|July 28, 2009||Neshoba Fair political speakings attendees not uninformed||no comments|
|July 20, 2009||Outrage selective over hiring new state employees||1 comments|
|July 14, 2009||Governor's hospital tax not permanent solution||no comments|
|June 29, 2009||Medicaid agreement reached||no comments|
|June 29, 2009||Leadership agreements don't guarantee legislative success||1 comments|
|June 26, 2009||Barbour wants agreement before vote||1 comments|
|June 25, 2009||Special session near?||no comments|
|June 21, 2009||Budget now in governor's court||no comments|
|June 18, 2009||Nunnelee most likely GOP's man, article says||3 comments|
|June 17, 2009||Preferred candidate Bounds answers questions||no comments|
JACKSON -- Few people who attend the annual Neshoba County Fair political speakings these days fall into the category of the uninformed voter looking to be educated.
For the most part, people who attend the political speakings are:
* Supporters of a candidate or political party looking to provide vocal support.
* A lobbyist or other type of worker who depends on government actions for his or her pay.
* Members of the media.
* People at the historic fair for other purposes, such as the horse racing, concerts or midway rides, either get lost and end up at the Founders' Square Pavilion during the speakings or have a healthy curiosity and decide to wander over for a few minutes.
This will be a quiet year at the fair with statewide elections still two years away. Still, all the statewide elected officials are scheduled to speak either Wednesday or Thursday. Some news might be made.
A disturbing trend in recent years has been audience members heckling candidates they do not support. I'm all for free speech, but people come to hear the candidates not members of the audience. Hopefully fair officials will start to get that conduct under control.
It's one thing to give vocal support to your candidate. It is another to try to deprive your candidate's opponent from being heard.
JACKSON -- While the dispute about providing additional employees for the Public Service Commission has been settled for this fiscal year, it is interesting to note that other agencies got authority to hire more staff without any such controversy.
Various state agencies were given the authority to hire an additional 300 employees for the current fiscal year. Yet, many Republican legislators got worked up over giving the three elected Public Service commissioners the authority to hire three additional employees -- experts in the area of providing them assistance on the complex issues surrounding the regulation of utilities.
The ironic thing in the whole debate is that the same legislators who balked at allowing the Public Service Commission to hire those experts agreed to allow the Public Utilities Staff to hire those experts.
It is interesting to note that those Republican legislators were willing to allow the Public Utilities Staff, which is an agency that reports to Gov. Haley Barbour, to hire additional staff. But those legislations were not willing to allow the elected commissioners, who actually have to vote on whether to allow utilities to raise rates, to do the same. The commissioners consist of two Democrats and one Republican. All three said they needed the additional staff.
The issue had to be settled in a $60,000 special session that seemed real unnecessary.
JACKSON -- Gov. Haley Babour often said the tax increase on hospitals he adamantly supported and passed through the Legislature last month was needed to provide a permanent solution to Medicaid funding woes.
There is debate whether the $60-million tax increase will solve the perennial problems in funding Medicaid. But there is no debate about whether Barbour's solution is permanent.
As of now, it is not.
The hospital tax increase will be in effect until July 1, 2012, under the bill the Legislature passed and the governor signed into law. It will be up to the 2012 Legislature -- the first session post Barbour -- to decide whether to continue the tax.
There were other staunch proponents of the tax, such as Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, and Senate Public Health Chair Hob Bryan, D-Amory, but Barbour was the primary advocate for the assessment that will be levied on non Medicare patients.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the tax increase after Barbour is gone from office.
JACKSON -- "Let the House vote" was the clarion call in 2004 during the special session Gov. Haley Barbour called to give businesses more protection from lawsuits.
Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, was criticized because his leadership team was bottling up legislation in committee because it knew that on the floor of the House it did not have the votes to block the lawsuit protection Barbour and the business community wanted. The House leadership wanted an agreement worked out with the governor and the Senate before the full House voted on the issue.
The shoe is on the other foot. Now it appears Barbour is preventing a vote on a state budget because he knows he does not have the votes to pass the Medicaid portion of the budget like he wants it. Barbour wants to increase the tax on hospitals by $90 million, but that was rejected by both chambers of the Legislature earlier this year. Earlier this year both chambers also passed language to prevent hospital cuts that many believe Barbour wants.
Since he does not have the votes for his positions to prevail, it appears he is insisting a deal be made -- closer to his liking -- before he will call a special session. He has said the Medicaid issue should be worked out by the leadership instead of the 174 members of the Legislature. That was essentially the same argument the House leadership was criticized for making in the 2004 lawsuit protection special session.
The only difference is in this case the shutdown of many state services will come about if a special session is not called and if a budget is not approved by Tuesday night.
By delaying the calling of the special session, the governor also is making it difficult for the full Legislature to debate and try to change any aspects of a deal. At this point, if a special session is called, there will be an urgency to get a budget passed by midnight Tuesday to keep state government from shutting down, and legislators who delay that by asking questions and trying to change bills -- as are their rights -- will run the risk of being criticized for delaying a budget agreement.
JACKSON -- State Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee's name been in the news here in Mississippi as one of the negotiators unable to reach an agreement on a budget for the new fiscal year that begins in less than two weeks.
He also is in the news in Washington, D.C.
Roll Call, a U.S. Capitol newspaper, cited Nunnelee "as the clear favorite" among Republicans as "their man" to run next year against 1st District U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, a Prentiss County Democrat.
The Roll Call article said that state Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, has opted not to run for the U.S congressional post after traveling to Washington, D.C., where he met with national Republican figures.
The article said Flowers' decision "clears a major obstacle from the path" of Nunnelee, a Tupelo Republican.
Nunnelee admitted sometime ago he was mulling a run for Congress. He has been conducting "a listening tour" of towns in the 1st Congressional District.