Redistricting Impacts Gulf Coast Counties

The 2010 Census has forced redistricting and the location of your polling precinct and  voting district may have changed. Visit the Secretary of State’s Polling Place Locator to confirm this information and see ballots for the upcoming election.

Harrison County has released Redistricting Information, a Reference Map, and has updated its Voter Precinct Locator. Specific information for other coastal Mississippi counties is available from their respective Circuit Clerks’ offices.

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Gov. Bryant signs Compact for a Balanced Budget, texting ban

Gov. Bryant signed several bills into law recently including the Compact for a Balanced Budget and a bill prohibiting texting while driving.

Senate Bill 2389, the Compact for a Balanced Budget, enters Mississippi into the interstate compact that calls for a Constitutional Convention to ratify a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Governor outlawed texting while driving by signing House Bill 389 which specifically states, “An operator of a moving motor vehicle is prohibited from writing, sending, or reading a text message and from accessing, reading or posting to a social networking site using a hand-held mobile telephone [or other portable electronic communication device] while driving said motor vehicle.” Mississippi already had a law prohibiting those 16 and under from texting while driving but this law expands the ban to all drivers. Phone calls are not impacted.

Other recently signed bills:

  • House Bill 215 allows temporary medical licenses to be issued to out-of-state doctors in state for military, National Guard, or Reserve duty.
  • House Bill 257 requires/allows HIV testing of adults accused of sexual assault on a child prior to any conviction.
  • Senate Bill 2127 provides in-state tuition rates for non-residents eligible for veterans education assistance.

The new laws become effective July 1st.

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Vehicle inspection stickers about to go away

The House voted 112-7 in favor of eliminating the vehicle inspection sticker. Those favoring some type of inspection say that, since there is no support for a more thorough and expensive inspection process, it makes sense to eliminate the sticker. Gov. Phil Bryant must sign the repeal to become law.

The Sun Herald asks, “Will Phil Bryant sign bill to eliminate inspection stickers?

State Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula says, “Yes:”

The bill repeals the annual inspection (MS Code § 63-13-1 through 63-13-29) but leaves in place MS Code § 63-7-59 which prohibits mirror tinting and requires light transmittance of 28% or more on the windshield and front two side windows.

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2015 Candidates Southern Public Service Commission

Current Southern Public Service Commissioner R. Stephen Renfroe will not be seeking to return to the office in the 2015 election. Renfroe was appointed to the position in 2013 by Gov. Phil Bryant to replace Leonard Bentz who left to office to become the executive director of the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District.

Four candidates have qualified for the position. Republicans Sam Britton, Mike Collier, and Tony Smith will face-off in a primary on August 2nd. Britton is the Manager Director of the McLean Group‘s Hattiesburg Office. Collier was the 2011 Democratic candidate for the same position and lost to eventual winner Leonard Bentz. Smith is a small business owner and currently serves as the District 47 state Senator.

Tom Blanton is the only Democrat and will face the winner of the Republican primary in the November 4th general election.  Blanton lost in the 2011 Democrat primary to Collier for the Southern PSC seat.

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Harrison County to replace 2nd supervisor since December

Harrison County District 4 Supervisor William Martin was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home on February 25th. Martin had been indicted on bribery and related charges to which his attorney said he planned to plead guilty.

Martin is the second supervisor that will be replaced after Kim Savant resigned his District 2 seat in December 2014 for unrelated federal charges. The other county supervisors, Windy Swetman, Joe Meadows, Marlin Ladner, and Connie Rockco, will appoint a replacement to serve out Martin’s term. A special election is not required since this is an election year.

Four candidates have qualified to run for the District 4 seat in the November election.

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MS House still trying to get balanced budget amendment on ballot

If passed, House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 22 would give place a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced state budget on the 2015 ballot.  However, the bill authored by Rep. Mark Formby (Pearl River) failed to receive the necessary two-thirds of the House vote. A motion to reconsider has been made and the House may be vote on the measure again.

While the state has routinely balanced budgets, Republican members want to mandate the practice. But the HCR 22 must first be passed by the House and then approved by a majority of voters.  The bill does provide, with a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate, relief from the provisions of the amendment in times of war, natural disasters, and economic emergencies.

