In addition to the elected officials that are on the ballot Nov. 4th, there is one statewide ballot measure proposing a constitutional amendment to preserve hunting and fishing as rights in the State of Mississippi.
The language on the ballot will read as follows:
This proposed constitutional amendment establishes hunting, fishing and the harvesting of wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods, as a constitutional right subject only to such regulations and restrictions that promote wildlife conservation and management as the Legislature may prescribe by general law.
Very little opposition has been raised to the initiative (17 other states have similar amendments) but PETA and the National Council of State Legislatures believe hunting is on the decline although Mississippi is not one of those states. The amendment will not affect the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks from licensing and regulating but is expected to preserve outdoor space for hunting and fishing.
For more information:
Bobby Harrison of the Daily Journal runs down the significant events of the 2014 legislative session with a two-part series:
- Teacher pay, justice reform biggest achievements
- School districts still in budget hole
In his first story, Harrison provides a recap of the following issues that the legislature tackled during the session:
- Teacher Pay: Initially promoted by Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), the bill provides $2,500 pay raise over 2 years. The senate finalized the language which, under Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ leadership cut out performance requirements.
- Criminal Justice Reform: Sweeping reforms resulting from recommendations of judges, prosecutors, district attorneys, law enforcement and local officials. Estimated to save $266 Million over 10-years.
- Special Needs Payments: Promoted by Sen. Nancy Collins (R-Tupelo), the proposal failed largely due to objections over giving “education vouchers.”
- Religious Freedom: Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed even after firestorm in Arizona. Legislation changed to prevent the government from being able to force someone to take action against their religious beliefs.
- Bonds: $199.9 Million in new bonds were approved for Cooper Tire in Tupelo, a Tammy Wynette Museum in Tremont, the William Faulkner/Union Heritage Museum in New Albany, and renovations to Okolona College.
- Texting: After looking like ban on texting while driving would pass, Rep. Bill Denny (R-Jackson) entered a motion to reconsider which effectively killed the bill since efforts to table the motion were defeated.
- Medicaid Expansion: Republican leadership continues to oppose medicare expansion. Both the House and the Senate rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid as is allowed under Obamacare (to cover those earning 138% of the federal poverty level).
- Judges, Law Enforcement: Added 16 assistant district attorneys, 50 new Highway Patrol troopers, added funds for the state Crime Lab.
The second story focuses on the budget. According to Harrison, the $2.4 Billion public education budget was an increase of $85 Million over the previous year. The current education budget is $255 Million short of the funding formula based on the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).
In all, the 2014 $6 Billion general fund budget was an increase of about $200 Million over 2013.
For more information:
In the Clarion-Ledger report, “Analysis: Legislative leaders earn marks, from A+ to D,” Geoff Pender gives his report card on state politicians Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn, Senate minority leader Hob Bryan, and House minority Leader Bobby Moak. While subjective and his opinion, it provides background information on our state’s highest elected officials.
Rep. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton) is an attorney and Baptist pastor. And in her report in the Clarion-Ledger, Analysis: Gipson wields influence, Emily Wagster Pettus says he is one of the most influential lawmakers in the state.
As the chairman of the House Judiciary B Committee, he was influential in a number of bills including House Bill 585 (improve efficiency and costs of the state’s criminal justice system) and House Bill 1400 (banned abortion at 20 weeks). He helped push through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Senate Bill 2681) in spite of all the opposition.
Gipson is a notably vocal opponent of gay rights since President Obama changed his stance on gay marriage in 2012. He has remained a staunch opponent of gay rights even with calls for his resignation and the other pressures associated with taking a Biblical stand on a range of issues.
For more information:
Gov. Phil Bryant appeared on the Paul Gallo Show on April 7th and discussed some priorities during his tenure and a range of legislative accomplishments during the 2014 session. The entire interview is available free from SuperTalk Mississippi.
Regarding some of the successes during his tenure:
- Teen pregnancy: Noted a 10.3% reduction in teen pregnancy over the past year without passing out birth control in classrooms.
- TANF Drug Screening: Signed legislation this year requiring new applicants to be screened from drug use/abuse prior to receiving benefits.
- 2nd Amendment Protections & Sales Tax Holiday: Passed a sales tax holiday for guns, ammo, and related supplies for September 5th – 7th.
- Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Gov. Bryant said the state law mirrors federal law that was written by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and signed by Pres. Bill Clinton.
- Criminal Justice Reform Bill
- Banning Abortion at 20 weeks: “A huge pro-life victory in Mississippi.”
Gov. Bryan talked at length about his biggest disappointment of the session, the failure to pass the special needs education bill (HB 765). Saying it’s a “sorry day” and a “dark day” because public educators refused to release the funding to support 500 special needs children, he says the legislature turned their back on special needs children and he vows to make this a priority “from now on.”
For more information:
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves filed a summary of the legislative session headlined “Session Ends with Balanced Budget, Efficiency Measures, Investment in Education.” The release documents the major legislative achievements to include education initiatives, the budget, public safety, reinforcing 2nd Amendment issues, and efforts to make Mississippi “business-friendly.”
When the Mississippi legislature adjourned April 2nd, it adjourned sine die which in parliamentary speech means that there is no appointed time for a future meeting (in other words, the legislative session is ended). The Latin phrase is pronounced “sī-ni-ˈdī.”
The sudden and frustrating finish (at least to the House) inspired Chris Davis, News Mississippi News Director, to write the parody, “Sign or Die” which was featured on the Paul Gallo Show April 3rd. Listen to the ditty via Paul Gallo’s twitter feed: