Wednesday, February 22, 2006

PRESS CLIPPINGS: Wednesday, February 22, 2006

1. The House and Senate have grocery tax bills that essentially differ only in how much the tobacco tax would be raised.
Cigarette-grocery tax bills pass - The Clarion-Ledger:
The House and Senate on Tuesday passed competing bills aimed at appeasing critics of a vetoed proposal to shift taxes from groceries to cigarettes.

After eight hours of contentious debate, the Senate passed a new cigarette-grocery tax bill, 30-17, shortly after 6 p.m.Senate Bill 3084 would raise the cigarette tax to 80 cents per pack and cut the 7 percent grocery tax in half.

The House, with little debate, approved a similar bill that would raise the tax on cigarettes to $1 per pack and cut the grocery tax in half.
2. SOS Clark says the $6 million from the Legislature will allow his office to purchase 2,000 more voting machines.
Miss. can buy another 2,000 voting machines - The Clarion-Ledger:
Secretary of State Eric Clark says Mississippi will be able to buy 2,000 additional new voting machines, under a bill signed into law Tuesday.

"It's going to mean shorter lines. It's going to mean quicker, more convenient voting," Clark said.

The new law, House Bill 562, took effect as soon as it was signed by Gov. Haley Barbour. It allows the state to issue $6 million in bonds to help buy new machines.
3. Salter tees off on Barbour and his opposition to the grocery tax cut bill. Salter's conclusion is particularly telling.
New sales tax cut, cigarette tax hike plotted - The Clarion-Ledger:
So here we go again, folks. Is Gov. Barbour really going to address the people of Mississippi once more with a straight face and tell us that low cigarette taxes are more advantageous to Mississippi's future than giving the working poor a small tax break on their groceries?

This fight has never been about what was good for average Mississippi taxpayers. It's been a mean, spiteful little political fight that ignored the poor.
4. The Greenwood Commonwealth puts the responsibility on the Senate to pass campaign finance reform, something the House has already done. The bill would make political donations more transparent. Anyone remember the governor running on a platform that included more transparency in government spending? Guess that same kind of honesty doesn't extend into Barbour's brand of politics.
Greenwood Commonwealth - Opinion - 02/21/2006 - Another opportunity for Tuck to lead:
For the second straight year, the House has agreed to a comprehensive plan - pushed by Secretary of State Eric Clark, Attorney General Jim Hood and good government groups - to make the money trail in Mississippi elections transparent. And for the second straight year, the effort is meeting resistance in the Senate.

The House bill would require that special-interest groups which buy political ads designed to effect a Mississippi election disclosed the sources of their funds. It would also mandate that candidates in the bigger state races file their campaign finance reports electronically, thus making it easier for the public to track who is giving to whom. The bill also clarifies that all loans to candidates must be disclosed - an issue that Tuck tripped on during a prior election.

The Senate only wants to do the loan disclosure, taking its marching orders from Gov. Haley Barbour, Mississippi's unmatched king of fund-raising.
5. The AG and the House have stood up to protect policy holders from confusion and misunderstanding, but the Senate chairmen are stalling. One of those stalling is Sen. Dean Kirby, who is expected to be the next Republican candidate for Insurance Commissioner. Do we really want someone who is in the back pocket of the insurance industry regulating that industry?
The Sun Herald | 02/22/2006 | Hood prods for action on insurers:
Attorney General Jim Hood urged the state Senate on Tuesday to pass two hurricane-related bills he says are imperative to helping South Mississippi recover.

The bills passed the House with wide voting margins but Hood said during a news conference at the state Capitol that Senate committee chairs have failed to act.

One of the insurance bills would mandate that insurance companies offer a storm-surge waiver so property owners know whether or not they have flood coverage. The other calls for interest to be charged on claims not paid in a timely manner.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

OPEN THREAD: Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another one just for fun.

PRESS CLIPPINGS: Tuesday, February 21, 2006

1. Tuck, Senate introduce a compromise bill for grocery tax cut in case veto cannot be overridden.

Senate gets revised tax bill - The Clarion-Ledger:
Weeks after a controversial tax bill was vetoed, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck on Monday introduced a less ambitious bill to trim the grocery tax and raise the cigarette tax.

Senate Bill 3084 would raise the cigarette tax to 80 cents per pack while cutting the 7 percent grocery tax in half, starting July 1. The bill likely will be taken up on the Senate floor today.

