EDITORIAL: Capitol failures

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Legislature lurched on Monday into passage of a budget for fiscal year 2012, beginning July 1, running through scores of appropriations bills battled over in conference committees, but it has not mustered the political will to deal successfully with essential business: redistricting for the 2011 elections.
The issue appears hopelessly deadlocked in partisan politics, especially in the Senate, where Republicans rejected the force of precedent in refusing to accept the remap drawn by the House for itself.
In preliminary skirmishing, the Senate first debated its own committee’s remap of the Senate, but eventually the chamber adopted a plan drawn by the Elections Committee.
The House passed the Senate’s version and its own version, completing one half of the state constitutional requirement that both houses pass identical redistricting maps for both chambers.
The quest for ideological purity in political process is futile and senseless.
We agree with those who hold that legislators looking for a better partisan deal in the federal judiciary are howling at the moon.
Judges obey laws without bowing to partisanship and internal unreasonable resistance to resolution of problems.
The Legislature, especially Republicans in the Senate, have pushed redistricting based on the 2010 Census toward determination almost certainly to the courts, which is a failure of duty.
Schools shorted again
In adoption of the HB 1494 the Legislature has given its approval to funding for K-12 public education that is below level funding, even after voting for it in both chambers, and the House and Senate have adopted the conference report for HB1494, the education funding bill.
• $5.5 million is a cut to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), affecting high-growth districts;
• $6 million is cut from the ad valorem tax reduction, a move that seems likely to cause local tax increases at the district level;
• About $2.5 million is cut from areas that do not have a direct impact on school budgets.
The level funds became optional in the conference committee, where forces beyond the Legislature, especially the governor’s office, drove outcomes.
“When politicians come calling, and asking for our votes, we need to ask them some pretty direct questions. We need to be sure that we elect leaders who support adequate funding for our schools,” said Parents Campaign executive director Nancy Loome.
She’s right. Education advocates – especially parents and professional educators – should hold legislators in both chambers and both parties accountable in the elections this year – if the elections happen as scheduled.
The lingering effects of recession and revenue shortfalls affected the process, but the greatest force was election-year politics.