Editorial, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 1999

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Editorial, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 1999

1/6

The Mississippi House wasted no time Tuesday in sensibly overriding Gov. Kirk Fordice’s veto of a widely supported bipartisan campaign finance reform bill left over from the 1998 session.

Representatives voted 102 to 19 to override, comfortably more than the two-thirds needed to nullify the governor’s action. The bill awaits Senate action, which could come as early as today.

Fordice objected to the bill because he said it was offensive to free speech in its prohibition of political parties’ endorsement or contributions to judicial candidates, who run without party label.

The governor’s objections, of course, go full against the grain of efforts to remove partisan politics from judicial elections and focus voters’ attention on qualifications rather than party labels.

The vetoed bill contained much more, too. It would require reporting all contributions of $200 or more to the secretary of state’s office. The current reporting level is $500 or more. It would allow the secretary of state, the state’s chief elections officer, to fine candidates who fail to file reports. It would require political parties to report contributions and expenditures.

Election-year pressures amplify the bill’s importance. Candidates for statewide, district and county offices will spend tens of millions of dollars this year in Mississippi. The public interest demands timely disclosure of significant contributors; those who can afford to give $200 or more to single or multiple candidates fit that category.

Secretary of State Eric Clark strongly backed the bill last year. He called it “strong as nine acres of garlic,” an indefinite but evocative description that embraces both the problem in current law and the need for reform.

The governor’s concern is unwarranted. Nothing in the law prohibits legal and appropriate contributions by the most important special interest individual voters. He misinterprets and misjudges the need for non-partisan judicial campaigns in the area of governance that should be most uncolored by partisan connection.

Another override, of a nursing home bed authorization bill, passed the House 100-21, but faces virtually certain attempts to revise it in the Senate. Some senators, led by Finance Committee Chairman Hob Bryan of Amory, object not to the increasing state-paid nursing home beds but to the bill’s methodology. Committee revision doesn’t mean the bill will die, but the process will take somewhat longer than a simple override veto.

Editorial 2

Weather emergencies produce instructive situations for the people who deal with them at the official response level.

Lee County’s Board of Supervisors acted Monday to head off a problem that inconvenienced thousands of people during the Christmas week ice storm. The board ordered emergency services director Benny McDow to explore the purchase of generators for rural water systems that shut down with the loss of electricity. Prolonged outages require residents to boil water when power is restored, adding health concerns to inconvenience.

Supervisors’ President Billy Davis said being without water is worse than the loss of power, and in the long term that’s correct. Maintaining water service even without electricity would enable some residents to stay at their homes, reducing expense and inconvenience.

It would not be unreasonable to seek a cost-sharing arrangement with water system users if enough money can’t be found to buy all the generators needed.

The board also acted in the public interest with a decision to instigate a policy to pay employees for holidays worked. First, they deserve extra pay when working holiday overtime; second, a holiday pay policy would allow the board to require employees to report or face appropriate workplace penalties.

The public expects the people it pays to provide service when it’s needed, especially in emergency situations.