Tuck said the legislation was filed as an alternative to the initial bill that would have raised cigarette taxes to $1 per pack and eliminated the grocery tax over nine years. Gov. Haley Barbour vetoed Senate Bill 2310 last month.
2. The Commonwealth questions how far is too far in pointing out sex offenders.

Greenwood Commonwealth - Opinion - 02/20/2006 - How much ridicule for sex offenders?:
How much should sex offenders be subject to public vilification, even as they are serving time for their crimes?

That is the question raised by a plan in the Department of Human Services to plaster on billboards around the state the faces of sex offenders, particularly those convicted of statutory rape, while they are behind bars.

Monday, February 20, 2006

PRESS CLIPPINGS: Monday, February 20, 2006

1. The C-L sees through the governor's so-called Healthy Kids initiative.
Tobacco - The Clarion-Ledger:
There is nothing wrong with the programs the governor proposes. They just shouldn't be funded from the $20 million going to the state's effective anti-smoking effort.

His intentions are clear. Barbour has attempted to undo the settlement agreement on constitutional grounds that the court is appropriating money instead of the Legislature. That is why Moore supports House Bill 1115 and Senate Bill 2760, which would have the Legislature simply appropriate money to the Partnership to continue its good work.
2. David Hampton looks at the governor's double-speak on taxes.
Has Barbour convinced you a grocery tax cut is a tax hike? - The Clarion-Ledger:
I don't know of anybody who could make voters believe a proposal to do away with the sales tax on groceries is somehow a bad idea by any stretch of the imagination.

The same governor whose response to anything taxes is "I'm against raising anybody's taxes" has so far won the political battle in the Legislature and the public relations battle in the public on the proposal that would do more to lower taxes on average Mississippians than any tax reform measure that has come down in decades.
3. Greenwood Commonwealth says governor not credible on tobacco issues.
Greenwood Commonwealth - Opinion - 02/17/2006 - But boss not credible on teen smoking:
While Charlie Williams makes a good point about considering the grocery tax on its own merit, his boss doesn't have much credibility when it comes to protecting Mississippi's children from the dangers of smoking.

Gov. Haley Barbour Thursday unveiled his suggestions of how the state could better utilize the $20 million a year that now goes to a private nonprofit group that directs most of Mississippi's smoking cessation efforts.
4. Man, the governor can't catch a break. The Hattiesburg American pans his idea as well.
Hattiesburg American - - Hattiesburg, Miss.:
According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids, a Washington, D.C.-based health advocacy group: "The Partnership's programs (between 1999 and 2004) have reduced smoking by 48 percent among public middle school students and by 32 percent among public high school students. Mississippi's youth smoking declines far outpace the nation as a whole.

Enter Barbour, who has been attempting to dismantle The Partnership since he came into office.

OPEN THREAD: Monday, February 20, 2006

Happy President's Day...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

PRESS CLIPPINGS: Thursday, February 16, 2006

1. Hood says he found no wrongdoing by any elected officials in connection with Mississippi Beef Processors.
Hood: No more beef charges - The Clarion-Ledger:
State Attorney General Jim Hood said he expects no more criminal charges in the investigation of Mississippi Beef Processors and has found no wrongdoing by any elected official.
2. Here's my question: WHY HASN'T THE GOVERNOR APPOINTED A PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT? Given the current state of utilities, the encroaching winter days and skyrocketing energy costs, it seems logical that the coast would be well-served to have someone in place to regulate and assist the energy companies.
Companies seek millions - The Clarion-Ledger:
Mississippi electric companies requested millions from state lawmakers Wednesday hoping to minimize anticipated rate increases in the wake Hurricane Katrina.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved an unprecedented plan that would allow Mississippi Power and Entergy Mississippi to borrow money - using the state's name and low interest rate - to cover the estimated $362 million in losses from the Aug. 29 storm.
3. The Legislature has approved more funds for the new voter machine project.
More voting machine funds if Barbour signs legislation -
JACKSON - Legislation has been sent to Gov. Haley Barbour to provide $6 million more to help Mississippi's 82 counties purchase more voting machines.

The legislation, which originated in the House, was passed Monday by the Senate with no dissenting votes.

