|June 18, 2009||Nunnelee most likely GOP's man, article says||3 comments|
|June 17, 2009||Preferred candidate Bounds answers questions||no comments|
|June 15, 2009||McCoy insists on open budget negotiations||no comments|
|June 09, 2009||Senate Republicans let off hook on special session||1 comments|
|June 03, 2009||Late night at Capitol||2 comments|
|June 02, 2009||Legislature likely heading to more expensive special session||no comments|
|May 28, 2009||Rumor of my departure is greatly exaggerated||4 comments|
|May 22, 2009||Barbour has healthy curiosity||no comments|
|May 19, 2009||Nunnelee using his power in budgeting process||no comments|
|May 12, 2009||Governor wants more tobacco taxes, some question motive||2 comments|
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.
JACKSON -- After several days of meeting primarily behind closed doors, House and Senate budget negotiators since Friday have been doing business in open session.
The difference appears to be that on Friday morning, House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, sent out a news release announcing the budget leaders were meeting and news organizations were welcomed to cover the session.
Since that news release, all the meetings have been open to the media. The meetings, though, have been held in the cramped office of Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, though, instead of the many spacious and unused committee rooms at the state Capitol.
On Friday, just the news media ventured into the meetings. But on Monday, lobbyists also began coming in or standing in the doorway trying to ascertain what was being said.
McCoy has long been an advocate of open conference meetings where negotiations are conducted to iron out the differences in legislation between the two chambers. Even back in the mid 1990s, when there was no legislative rule requiring the conference committees to meet in the open, as there is now, McCoy as chair of the House Education Committee, and then-Senate Education Committee Chair Ronnie Musgrove conducted their conference committee meetings in the open.
If McCoy had not put his foot down Friday, no doubt, the negotiations still would be ongoing in closed session on trying to agree on a budget to fund state government starting July 1, which is rapidly approaching.
JACKSON -- When taking questions on the Senate floor late at night last week before the 2009 session ended without a budget agreement, Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, would not say whether he would rather stay in regular session to work on a budget or go into special session.
Nunnelee did not have to say. Most House Republicans voted not to suspend the rules to continue the regular session.
Since the rules suspension did not get the required two-thirds majority in the House, Nunnelee and his Senate colleagues were never forced to vote on the issue. Resolutions to extend the session must originate in the House.
In special session, members receive an extra $75 per day. Multiply $75 by 174 members and it is obvious special sessions cost about $13,000 per day more than a regular session.
Republicans in the House were willing to charge taxpayers an extra $13,000 per day to go into special where Gov. Haley Barbour will be able to set the agenda.
House Republicans were willing to do that. Senate Republicans never had to take a stand, thanks to their House brethren.
JACKSON -- It could be a long night at the Mississippi Capitol.
The 2009 legislative session is scheduled to end at midnight Wednesday. It is certain that by midnight there will not be a budget passed to fund state government for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
There could be a budget agreement hashed out by the leadership by midnight. After not talking for two days, House and Senate budget leaders started negotiating again, starting Wednesday afternoon.
Early on Wednesday, the House leadership tried to garner the two-thirds majority to extend the session. They got 71 votes, but needed 78. Most Republicans voted against extending the session.
If the session is not extended, that means the work done earlier this year to provide money to local governments to hold down the cost of car tags will die. It would have to be taken up again in special session.
If a budget agreement is reached, the House leaders could try again to extend the session. If the session is not extended, and the Legislature goes into special session, the 174 members will receive an extra $75 per day from the taxpayers.
JACKSON -- At midnight Wednesday, it is likely that the Mississippi Legislature will by not extending the 2009 session get an additional $20,000 or so per day from the taxpayers.
More than likely the 2009 session will end Wednesday night without the Legislature passing a budget to fund state government. Gov. Haley Barbour will have to call a special session where legislators hopefully will reach a budget agreement before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
A special session costs roughly $20,000 more per day -- almost double what it is costing taxpayers for legislators to remain in regular session. By a two-thirds vote of both chambers, the Legislature could remain in regular session.
But it is likely some key Republicans will block that effort because they believe a special session will give their fellow Republican governor more control of the process. Perhaps it will, but ultimately it will be up to the Legislature to pass a budget, and the governor has limited control of that -- even in special session. Yes, Barbour can demand they take up legislation to increase a tax on hospitals before they take up the budget.
