mississippi and drink the water, you might want to rethink it.

Officials at the MSDH say that after consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency, is advising all residents who receive their drinking water from the City of Jackson Water System to take the following precautions:
  • Before using tap water for drinking or cooking, run your tap on cold for one to two minutes; for more detailed information visit the CDC's website;
  • Households should never use hot water for drinking or cooking;
  • Any child five years of age or younger and any pregnant woman should use filtered water or bottled water for drinking and cooking;
  • Baby formula should be “ready-to-feed” or prepared using only filtered water or bottled water; and
  • Parents with children six years or younger should contact their child’s pediatrician or primary care provider to ensure adequate lead screening and blood testing have been performed.

Finally #JusticeFor Jessica??

A Mississippi man already suspected in a separate murder has been indicted in the December 2014 burning death of a 19-year-old woman. Quinton Tellis was indicted on capital murder charges yesterday by a special grand jury in the death of Jessica Chambers. Tellis is currently being held in Monroe, LA. On charges connected to the august 2015 death of a university of Louisiana Monroe exchange student.

The state economist says Mississippi continues to have “sluggish” growth that trails the Southeast and the nation as a whole.

Darrin Webb tells lawmakers Wednesday that he expects data will show Mississippi’s economy grew about 1 percent in 2015, following two years of contraction. That compares to 2.4 percent growth last year for the nation — the same rate as 2014 and slightly higher than 2013. State Treasurer Lynn Fitch says Mississippi is well below its constitutional debt limit.
However, the state ranks 14th highest in the nation for tax-supported debt per person. She says that’s a list where being 50th is best. Fitch says credit agencies see low education attainment and high poverty as challenges for Mississippi. Webb also says because of education, the state has “limited human capital.”


If you show up to vote in Harrison County and instead find a consignment sale--your polling place was moved

Just two weeks before the March 8 presidential primaries, one of Harrison County's largest polling places has been moved because of a conflict with a consignment sale. And election officials aren't happy the polling place has been moved from the D'Iberville Civic Center to the nearby multipurpose building. Some worry there won't be room for Democratic and Republican voting machines, and what's expected to be a large turnout.
A consignment sale is being advertised for the Civic Center by Twice As Nice Kids Resale on election. The decision to move the polling place apparently was made by Supervisor Beverly Martin from District 1, which includes the North Bay precinct. Martin did not respond to an email but the Sun Herald obtained an email from her to county officials.
"I don't see this as a problem that we can't all compromise on at this late date with proper signage and such," she wrote. "I am working to remedy this situation so as to not have this happen again."
Tim Holleman, attorney for the Board of Supervisors, said he was asked to research whether it was legal to move the polling place from one building to the other. He said it was, according to the Attorney General's Office, because both places have the same address -- 10395 Automall Parkway. Circuit Clerk Connie Ladner said she's not happy with the change because it could discourage some people from voting. North Bay, with 5,500 registered voters, is one of the county's largest.
"I don't want to end up on national news," she said. "Imagine the number of people who will walk to the door, see the sign and say I'm not going to walk 30 feet to go vote. Or I'm not going to get in my car and drive 30 feet to this other precinct, I'm going home. You know how frustrated voters get on election day.

25 years ago today, a U.S. led coalition began a massive ground offensive in the Persian Gulf War. I was on the Saudi Kuwait border with the Marines 3rd Force Recon Company, preparing for war.I've always been proud to serve and defend our country, but I never thought I would have to defend it against our very own Commander in Chief. 25 years after fighting and winning a war in the Middle East, I’m co-sponsoring legislation to prevent our president from closing Gitmo and bringing terrorists into our country. I not only find his decision completely outrageous as an American citizen and as a Congressman, but as a Marine veteran who fought for this country. --Congressman Steve Pallazo