|October 03, 2012||Capitol gift shop work under way||no comments|
|September 12, 2012||Web site appears to boost disqualified candidate||no comments|
|August 29, 2012||Immigration hearing misses unique perspective||1 comments|
|August 10, 2012||Charter schools may depend on DeSoto elections||4 comments|
|July 25, 2012||Health insurance exchange flips and flops||4 comments|
|July 17, 2012||In end, Chaney says state still exchange focused||1 comments|
|June 29, 2012||Legislative redistricting plans still not submitted||3 comments|
|June 15, 2012||Hartley makes impact, retains sense of humor||no comments|
|June 13, 2012||Governor leads by example with foot race||no comments|
|June 07, 2012||House appropriators, speaker educated||no comments|
JACKSON -- Work has started at the Mississippi Capitol to build a gift shop on the first floor.
The first step it to build a new office for Capitol security directly across from where it is now and place the gift shop where the security office currently is.
The gift shop cannot be in the corner space where the new security office will be because that is the area where the governor's elevator if located. Officials decided it would not be appropriate for the governor to walk through the gift shop to get to the elevator.
In other Capitol news, the speaker and his staff are currently working out of the Ways and Means space on the second floor while the third floor office for the speaker undergoes renovations.
It is well worth the time to tour the state's grand Capitol. Soon a person can pick up a memento after the tour in the new gift shop.
JACKSON-- The three-member state Elections Commission on Monday denied Jackson attorney Latrice Westbrooks a spot on the ballot to run for a Court of Appeals post because she does not live in the district.
Westbrooks does not argue with the fact that she lives outside District 2 -- by less than a mile. The only problem, according to her attorney, Lance Stevens, is that state law does not require her to live in the district. Stevens told the Election Commission that the only residency requirement under state law is that the candidate be a resident of the state for five years.
Judicial races are non partisan, but it is no secret that Westbrooks would be viewed as the Democrat in the race. But the decision of the Election Commission did not appear to be partisan. It was the position of Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood's office, as well as that of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, that Westbrooks did not meet the residency requirement.
Stevens said that the Secretary of State's web site, tracking state law, does not list living in the district as a requirement to run for the Court of Appeals. He pointed out that according to Hosemann's web site to run for numerous other posts, such as Public Service commissioner, Transportation commissioner or legislator, a candidate must be a resident of the district.
But according to the web site, to run for Court of Appeals, a candidate must be a resident of the state. Hosemann said his web site is not the last word on candidate qualifications.
Stevens said Westbrooks will appeal.
JACKSON -- Perhaps the most intriguing person signed up to speak at last week's hearing on whether the state should strengthen and enforce federal immigration laws was John Palmer, a successful Jackson businessman and former ambassador to Portugal during the George W. Bush administration.
House Judiciary B Committee Chair Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, allowed all people who wanted to be heard on the issue to speak during his committee hearing. Palmer was listed as the 38th speaker. By the time it was time for Palmer to speak -- after 5 p.m. -- he was no longer at the hearing.
The committee room was jam-packed with people standing in what seemed to be every nook and cranny.
Palmer was a telecommunications pioneer and a successful venture capitalist. As chair of SkyTel Communications, he oversaw innovations that helped spur ongoing growth in telecommunications.
No doubt, Palmer, with his international experience and business acumen, would have provided insight into the controversial issue. After all, Mississippi is not home to many ambassadors.
JACKSON -- Two special elections set for November to fill vacancies in DeSoto County legislative seats could have a significant impact on charter school legislation.
During the 2012 session, charter school legislation was killed in the state House because a handful of Republicans teamed up with the Democratic minority to block the proposal. The bulk of the Republican opposition in the House was from DeSoto County -- a Republican Party hotbed and also an area where there is a great deal of pride in the pubic school system.
The Republican leaders of the state, including Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt.Gov. Tate Reeves, are working to ensure strong charter school legislation is passed in 2013.
What happens in the DeSoto County special elections could impact the efforts of Bryant and Reeves. If candidates who oppose charter schools win, that will embolden the other Republicans who oppose the issue to stand strong. But if those who support charter schools win the special elections, it could weaken opposition from DeSoto County Republicans who have been reluctant to pass charter school legislation as strong as Bryant and Reeves have championed.
JACKSON -- When talk first started about Mississippi creating a health insurance exchange to allow people to shop and get the best price for insurance, many Mississippi Democrats privately expressed opposition.
Under President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states have the option to establish an exchange. But if states do not, the federal government will set it up and run it.
