Gov. Bryant considering several bills

Gov. Bryant is carefully considering whether to sign Senate Bill 2161, an “anti-Common Core” bill. He is concerned that it doesn’t have any teeth but just makes recommendations that could be rejected by the Department of Education in favor of existing Common Core standards. Tea Party conservatives like Senators Chris McDaniel and Melanie Sojourner are pushing for a veto and a special legislative session to create a true alternative solution to Common Core.

The Governor has been more positive about a pair of pro-2nd Amendment bills, Senate Bills 2394 and 2619, which reduce concealed carry permit fees and allow weapons to be carried in fully enclosed cases (such as purses and briefcases) without a permit. Gov. Bryant has indicated that he will sign both bills.

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Palazzo named to House Appropriations Committee

While the special election to fill the 1st Congressional District is still taking shape, U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo has been appointed to replace the late Alan Nunnelee on the House Appropriations Committee (HAC).

Former Sen. Trent Lott said that Mississippi has been represented on the Appropriations committee since the 1930s and that losing that position would have been a big loss to the Gulf Coast and the state. “I was just depressed that we’d lost that slot,” Lott said. “So with Palazzo going on, that’s really important — important for the district but also important for him. For those federal installations we have down there on the Coast this is really big.”

Since this powerful committee writes the bills that determine where and how tax dollars are spent, the state benefits from the representation. Senator Thad Cochran chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee where he has established a strong history of bringing federal dollars into the state. Since Mississippi is dependent upon federal aid and routinely topping the list of state budgets supported with federal dollars (42.9% of the 2013 budget was provided by the federal government), having representation on the Appropriations committees of both the House and Senate is vital.

Rep. Palazzo should benefit politically because this position greatly expands his influence beyond that of his roles on the Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Space and Technology Committees, some of which he’ll have to relinquish. With Tea Party favorite and state Sen. Chris McDaniel expressing interest in the 4th Congressional District seat, Palazzo’s new-found status should provide give him an edge in future elections.

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McDaniel undecided in 2015

In the Clarion-Ledger report “McDaniel ‘would prefer federal position’” by Geoff Pender, Sen. Chris McDaniel hinted at a possible 2016 run for the 4th Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Steven Palazzo. In the interview, McDaniel indicated that he will seek re-election for the District 42 state Senate seat that he currently fills. Officially, McDaniel has only stated that he will not run for Governor.

In lieu of an official announcement, some indications have pointed to a possible run for Mississippi Lieutenant Governor. McDaniel has openly objected to Lt. Gen. Tate Reeves’ control over the state Senate as stripping control from the people.

As a Tea Party favorite, McDaniel garnered national attention during the 2014 election campaign in which he pushed Sen. Thad Cochran to a run-off in the Republican Primary.

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Special election to fill vacated 1st Congressional District

U.S. Rep Alan Nunnelee died on February 6th vacating the 1st Congressional District seat. The Governor must call for a special election to fill the seat within 60 days of the vacancy and the special election must be held no sooner than 60 days of the call per MS Code § 23-15-853.

As a strongly Republican area of the state, the office is expected to go to a Republican candidate. The most compelling Democrats, PSC Commissioner Brandon Presley and Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton, have both indicated they are not interested.

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2015 election slow to take shape

The qualifying deadline for the 2015 state election is February 27th but few candidates have candidates have entered. Some of the significant questions surround the statewide offices:

  1. Who will be the Democrat Candidate for Governor? Attorney General Jim Hood is a front-runner but he has indicated little interest.
  2. Who will run for Lieutenant Governor? Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has contemplated challenging incumbent Tate Reeves.
  3. Who will be running for Attorney General? Will incumbent Jim Hood attempt reelection?
  4. Will Stacey Pickering run for reelection as State Auditor? Republican challengers Mary Hawkins Butler (Madison Mayor) and Sen. Michael Watson (Pascagoula) have already expressed interest.

A wildcard in the 2015 elections is Sen. Chris McDaniel. He is thought to be a credible Republican challenger for Attorney General but has also indicated his interest in Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State. However, McDaniel may be more set on federal office and wait to challenge U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo for the 4th Congressional District in 2016.

The 2015 Election will be November 3rd with any party primaries 3 month prior on August 4th.

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Education bills approved in the Senate

The Mississippi Senate passed SB 2695, Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act, on Wednesday. The measure is designed to help special needs students by providing a $7,000 voucher, provided on pre-paid debit cards, to seek educational services outside the public school system. If enacted into law, it will be limited to 500 students in the first year. The estimated $3.5 million first year cost would be paid from the state’s general fund and not the Mississippi Adequate Education Program earmarked funds. Funds could only use the funds at Mississippi Department of Education approved vendors.

Gov. Phil Bryant and the National Excellence in Education Foundation praised the passage. However, the Parents Campaign opposes SB 2695 because it does not help all students with disabilities and sees it as a step toward privatization of public schools.

SB 2695 will proceed to the House for consideration where a similar bill, HB 294 sponsored by Carolyn Crawford of Pass Christian, awaits passage.

Senate Bill 2161 was passed yesterday and will establish the Mississippi Commission on College and Career Readiness to recommend new education standards to replace the Common Core States Standards adopted.  Several Tea Party conservatives, namely Senators Chris McDaniel, Melanie Sojourner, and Michael Watson, protested since the Senate refused to add language making the adoption of the commission recommendations mandatory. Those objecting to SB 2161 also fear that the Commission could recommend standards that simply mirror Common Core standards.

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Neshoba County Fair Previews General Election

Leading into the 2014 General Election, Sen. Thad Cochran is trying to heal a rift in the Republican Party after the close Primary battle with Chris McDaniel.  Democrat Travis Childers is trying to overcome a lack of name recognition to take advantage of that rift and become the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Mississippi since John C. Stennis in the 1980s.

The Neshoba County Fair set the stage for the speeches from Cochran and Childers as well as other elected officials such as Gov. Phil Bryant and House Speaker Philip Gunn.  Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves closed Wednesday’s political speeches heralding his successes in filling up the state’s rainy-day fund, increasing revenues, and pushed for a tax-cut.

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