Party conflict should be good for. . . turnout

The divide between Tea Party and establishment Republican leadership continues to provide headlines.  First, GOP Chairman Joe Nosef talked to NBC about Chris McDaniel’s comments on his former radio program.  Then MS Tea Party president, Laura Van Overschelde, called on Nosef to resign for failing to be neutral as he is required to be under state party bylaws.

Breitbart reported from leaked email conversations that Nosef said, “‘These people are getting so fanatical [that] this will put everything in danger regardless of who wins’ the upcoming GOP primary, he wrote, adding, ‘I refuse to continue to spend time dealing with these people.'”  Nosef clarified:

[B]y “these people,” in the email he didn’t mean all Tea Partiers. “I would never say I am done working with the tea party itself,” Nosef said. “In fact as a tea party member who actually is out there in the state working told me today – the real grassroots tea party people don’t care about all this inside baseball stuff. They are working to win elections. So I would never stop working with them. When I said ‘these people’ I was speaking of some of their leadership that is chronically against all of our elected officials. Literally these people believe our entire federal delegation needs to go. That’s how different their leadership is than their voters.”

The constant “disagreeableness” of the Tea Party has caused Frank Corder of Y’all Politics to call them the “Conservative Thought Police.”  Bobby Harrison of the Daily Journal writes that the Primary campaign could draw a record amount of participation this year:

The McDaniel/Cochran campaign has the potential to attract many newcomers to the Republican Party primary. The race, it appears by the number of television commercials already being aired and the animosity already being displayed by both campaigns, will be hotly contested. And there is no party primary on the Democratic side of any significance. Cochran, of course, is the sixth-term incumbent and deeply entrenched as part of the state Republican Party organization. McDaniel is the upstart, the Tea Party favorite. Now, in many instances, Tea Party members have been long-time, entrenched Republicans. But in other instances, Tea Party members, although socially and fiscally conservative, have never identified with the Republican Party, other than to vote for the Republican candidate with whom they felt most closely aligned. Many of these people have become politically active for the first time thanks to the Tea Party, though they have been long-time Republican voters.

The McDaniel-Cochran race is quickly morphing into a contest between those Tea Party members and the state’s Republican Party establishment, or GOP old guard. After all, the Barbours, as Republican establishment as can be found, are running an independent group touting Cochran and speaking rather despairingly of McDaniel and of groups supporting him.

Haley Barbour called the national Tea Party-affiliated groups supporting McDaniel “out-of-state phonies.” The former governor – the most prolific political fundraiser in the state’s history – was never averse to out-of-state support when he was campaigning.

After the Primary season is over, all Republicans will need to come together for the General Election.  Harrison concludes:

The establishment Republicans have depended on the Tea Party-like voters – many of whom are supporting McDaniel – to turn Mississippi into one of the most dependable red states. They will continue to need that support whether McDaniel wins or loses.

For more information:

Advertisements

Will ‘Better Schools, Better Jobs’ Amendment help Miss. schools?

“Better Schools, Better Jobs” is seeking a constitutional amendment to require the Mississippi Legislature to fully fund public education according to the MAEP formula.  If 107,000 registered voters sign their petition by April 2015, the initiative will go on the ballot for voters to decide.

Adopted in 1997, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program is a formula that determines total district funding.  Of the $6 Billion state budget, education consumes $2.4 Billion and is receiving an $85 Million dollar increase in 2015.  Fully funding MAEP would require 10-15% more funding.  Per The Parents’ Campaign, that increase would have resulted in $2.54M, $7.67M, and $5.23M more for Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties, respectively.

While fully funding education sounds like a good thing, there are several important considerations:

  1. Local governments are responsible for up to 27% of the MAEP formula.  Local officials can always vote to increase the local contribution to their city and county’s schools. 
  2. If you send your children to private school, fully funding MAEP is equivalent to a tax increase.  While an actual tax increase may not happen, under the proposed amendment more state tax dollars would be directed away from state services you use to a state service (public school) that you don’t.  Education vouchers would change that calculus but the state legislature rejected such an option for just 500 special needs students during the 2014 session.
  3. The Mississippi Brain Drain Commission reports that the state is a net exporter of college graduates.  While MAEP does not fund college and university education, state universities are primarily filled with state students.  Therefore state tax dollars are ultimately subsidizing other states’ economies.  Improving Mississippi’s economy and job opportunities (and thereby the state and local tax base) is a better way to improve school funding.

For more information:

The Daily Journal summarizes state’s 2014 legislative session

Bobby Harrison of the Daily Journal runs down the significant events of the 2014 legislative session with a two-part series:

  1. Teacher pay, justice reform biggest achievements
  2. 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:

McDaniel has made waves in Senate

Bobby Harrison wrote a background article on state Sen. Chris McDaniel in October 2013 for the Daily Journal.  The article, McDaniel has made waves in Senate, provides a glimpse into McDaniel’s stances and history as a state Senator.

Childers’ success partly depends on home region

From the Daily Journal, Bobby Harrison argues that Travis Childers (D) could succeed in winning the U.S. Senate seat in the fall elections–it all depends upon turnout from his home region of Northeast Mississippi.

Harrison derives his opinion from the success of Attorney General Jim Hood, Mississippi’s only statewide-elected Democrat, has experienced.  Hood hasn’t just won the AG seat, he has dominated it with margins of victory just as large as Republicans in statewide elections.

Siting geographical and party biases, Harrison states, “Democrats have a built-in base in the state.  An example of that can be found in the 2008 general election when little-known state Rep. Erik Fleming received 39 percent of the vote with literally no money to spend on the race against the highly popular Cochran.”

Despite all the suppositions and theories, ultimately Harrison concedes, “. . . Childers’ task is not impossible–just highly unlikely.”