But if they don't pass the tax increase he wants, would he be willing to let the clock run out and state government go unfunded?.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, one of the negotiators, says he probably will favor going into special session. He also said the Senate members might vote not to accept their special session pay in an effort to save taxpayer money.
Some might. But all won't. Plus, there are expenses other than direct legislative pay that make the special session more expensive.There is the simple fact that in special session legislators will have to start the budgeting process from scratch. That will take more time. Time means money. Members are paid for each day they are in Jackson during special session.
But don't worry. We are only talking about thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.
No big deal.
JACKSON -- After Gov. Haley Barbour gave his opening remarks and before taking questions at a Wednesday news conference, he looked at me and said, "congratulations, Bobby."
"For what," I asked. The governor said he understood I had accepted a new job.
"Not true," I told him.
He apologized, and did so again after the news conference where he explained he had heard the information from three sources. It was obvious to me the governor was only repeating what he believed to be true and had no intent of making my life difficult.
After all, the rumor that I had accepted the post of state House information officer spread like wildfire through the ornate halls of the Capitol.
It is true that Mac Gordon, the long-time House information officer and a good friend, is retiring -- in October.
The rumor that I had accepted the post as public relations officer for the entire 122-member House was spread by people with no concept of simple journalistic precepts of fact-checking.
I have no intention of going anywhere. Essentially, I have worked for the Daily Journal my entire adult life. Through the years people have approached me about possible job changes. I tell them I like what I do and work for and with a great group of people.
JACKSON -- Gov. Haley Barbour recently made some opening comments at a forum that brought together business and government leaders from Changzhou, China, with Mississippi business leaders and economic developers.
The forum, sponsored by the city of Changzhou and the U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce, was designed to try to develop trade and business ties.
It is not unusual for a politician to attend such an event and make a speech. Politicians like to do that. But Barbour stayed for the entire program.
And he wasn't there to shake hands and politick. He was there to listen and learn. At one point, he got up from the head table and went out in the audience where he could get a better view of the presentations. He did take a break to go to the food table where he stood for a few minutes sampling the offerings, but even then he was paying attention to the speakers.
Barbour has a healthy curiosity -- a real quest for knowledge. He can assimilate a lot of information and communicate it to the public in an easy-to-understand manner.
That is his great strength as a politician.
When Barbour first ran for governor in 2003, I was amazed at his depth of understanding of state government. Here was this guy who spent the bulk of his time working in Washington, but he had a knowledge of state government that would rival most any politician who was involved in the complexities of state government on a daily basis.
JACKSON -- Haley Barbour, who has spent much of his tenure as governor blocking efforts to increase Mississippi's cigarette tax, is expected to sign the 50-cent-per-pack increase approved last week by the Legislature.
But now, surprise, surprise, the Republican governor says that is not enough. He wants additional taxes on tobacco products.
Barbour has been advocating this session an additional tax on the companies that did not participate in the settlement of a lawsuit the state filed against some tobacco companies in the 1990s. These smaller companies can sell cigarettes cheaper, Barbour says, because they are not making annual payments to the state as part of the lawsuit settlement.
He also wants smokeless tobacco to be taxed by weight instead of a percentage of its price.
In both instances, Barbour says it is a matter of tax fairness. And both proposals will provided additional revenue to the state.
In both cases, Barbour has points. As a matter of fact, in the past, the House Democratic leadership has tried to increase the tax on the smaller, non-participating cigarette companies and that effort was blocked by Barbour's Republican allies in the Legislature.
Now Barbour is for it, but the House Democratic leadership is against it.
It doesn't help Barbour's cause that the big tobacco companies favor both of his proposals and that they would be helped financially if the governor's proposals passed.
It is not forgotten that Barbour for years lobbied for big tobacco companies and that the Washington, D.C., lobbying firms he still receives payments from continues to lobby for big tobacco.
In essence, some legislators believe the governor is for the additional taxes only to help big tobacco companies.
But another alternative may be that Barbour has come to the conclusion the additional tobacco taxes are good public policy whether big tobacco is for them or not.