Many Mississippi Democrats said they would prefer the federal government run the exchange instead of the state. They expressed fear that the state's Republican leadership would establish exchanges that did not provide the best health options for those shopping there.
But now that Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney is establishing an exchange as is the state's option under the Affordable Care Act, many of the state's Republicans leaders, including Gov. Phil Bryant, are voicing opposition.
The Democrats, though, appear to be in support.
It is funny how this issue flip flops. Former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour was a strong supporter of health insurance exchanges and no Republican leader expressed opposition. Barbour felt the exchange was a good idea that should be run by state leaders instead of the federal government. Through the years that has been a consistent Republican position.
But now that some Democrats are for the exchanges, some Republicans are opposed.
It gets confusing.
JACKSON -- Did he or didn't he?
Media reports last week said Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney had reversed course, due to intense pressure from the Tea Party, and was no longer developing a health insurance exchange for the state.
Chaney denied that, but said the final decision would be made after the November elections. Republicans have vowed, if they gain control, to repeal President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which includes the health insurance exchanges.
It should be noted that many prominent Republicans have voiced support for the health insurance exchanges as an easier and less expensive way for people without insurance to shop for the best policy for them.
The free market at its best many, people both sides of the political aisle have said. But the fact the president is for it is reason enough for some to be against it in this unusual political environment.
No doubt, Chaney, as politicians are apt to do, tried to appease the Tea Party with some of his comments, but in the end he made it clear that if the Affordable Care Act is fully enacted in 2014 Mississippi will have its own health insurance exchange.
And with the health insurance exchange a person can click on a web site and compare prices and benefits offered by various companies -- no doubt socialism run rampant.
JACKSON -- The plans to redraw state House and Senate districts to match population shifts found by the 2010 census still have not been submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval.
The plans were approved by the House and Senate in late April and early May during the final days of the 2012 legislative session. Under federal law, they must be submitted to the Justice Department to ensure they do not dilute minority voting strength.
Of course, there is a possibility that legislators will have to run again this year in the newly drawn districts. Last year, after the Legislature was unable to agree on a redistricting plan, House and Senate elections were held under the old districts that violated the one-man, one-vote mandate of the state and federal constitutions.
At the time, a three-judge panel said it would decide at a later date whether to hold a second round of elections under
newly drawn districts.
Whether on purpose or not, by delaying the submission to the Justice Department, it is not leaving much time for a three-judge panel to order a new round of legislative elections for November.
No doubt, legislators do not want to run again this year. But officials say the delay in submitting the plans for federal approval is to gather all the information and facts for what is expected to a rigorous federal review.
JACKSON -- Richard Thompson, who served two tenures as state superintendent of education, after coming to Mississippi from North Carolina to head the Tupelo School System, says Claude Hartley's contributions to public education in the state have been many.
Hartley served 10 years as a member of the Tupelo School Board and finished a tenure this week on the state Board of Education.
During a recent telephone conversation, Thompson said Hartley played a key role in the early 1990s in passage of what was then the largest bond issue in the state, resulting in a new Tupelo High School and other needed expansions.
On the state Board, Thompson said Hartley worked quietly behind the scenes to ensure the enactment of tougher accountability standards for local schools.
Because Hartley often worked behind the scenes, he was better known by many for his sense of humor. In 2000, when he was being confirmed by the Senate Education Committee, for the state Board post after being nominated by then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Hartley and another nominee were asked if they had done anything to embarrass the state.
The other nominee quickly responded no.
Hartley looked up sheepishly, smiled, paused and asked "how far back are you talking about?"
Hartley's sense of humor and dedication will be missed on the state Board.
JACKSON -- Perhaps it is just symbolic, but it is the right kind of symbolism.
Gov. Phil Bryant is hosting a 5-kilometer run at 8 a.m. June 30. Bryant, an avid runner, often talks of the need to reduce the state's obesity rate, which is the highest in the country.
A 5K run sets the right example. Plus, it is cool to have a race starting from the Governor's Mansion. The 3.1-mile course will be run on the streets of downtown Jackson. And people who question whether they can run 3.1 miles take solace. No doubt, there will be many walkers in the event.
The event will benefit the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children
JACKSON -- House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, held a meeting Wednesday to educate members of his committee about the budgeting process.
Many of the members are serving on Appropriations for the first time. And for others, a refresher course cannot hurt. Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton attended the meeting.
Attendance made sense for the first-term speaker. He has never served on the Appropriations Committee, but he will serve the upcoming year as chair of the Legislative Budget Committee that has a vital function in the state's budgeting process.
Chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commitree alternates yearly between the speaker and the lieutenant governor.