South Mississippians will vote on November 8th to fill the State Supreme Court seat vacated when Justice Randy Pierce resigned in February of this year (2016). Governor Phil Bryant appointed Dawn H. Beam to fill the seat until a replacement could be elected.
On Tuesday, Beam will be challenged by Michael T. Shareef. An overview of each candidates background and judicial philosophy is provided by the Hattiesburg American.
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.
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:”
- Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.
- Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
- 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.
Initiative 42 and the Legislative Alternative 42A are a ballot initiatives to change Mississippi’s Constitution with respect to public education. The ballot is long and detailed so every voter must study this issue before voting November 3rd. The specific changes to the State Constitution can be studied here.
The anticipated results or consequences vary widely. Proponents say Initiative 42 will require the Legislature to fully fund MAEP (the State’s funding formula for public schools) and phase it in over a number of years based upon state tax revenues. Opponents say Initiative 42 will seriously impact the state budget, reduce other state services including public universities and community colleges, and could tie-up all kinds of education issues in the courts.
2015 Constitutional Amendment Ballot Language [Click to view larger]
The biggest issue on the November ballot is the proposed state constitutional amendment for public school funding. With competing alternatives on the ballot, Initiative 42 and Initiative 42A, voters will make two choices: whether to amend the state constitution at all and, if approved, whether to amend with the language of Initiative 42 or Initiative 42A.
Every voter with vote on BOTH issues regardless of whether they vote “Yes” or “No” to amend the constitution. In the language of the ballot, voters will first choose “for approval of either initiative” or “against both initiative[s].” In the event “approval of either initiative” receives a majority of the vote, all voters must vote on the second issue “for Initiative Measure No. 42” or “for Alternative Measure No. 42 A.”
Geoff Pender filed the following report in The Clarion-Ledger to describe the ballot approval process and the constitutional amendment choices:
Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday approved the ballot for the Nov. 3 general election, including two dueling constitutional amendments on school funding.
Voters will have to pay attention to their ballots in November – it gets a little tricky around the education funding initiatives.
“It is a complicated ballot, because we have two votes (on the initiatives),” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. “I trust voters will read both of those explanations on the ballot and make an informed decision.”
Prepare now for the August 4th Primary Elections! If registered, you can vote in either the Republican or Democrat primary but not both.
Find your polling place AND sample ballot at the Secretary of State’s POLLING PLACE LOCATOR. The Polling Place Locator not only provides your voting precinct but also Democrat and Republican Primary ballots for your address.
Plan now as information on local candidates is often difficult to find than for national or even state-wide candidates. Search candidate websites, the Sun Herald, the Clarion-Ledger, the Blessings of Liberty, and other local and state media sites and blogs for more information.
If you are not registered, don’t wait to register for the General Election on November 3rd. Residents must register at least 30 days prior to election day. Visit your county’s Circuit Clerk for more information.
A May 12th special election for northern Mississippi’s Congressional district pared the original field of 13 to 2 and forced a June 2nd runoff. On Tuesday, Trent Kelly defeated Walter Zinn to fill the U.S. Congressional seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Alan Nunnellee. Kelly, a Republican and prosecutor from Saltillo, won the election in a landslide with 70% of the vote.
The Clarion-Ledger summarized the 2015 session as follows:
For all the talk of broad tax cuts, or “a taxpayer raise,” the only break rank-and-file Mississippians will see from the 2015 legislative session is $5, from the elimination of vehicle inspection stickers.
The state’s GOP leadership, holding both a House and Senate majority, passed competing tax cut plans, and each chamber initially killed the other’s. They reached a compromise only late in the session, but then Democrats prevented the super-majority vote needed for passage.
This election-year session, which wrapped up Thursday, at times appeared more about politics or minutiae than major policy. Lawmakers argued over joining a drive to compel Congress to balance its budget (they did), banning trade with Iran (they didn’t, after realizing Toyota might have Iranian investments), exempting children from vaccinations for their parents’ philosophical beliefs (they’re not), feeding deer meat to prison inmates (they’re not) and whether to allow homeschooled children to play public school sports (they didn’t).
At one point in the session, lawmakers couldn’t get a bipartisan two-thirds vote to delay business for a day for an ice storm.
“As always, you get some things you want and some things you don’t,” Gov. Phil Bryant said of a legislative session where he saw several of his initiatives shot down.
In his own statement, Gov. Bryant praised the legislature for passing the following legislation to him:
- Education vouchers for special needs students (SB 2695)
- Strengthening 2nd Amendment protections (SB 2394, SB 2619)
- Improving state contracting procedures (HB 825, SB 2400)
- Investing in Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula and Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson
- Increasing state trooper pay (SB 2500)
- Medical licenses for retired military practicing on voluntary basis (HB 215)
- Increasing public hospital transparency (SB 2407)
- Waiving out-of-state tuition for military veterans (SB 2127)
- Standing with Israel by restricting state financial involvement with entities conducting energy-related business with Iran (HB 1127)
See the Governor’s full statement below.
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.
The Senate ended their 2015 session on April 1st. After considering 2 remaining measures, the House adjourned the following day.
In its final session, the House approved Senate Bill 2258, which, if signed by Gov. Bryant, requires school principles to certify results of standardized tests and provides criminal penalties if cheating is detected. The House also approved Senate Bill 2804 which removes Department of Corrections employees from the state Personnel Board civil service protection to enable the DoC leadership to reorganize the troubled agency.