Senate Elections Committee chairman Terry Burton, R-Newton, said the $6 million will be used to replace anticipated federal funds that Congress never appropriated. New federal legislation placed mandates on the states, such as additional access for the disabled and voting machines that cut down on voter error.

OPEN THREAD: Thursday, February 16, 2006

Anyone have any good Valentine's Day stories? Family versions, please.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

PRESS CLIPPINGS: Wednesday, February 15, 2006

1. The Department of Finance and Administration has become a political extension of Gov. Barbour. No wonder he wants to put DFA and MDA together with him in a building renovated SPECIFICALLY FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL. I'm still trying to figure out why the press is not digging more into the amount of money the governor wants to waste in renovating a building that has been specially equipped with security measures and technology upgrades designed for law enforcement. This story is about DFA saying the state can't afford the mental health facilities they approved. I guess the gov and DFA think it's just fine to lock up innocent men and women and pass the financial buck to the county level. Is that what Republicans call "compassionate conservatism"?
Mental health centers revisited - The Clarion-Ledger:
Political pressure is mounting to construct a mental health crisis center in Brookhaven with $19 million on the horizon for centers statewide.

Law enforcement and residents have waited seven years for the state to construct an estimated $2.9 million facility in Brookhaven. Southwest Mississippi is the only region without a center.

"They just need to go on and build the thing," Sen. Billy Thames, D-Mize, who helped create the centers, said Tuesday.But the Department of Finance and Administration says the future of a center in Brookhaven is not certain.
2. The C-L is reminding elected officials not to ignore the children trapped in a troubled DHS system.
Legislature '06 - The Clarion-Ledger:
Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit alleging serious failings in the state's foster care program is painting a grim picture demanding attention. Although the lawsuit filed by New York-based Children's Rights suing the Mississippi Department of Human Services presents only one side of a legal argument, using DHS figures, it notes:

Nearly 88 percent of children in DHS custody were not seen at least monthly by their social worker in a year;

About 32 percent of the youngest foster children in custody for at least one year did not receive a physical.

3. House still looking at fully funding education.
House passes ed budget short of full funding -
Education at full funding levels accounts for more than $2 billion of the total state budget. House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said the House leadership still supports full funding and hopes to achieve that goal before the session ends.

But the House chose not to make a statement on full funding for education early because of the uncertainty in the budget process.

OPEN THREAD: Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Here we go again...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

PRESS CLIPPINGS: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

1. Suprisingly, DHS has no comment on more alleged abuse cases. DHS Executive Director Don Taylor even sent a memo enforcing a gag order on all employees. Glad to see they want to be open about all of this so the issue can be resolved and these children will have the opportunity to live in a better situation.
Lawsuit: DHS failing kids in foster care - The Clarion-Ledger:
New York-based Children's Rights, which is suing the state Department of Human Services, detailed in a few hundred pages of expert reports alleged problems of sexual abuse, unqualified employees and fiscal mismanagement.

The organization cited high levels of children who were maltreated, passed over for physical exams, not seen by their social worker as required, or languished in the system when they were ready for adoption.

DHS attorney Rusty Fortenberry would not address details in the reports, but said they would be "disputed very vigorously."
2. Paul Ott's poem "I Am Mississippi" has drawn the ire of some Ole Miss professors, students and other staff members. While they think Ott is a good man, they added, "'I Am Mississippi' is not a good poem."
Proposed state poem has critics - The Clarion-Ledger:
Three dozen English professors, instructors, staff members and students at the University of Mississippi are asking lawmakers to reject a proposed state poem, saying the work "has no literary merit."

"We do not want America and the world to think that 'I Am Mississippi' is the best poem this state can offer," they say in a letter addressed to the state Senate, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, Gov. Haley Barbour and the people of Mississippi.
3. The C-L endorses posting votes online.
Post the votes - The Clarion-Ledger:
The Internet has done much to improve government accountability, giving citizens instant access to information on elected officials' actions.

Mississippi state agencies have come far in providing Web-based access. The site, can guide citizens to information and services.

The Mississippi Legislature also has information and bill status at its site, But there is so much more that could be done.

The most urgent and easiest thing that could be added is online voting records of legislators.
4. Bobby Harrison looks at the stem cell bill passed in the Legislature.
BOBBY HARRISON: Legislators pass an ambiguous stem cell bill -
JACKSON - Watch Mississippi legislators, as any politicians, long enough and eventually a true picture of what they think of the intellect of the public will emerge.

