Gov. Bryant’s special session

Facing a $75 million shortfall in the state budget, Gov. Bryant called a special session to dip into the state’s rainy day fund to cover the deficit. After much grandstanding, the legislature authorized the governor to pull from the $349 million fund to balance the state’s $6.2 billion fiscal 2016 budget.

After years of demanding that the rainy-day fund only be used to pay one-time costs, Republicans are dipping into the fund for a second time within a year. And this after a year of corporate giveaways and borrowing money to do so. Katherine DeCoito makes the observation that, at this rate, the politicians are incentivized to make every year a “rainy day”–at least until the state is bankrupt–and they can no longer bail themselves out.

Geoff Pender further illustrates the absurdity of the legislative session which cost taxpayers $102,000 which would be comical if it wasn’t so pitiful. Our legislators, Democrat and Republican, apparently think they are playing with “Monopoly” money. Unfortunately, it is not.

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Federal Judge Overturns HB 1523

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocked House Bill 1523 from going into effect following the state legislature’s passage during the 2016 Legislative Session. Under the bill, businesses would have been allowed to deny services based on sincerely held religious beliefs without facing reciprocity from the state. Individuals would still be able to bring suit against such businesses but the state would remain neutral.

Judge Reeves’ injunction asserts that the law violates the U.S. Constitution in two places:

  1. The First Amendment by “establish[ing] an official preference for certain religious beliefs over others,” and
  2. The Fourteenth Amendment by explicitly favoring “anti-LGBTG religious beliefs” and providing adherents to those beliefs a special right to discriminate that is not available to others.

Mississippi’s Attorney General Jim Hood believes the federal court ruling was clear and does not expect to appeal. No other officials’ comments were available.

This is not the first time Judge Reeves has ruled on religious freedom issues. In July 2015, he issued a court order to prevent Rankin County School District (RCSD) from including any religious activities at school sponsored events. After receiving a $7,500 fine after failing to satisfactorily comply with the court order, the RCSD prevented the Brandon High School Band from playing “How Great Thou Art” during a halftime show fearing that such an act would violate the court order and subject the district to additional fines.

Although born in Texas, Reeves grew up in Yazoo City and was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi by President Obama in 2010.

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State legislators attempt to protect traditional values

Under House Bill 1523, State officials, private business owners,and others who provide services to the public couldn’t be punished for acting on deeply held religious beliefs.  The bill specifically protects individuals and organizations for acting upon the following “religious beliefs or moral convictions:”

  1. Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.
  2. Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
  3. Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

The bill would prevent the state government from taking any legal action against any religious organization, state employees, or other persons for acting in a manner consistent with these beliefs.

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State Legislature debating guns in churches

House Bill 786 was approved by state Representatives and would accomplish three things:   (1) allows church authorities to develop security programs that designate enhanced carry permit holders or those with military or law enforcement backgrounds to protect places of worship, (2) ensures that these participants receive the benefits of existing protections under the state’s Castle Doctrine law; and (3) clarifies current permitless carry options for law-abiding citizens while maintaining the existing enhanced and regular concealed carry permitting systems.

The Mississippi Senate now takes up the bill for consideration.

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State Legislature back in session

The Mississippi Legislature convened their 2016 session on Tuesday, January 5th and re-elected Rep. Philip Gunn as House Speaker and selected Sen. Terry Burton as President Pro-Tem.

Gov. Phil Bryant plans to push comprehensive school choice, additional workforce training, tax credits and cuts, and repairing the state’s foster care program.

Eliminating the corporate franchise tax tops Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ agenda. He also wants to expand school choice while prioritizing BP oil disaster settlement funds for South Mississippi and the Coast.

Speaker Philip Gunn has already made waves by pushing to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, creating a new education funding formula to replace MAEP, and ensure the state lives within its budget.

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