|March 31, 2010||Health care lawsuit pondered||28 comments|
|March 26, 2010||House Republicans say their vote not to recess gave them input||no comments|
|March 17, 2010||Special session already planned||2 comments|
|March 08, 2010||Don't read too much into news conference guest list||no comments|
|February 28, 2010||Current disagreement could be omen||no comments|
|February 23, 2010||Debate over budget, intense, cordial in Senate||no comments|
|February 16, 2010||Officials say budget action needed, but action slow coming||no comments|
|February 11, 2010||Legislators battle weather, deadline||1 comments|
|February 09, 2010||Legislation inspired by Northeast Mississippi tragedies||3 comments|
|February 05, 2010||Bryan amendment nearly unites Senate||3 comments|
JACKSON -- Gov. Haley Barbour is gung-ho to join other states in a lawsuit alleging the new health care bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama is unconstitutional.
Attorney General Jim Hood has been mulling over the question of whether Mississippi should sue.
This is not a lawsuit where the states that sue will receive some type of monetary benefit that the states that do not sue will not receive.
If any portion of the law is found unconstitutional, that ruling will apply to the states that sued and the states that did not sue.
It appears the benefit of Mississippi suing is to add another voice for the court to consider. Perhaps, there is strength in numbers, but there should not be when deciding constitutional issues.
The drawback of suing is the cost.
Barbour and Hood have to weigh those factors and others.
JACKSON -- House Republicans finally reversed course Thursday and opted to vote for a resolution to recess until April 20 before completing work on the budget. They changed course after the Democratic House leadership and the Republican Senate leadership reached an agreement on the amount of revenue they will spend the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
A rules suspension resolution to do such things as change deadlines or change the scheduled end of the session takes a two-thirds majority. Twice the Republican minority blocked efforts to recess.
House Republicans said they finally voted for the resolution because the revenue agreement was reached. They said that agreement was important to ensure that when the Legislature does return some budget work already will be done.
The recess is to see if Congress passes legislation that will result in the state getting another $187 million in federal stimulus funds. That money will be crucial to curtailing some of the layoffs and reductions in services that are going to happen because of the unprecedented drop in state tax collections.
House Republicans often complain the Democrat leadership blocks them out of the process. They say they were able to garner some input by halting the resolution to recess. Plus, it put them in the room when House and Senate leaders reached a deal on the amount of revenue to spend.
JACKSON -- Many Mississippi Capitol watchers are speculating that special sessions might be called to re-authorize the Department of Employment Security, which has yet to be re-authorized by the Legislature, or to deal with a budget if the Legislature is unable to reach agreement in the regular session.
What is being missed is that Gov. Haley Barbour already has said he plans to call a special session to deal with the controversial issue of school district consolidation. The governor appointed a special commission, chaired by Tupelo banker Aubrey Patterson, to study school district consolidation. The Commission is supposed to release its report in April.
JACKSON -- Senate President Pro-Tem Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, makes no secret of his intention to run for lieutenant governor in 2011.
One of the big questions going into the 2011 elections is what office will Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann run. On Monday, Hosemann had a news conference announcing that the sponsors of a voter identification initiative had garnered enough signatures to have the issue placed on the 2011 ballot.
Hewes was one of Hosemann's two guests at the news conference in his state Capitol office. Does that mean Hosemann will not be running against Hewes in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor?
JACKSON -- The current battle, involving Gov. Haley Barbour and the Legislature, over the restoration of a portion of the budget cuts made by Barbour this year does not bode well for the 2010 session finishing within its scheduled 90-day completion date.
After all, the current impasse essentially involves $6 million. The Senate leadership and Barbour want that money to go to prisons. The House leadership wants it to go toward various other budget items, such as Mental Health and the community colleges.
The point is they are arguing over $6 million. If they can't agree on that, think about how difficult it is going to be to agree on a $5 billion budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
JACKSON -- The debate in the Senate about how much of Gov. Haley Barbour's budget cuts to restore and what agencies should benefit from that restoration effort has been intense.
But through it all, the debate has been cordial.
And Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who presides over the Senate, were careful on last week's key vote to let members know the time of the vote to ensure those who wanted to cast a vote could be in the chamber.
JACKSON -- Almost everybody says it is important for the Legislature to decide quickly whether it is going to restore any of of the $458 million in budget cuts made this year by Gov. Haley Barbour.
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said it is important, as did Speaker Billy McCoy. Heck, even Barbour spokesman Dan Turner said the issue should be resolved quickly.
Education and state agencies need to know so they can begin planning.
And a consensus also seems to exist that at least a portion of the funds should be restored. The question is how much and to what agencies.
A bill dealing with budget cuts for the current fiscal has been in conference where House and Senate leaders can meet to try to reach a compromise. Even though the bill has been in conference for more than a week, Senate and House leaders have yet to meet.
Senate Appropriations Chair Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said House and Senate leaders might meet this week, but gave no commitment.
The House also has sent the Senate another bill -- described as an attempt to reach a compromise on the issue without going to conference. It is up to Nunnelee to either ask the Senate to go to conference on it or concur and send it to the governor.
JACKSON -- For the third time during the 2010 legislative session, House and Senate members left to go home on a Thursday because of icy or snowy weather.
Thursday night was the deadline to pass bills in the chamber where the bill originated. It is one of the key deadlines of the session and normally one of the most difficult to meet because of the sheer volume of bills and the unpredictability of the debate on the measures.
As the two chambers struggled with reaching that deadline, they also struggled with finishing and getting out of town before what is predicted to be heavy snow falls in some areas of the state.
Both chambers finished by mid-afternoon Thursday and members were on their way home.
JACKSON -- Two Northeast Mississippians, who were tragically killed on the state's highways this past year, have inspired bills that are making their ways through the legislative process.
Legislation that would prevent vehicles and motorcycles from using nitrous oxide as a fuel on public roads is named after Trooper Steve Hood of Guntown, who died this past year during a high speed pursuit. The car being chased was fueled by nitrous oxide.
And legislation that would define bicyclists' and motorists' responsibilities on public roads is named after John Paul Frerer, 18 a rising senior at Tupelo High School who was killed when hit by a car during a cycling trek from Tupelo to Oxford this past summer.
Bills concerning both issues have passed the House and the Senate by overwhelming margins. Now it is up to the leadership to decide whether to send to the governor either the House or Senate bills.
It is appropriate that these tragic deaths will inspire bills that might help others.
JACKSON -- Sen. Hob Bryan's amendment on Friday to take $12 million in proposed budget cut restoration funds from the Department of Corrections and give it to Kindergarten through 12th grade education came as close as anything thus far this session to uniting the Senate as it struggles with how to deal with budget woes.
Bryan's amendment was changing a proposal by Senate Appropriations Chair Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, and was against the wishes of Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who has through his entire tenure exerted considerable influence over the Senate.
Yet, Nunnelee did not speak against Bryan's amendment to change his proposal. And lo and behold, Nunnelee even voted for the Bryan plan.
Before Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who presides over the Senate, was given the final roll call to announce the vote on the Bryan amendment, Senate President Pro Tem Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, said if the Appropriations Committee chair was voting for the amendment, he would also to support the chairman. So he changed his vote from no to yes on the Bryan plan.
Then, Finance Committee Chair Dean Kirby, R-Pearl stood up to change his vote from no to yes..
Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, happened to be standing in the back of the chamber. Bryant recognized him to see if he wanted to change his vote.
Watson replied, "I'm just standing up. I am happy with my yes vote."
The Bryan amendment passed 44-2.