JACSON -- Mississippi's ornate state Capitol was closed Monday for Confederate Memorial Day.
Except for security, a few dedicated staffers and your humble scribe, the Capitol was empty. All that will change Tuesday when House and Senate negotiators trying to reach a compromise on how much -- if any -- to increase the state's cigarette tax will meet.
On Confederate Memorial Day, on the eve of the cigarette tax negotiations, there is talk of compromise.
A little recap might be in order. Mississippi's current cigarette tax is 18 cents per-pack, which is third lowest in the nation at more than $1 below the national average and 46 cents per-pack below the average of the contiguous states.
The House negotiators are proposing a 75-cent-per-pack tax while the Senate negotiators are offering a 64-cent-per-pack tax.
While it has been like pulling teeth, do not be surprised if there is a compromise -- finally -- on Tuesday. Smart money is at 68 cents per pack.
The fight over increasing the cigarette tax has been ongoing for about four years. This is the closest the House Democratic leadership has come to achieving its goal of increasing the tax.
In the past, It has be blocked by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and his Republican Senate allies . But Barbour has indicated he will sign a tax increase this year as long as it is based on a conservative estimate of the amount of money the tax will generate.
So on the day set aside to honor those lost in the Civil War, there is talk of compromise on the most divisive issue of recent legislative sessions.
JACKSON --Mississippi Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, definitely sounds like a candidate against Democrat Travis Childers of Booneville for the District 1 U.S. House seat in 2010.
The loss of the seat to the Democrats in 2008 was a major blow for the Republican National Committee. The District 1 seat will, no doubt, will be among the Republican National Committee's top targeted seats in 2010.
Many believe Nunnelee will be an appealing candidate. Childers said recently he expects to have a opponent in 2010, and was humble when asked about the outcome. But he sounded self-assured when he said "nobody will work harder than me" to keep the seat.
As Appropriations Committee chair, Nunnelee would be one of the most powerful state legislators to run for another post during the middle of his or her term.
I documented Sunday the difficulty state legislators have running for other posts during the middle of a term. There is a litany of legislators who have run and lost. But I mistakenly said Senate President Pro Term Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, was among those who ran for a congressional seat and lost. That was his father.
Still, after taking Hewes out of the equation, there is a long list of legislators who ran unsuccessfully for other seats
But it can be done. A few have been successful. That is what Nunnelee will build his hopes on if he does undertake the race.
JACKSON -- The fact that Gov. Haley Barbour refused to say during a recent interview how large of a cigarette tax increase would be acceptable to him is at least interesting and might be enlightening.
House and Senate negotiators are trying to reach a compromise on how much -- if any -- to increase the cigarette tax. Senate negotiators have cited potential Barbour opposition and a possible veto as a reason to keep the tax increase lower than the House leaders want.
In his budget proposal released last year, Barbour called for a modest 24-cent-per-pack increase.
But when asked recently how high of an increase he would accept, Barbour said, "I will sign a bill that has an honest revenue estimate." Based on that answer, Barbour seems more concerned that legislators get as accurate an estimate as possible of how much revenue a cigarette tax would generate and cares less about the size of the increase
People who know the Republican governor understand he is far from a shrinking violet. He is not shy about voicing his opinion -- especially about possible legislative action he might oppose.
In past years, Barbour has led the successfull effort to prevent the enactment of a cigarette tax increase. But not this year.
The effort to hold down the size of the tax increase is being led right now by Senate leaders and not by Barbour.
JACKSON -- Gov. Haley Barbour, nearing the end of his second legislative session of his second term, is quickly reaching the point where he could be considered a lame duck.
Don't count on it.
Consider as proof his politically brave veto of legislation to provide a $2,000 tax break to furniture manufacturers for each cut and sew employee.
On final passage, not one of the 174 House and Senate members voted against the bill.
Yet, it appears the Senate leaders will not even go through the ordeal of trying to override Barbour's veto of the proposal, knowing they cannot garner the two-thirds majority to succeed.
Well into his sixth legislative session, the Republican governor still has not been overridden. The House has garnered the votes to do so once, but the Senate has a zero rate of success in overriding the governor.