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March 13, 2009
March 8, 2009
JACKSON – An interesting exchange occurred on the floor of the House recently during debate on whether the state should accept all of the
federal stimulus package funds or let other states have a portion of the money designated for Mississippi.
Rep. Tad Campbell, R-Meridian, asked Rep. Joe Warren, D-Mount Olive, if he had seen another example of a federal law that trumped the state
Constitution and state law like Campbell said the stimulus package did.
Warren said he could not recall one, but added it was unusual economic times and extraordinary measures were needed.
Come on guys.
Federal law overrules state law all the time. There are countless examples – huge examples that any amateur observer of Mississippi history should know.
Federal law superseded the state and gave African Americans the right to vote in the 1960s. In the 1980s federal officials stepped in and said the state Constitution and law that denied Northeast Mississippi 16th Section school land revenue that other parts of the state benefitted from was unconstitutional.
I could go on and on about where federal law trumped state law. And by the way it happens in all states – not just Mississippi.
I give Warren and Campbell the benefit of the doubt. They must have been doing what we all do on occasion – not thinking before speaking.
March 2, 2009
JACKSON – Legislators pass resolutions all he time either proclaiming or honoring various people and events.
Usually they are non-controversial. And when honoring youths they are always non-controversial.
But that may change.
For a number of years, the Legislature has passed resolutions proclaiming Spirit of America Day and recognizing Mississippi high school athletes who receive Spirit of America recognition.
It seems innocent enough. But the only problem is that the whole event is spearheaded by attorney Richard Barrett, a unapologetic white supremacist based in south Hinds County and occasional candidate for public office.
In past years, legislators for the most part either did not know about Barrett’s connection or either turned the other way.
But it appears that this year some members of the state House might fight the resolution.
That will put members in a bad situation — opposing a resolution honoring children from their colleagues’ districts. Perhaps, the parents and students did not know of Barrett’s background and beliefs. And as a father, just about any honors my children receive are welcomed and cherished. Goodness, parents are proud of any positive recognition their children get.
That is understandable.
But by the same token, people have to ask about the value of accepting an award from someone who through our state’s history has continued to spew hate.
And legislators have to ask do they want to continue to legitimatize someone of Barrett’s ilk by passing resolutions that he can tout? At this point he should be considered an anachronism in our state and someone to be tolerated but not legitimatized by official acts of the Mississippi Legislature.
The fact that teen-agers are caught up in this issue is a shame and makes it difficult for House members.
By the way, the Senate also passed the resolution.
February 17, 2009
JACKSON – The versions of the cigarette tax legislation passed earlier this session by the Senate and House had many differences, chief among them the amount of the increase.
But the versions passed by the two chambers had at least one key point in common. Both chambers passed legislation based on the
assumption the increase – whatever size was finally agreed to – would take effect this fiscal year.
The Senate, in particular, talked about a March 1 enactment date to garner funds this fiscal year to ensure that local governments had enough money to prevent a possible increase in the cost of car tags.
February is quickly slip-sliding away and the negotiators appointed by House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who
presides over the Senate, have yet to meet – at least in public.
The state Tax Commission had said it would take about 30 days to enact an increase in the cigarette tax.
It is becoming less and less likely any additional money will be raised from an increase in the cigarette tax for this fiscal year,
which ends on June 30. With the state budget in a mess, legislators are missing an opportunity.
Maybe, at this point they are just counting on the federal stimulus package to bail them out.
February 12, 2009
JACKSON – Eric Powell, D-Corinth, is one of three senators Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant has selected to negotiate a compromise with the House on the size of the cigarette tax increase.
During debate on the legislation, Powell opposed the Senate leadership position of a 31-cent increase to 49 cents per pack. He supported a larger increase.
Powell’s position will be overruled by the two other Senate negotiators, Finance Chairman Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, and Vice Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale.
Still, it is unusual that a freshman from the presiding officer’s opposition party is named to be a key negotiator on one of the largest pieces of legislation of the 2009 session. It speaks to the respect he has engendered in the chamber.
The thee negotiators appointed by Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, are Ways and Means Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto; and Angela Cockerham, D-Magnolia.
February 3, 2009
JACKSON – Legislation that includes some of the incentives offered to ensure that Cooper Tire did not close its Tupelo plant was
signed into law Tuesday morning by Gov. Haley Barbour during a ceremony in his state Capitol office.
