|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|
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.