That picture was crystallized last week in the state House during debate on stem cell research.

True, it is a complex, scientific issue, and no one, certainly not I, has all the facts. But probably no truer words were spoken during the debate that those of plain-spoken Rep. John Mayo, D-Clarksdale, who at one point exclaimed, "We are politicians who don't know squat, and we shouldn't be dabbling in this."

OPEN THREAD: February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day...

Monday, February 13, 2006

PRESS CLIPPINGS: Monday, February 13, 2006

1. The House passed an bill outlawing human cloning and stem cell research.
Stem cell bill - The Clarion-Ledger:
Blatantly pandering to the radical right of the pro-life movement, the House of Representatives passed a bill to outlaw human cloning in the state. But the real intent of the bill had precious little to do with cloning.
2. Agnew looks at a bill that will study a revitalization project for the Delta.
Must Delta's future look just like its past? - The Clarion-Ledger:
Nearly 21 years after leaving a reporting stint in the Mississippi Delta, I remain stumped about the contradictions that abound in the region.

It is a place of beauty and disaster, majestic homes, fertile land and the kindest people in this country.

Flip the coin, and tears roll uncontrollably down my face, spilling out when I try with great might to contain them. The poverty that continues to define the Delta is of such a vicious nature. It is so engrained in the culture that now it is hardly noticed.
3. Hampton explains the C-L's change of mind over sheriffs having radar.
Radar redux: What we have here is a failure to communicate - The Clarion-Ledger:
The Clarion-Ledger did something rare this past week - it changed its position on an issue it has editorialized against for years.

This newspaper has traditionally opposed the use of radar by county sheriff's departments. In the grand scheme of things, whether sheriffs run radar to catch speeders has not been a big item on the state's agenda, but it is one that has been a longtime irritant to county law officers. It's one that comes up in the Legislature every year and seldom gets much hearing. This year is different.

The bill was approved by the state Senate last week after sheriffs made a strong case before state lawmakers.

A group of sheriffs made the same case to us, as well.
4. Salter talks about immigration reform and the growing Hispanic population. I saw some of these protesters. Their signs were borderline racist in attacking a group of people. It's as if some in the immigration debate talk about the Hispanic population as if they are some sort of sub-human race of dirty animal. Such an approach is sad, pathetic, ignorant and racist. Period.
State has population rank that illuminates - The Clarion-Ledger:
Protesters on the grounds of the Capitol this week were lambasting state legislators who killed some 16 different bills aimed at illegal immigrants - bills that would have prohibited undocumented students from attending in-state colleges or doing contruction work under state contracts.

Some of those protesters told a Jackson TV station that they wanted Gov. Haley Barbour to reintroduce the legislation in a special session. Pro-immigrant groups have already protested against attempts to pass punitive legislation targeting undocumented foreign workers and their families.

But the numbers suggest that Mississippi had better begin taking the issue of illegal immigration and undocumented workers seriously.

Why? Because if current population trends continue, the word "minority" may take on a whole new connotation for white Mississippians - particularly those who still suffer from that paralyzing, hateful disease called xenophobia.
5. The education funding debate has begun, but it likely won't be settled for several weeks.
House, Senate disagree on education funding changes -
JACKSON - The House and Senate have passed differing versions of how to revamp the Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding formula, and the matter probably will not be resolved until near the end of the session.

The result will affect education funding for years to come.

"I hope we come up with a fair system to distribute funds to the school systems of the state," said House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson.
6. It's nice to see Republicans getting organized in the House. Democrats already have a similar caucus in the House and have just started one in the Senate. The work of these two groups will help elect good Democrats to the Legislature in 2007.
The Sun Herald | 02/12/2006 | Republicans test power of caucus:
One night last week, a new caucus was born.

House Republicans, I'm told, voted overwhelmingly Wednesday night to create a caucus, although details of exactly how it will operate and who will run it apparently remain to be determined.

They say they are not going to try to undermine or topple Democratic House Speaker Billy McCoy's authority. They say they won't demand block voting, try to split committees, oust incumbents or force waffling Dems to switch parties. It's unclear whether the caucus would replace the already caucus-like Conservative Coalition. This all begs the question: What, exactly, will this caucus do?

OPEN THREAD: Monday, February 13, 2006

Don't forget the candy, flowers and dinner reservations for tomorrow, or Monday won't be the only manic day.