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2015 Ballot Battle Over MAEP Set

With proponents obtaining enough signatures to place Initiative 42 on the 2015 Ballot, the State Legislature acted to create an alternative, HCR 9 or Initiative 42A, which the House and the Senate passed this week.

If approved by voters in November, Initiative 42 would change the Mississippi Constitution to read as follows (underlined and struck-through text indicates added or deleted language):

SECTION 201. To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, The Legislature the State shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may provide. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.

Proponents say that this constitutional amendment will require fully funding K-12 education in Mississippi per the MAEP formula that was adopted in 1997 to determine funding. Opponents say that Initiative 42 strips the Legislature of control over education and places that control in the hands of the Chancery Court of Hinds County.

Initiative 42A would change the constitution as follows:

SECTION 201. The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools.

Proponents of this alternative argue that this will keep control of education in the State Legislature and focus on results (i.e. the insertion of “an effective system”). Opponents say Initiative 42A only confuses voters and does not allow for a simple “up or down vote” on Initiative 42 by the people of Mississippi.

To pass, a proposal must win a majority and at least 40% of the total votes cast. With competing proposals, passage of either is more difficult. If voters are uneducated before going to the polls, the ballot could also be very confusing.

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2015 Preview: Busy Year for Mississippi

With 2015 a state-wide election year, the upcoming session of the Mississippi Legislature is sure to be interesting.  First, every member of the legislature and all state-wide office holders are up for re-election. Additionally, Initiative 42, the proposal to amend the state constitution to require fully funding MAEP, will be on the ballot and a possible alternative if passed by the Legislature.

With MAEP on the ballot, public education funding is certain to be a top issue for the legislature. The full MAEP formula has only been funded twice since adopted in 1997 (both times during election years) and, with Medicaid costs increasing, funding the full amount will require some combination of decreasing amounts for other services and higher education or raising taxes.

Tax relief is another political football and only the governor has proposed to give a tax credit to low to moderate income working families.  The $5 state inspection sticker may also come up for consideration since it does not generate much revenue. Corporate taxes are also on the table; Mississippi is one of 13 states with a franchise tax that puts the state at a competitive disadvantage with other states in attracting new businesses.

With the scandals that have hit the Department of Corrections, Contract Reform will likely be another big topic this year. Tighter restrictions on no-bid contracts is likely to be politically popular this year.

Mark the calendar with these notable days in 2015:

  • State Legislature Convenes: January 6th
  • State Legislature Adjourns: April 6th
  • Party Primary Election: August 4th
  • Party Primary Runoff Election: August 25th
  • General/Special Election: November 3rd
  • Special Runoff Election: November 24th

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MS Gulf Coast’s 2014 General Election Results

Mississippians voted overwhelmingly to support a state constitutional amendment to preserve the right to hunt and fish.  Nearly 90% of voters approved House Concurrent Resolution 30 (HCR 30) which will amend the state constitution and become the 18th state with hunting and fishing protected as a constitutional right.

Winners in the 2014 General Election:

  • U.S. Senate:  Thad Cochran
  • 4th Congressional District:  Steven Palazzo
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 08, Place 2:  Jennifer Schloegel
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 08, Place 3:  Sandy Steckler
  • County Court Judge, Place 3:  Margaret Alfonso
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 16, Place 1:  D. Neil Harris, Sr.*
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 16, Place 3:  Michael Fondren

*As of November 7th, D. Neil Harris, Sr. led the election against Paula Yancey by 18 votes with 18 affidavit ballots outstanding.

Two races will require a run-off.  In the Harrison County race for Circuit Court Judge (District 02, Place 2), Chris Schmidt earned 42% of the vote and will face Robert Fant Walker who received the second highest vote total with 34%.  In Jackson County, Mike Ezell garnered 43.9% of the vote and will face Scott McIlrath who came in second with 15.9%.

Runoff election will be November 25th.

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Candidates for Jackson County Sheriff

Jackson County appointed interim Sheriff Charles Britt after Mike Byrd was resigned after being charged with felony crimes in December 2013.

A special election will be conducted in November to elect a permanent replacement.  The following have applied for the job (links are to on air interviews on NewsRadio 104.9FM:

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