The incentive package, which could total as much as $20 million in loans and grants, was promised to Cooper when the company announced
intentions to close one of four North American plants. Cooper opted to close a plant in Georgia.
JACKSON – James Maxwell, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, was appointed to the Court of
Appeals Tuesday by Gov. Haley Barbour. Maxwell will replace David Chandler who won a seat on the Supreme
Court during last year’s elections.
January 27, 2009
Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Purvis, right, talks with Senate Appropriations Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo,
JACKSON – Setting deadlines for where legislation must be in each step of the process serves a useful purpose.
Legislative deadlines help curtail one of the most basic human traits – procrastination. Deadlines spur legislators to act. In essence all deadlines are built around constraints placed on the Legislature by the Mississippi Constitution. For years, the deadline for the leadership to agree on a budget, followed by the deadline for the full membership to pass that budget have in effect served the purpose of being an enemy to open government.
The turnaround between those two deadlines is so quick that the legislative staff does not have time to develop in a readable format an overall budget picture. Instead, the members vote on more than 100 budget bills individually – often packed with little gems – and the full membership and the public really cannot ascertain the full budget picture as those votes occur.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, wants to extend the time between the two deadlines to give the members and the public time to digest the budget. While it may seem like an inside-baseball type of issue, Nunnelee’s proposal at its core is an open government issue.
Good for him.
January 14, 2009
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, reviews the state Democratic Party’s response to Republican Gov. Haley Barbour’s State of the State address, Tuesday at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
JACKSON – Gov. Haley Barbour and state Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville don’t always see eye to eye, but they go way back to the early 1980s when the loyal Democrat Holland was, gulp, an active member of the state Republican Party.
Their relationship during Barbour’s tenure as governor has gone back and forth from warm and friendly to rocky.
During Tuesday night’s State of the State speech, Barbour called out his old friend, the colorful Holland, by name. “We’re back to find Rep. Steve Holland a shadow of his former self.
After losing 80 pounds, Steve’s the new poster boy for Let’s Go Walking, Mississippi, and Rep. Herb Frierson (of Poplarville) is not far behind having lost 40 pounds…You’ve put the governor back on his diet, guys,” said Barbour, who often jokes about his own weight and his fondness for food.
After the speech, Holland told first lady Marsha Barbour to have her husband meet him every morning for a walk, and he could help the
governor shed the pounds.
Considering their often adversary relationship, more calories than normal could be burned during those morning walks.
What did you think of Gov. Barbour’s speech? Comment below.
PREPARED REMARKS OF GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR
2009 STATE OF THE STATE
January 13, 2009
Governor Bryant; Speaker McCoy; ladies and gentlemen of the
Legislature; and fellow Mississippians:
Tonight marks the sixth time you have allowed Marsha and me to join you here to report on the State of our State. I am greatly and eternally honored the people of Mississippi have granted me the privilege to serve as their Governor, and I am grateful to be blessed with the very best partner in this that a man could ask for, my bride of thirty-seven years, Marsha.
January 13, 2009
JACKSON – Some have accused Gov. Haley Barbour of bringing Washington-style politics to the Mississippi Capitol.
The reference is to the partisanship that has intensified at the state Capitol during his gubernatorial administration. Barbour bristles at the notion – saying in the past it is Speaker Billy McCoy of Rienzi and the House Democrats responsible for the partisanship.
Recently, McCoy said everyone is responsible for the increased partisanship level and offered that he is willing to share some of the blame.
There is no doubt that Barbour is the state politician with Washington ties. He was President Ronald Reagan’s political director, chair of the Republican National Committee and successful Washington lobbyist who according to reports oversaw a firm that hired only Republicans.
At any rate, Barbour does bring one element of Washington politics to the Magnolia State. All six of his State of State’s speeches, including Tuesday’s, is held in the evening – as is done in Washington with the State of Union speech.
Before Barbour, Mississippi governors traditionally gave the State of State in the afternoon. Barbour says more people have an opportunity to see an evening speech after they get off work.
There is no word on whether Barbour designates one member of his administration not to attend the event – as it done with the president’s cabinet to ensure there will be someone to govern if – God forbid – the Capitol is attacked during the speech.