Legislature sends record education budget to Governor

If the bill passed by the House and Senate is signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, Mississippi public education will receive a record $2.52 billion in 2016. Over 4 years, education funding will increase by $285 million.

On February 18th with virtually no debate, the House unanimously passed a bill to increase the Mississippi Adequate Education Program by $109.9 million. Since both chambers’ priorities were very similar, the Senate simply passed House Bill 1536 on March 17th with a 49-2 vote.

Those promoting Initiative 42, a proposed constitution amendment to require fully funding the MAEP formula, remain unsatisfied despite the record amount.

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2015 Candidates for Lieutenant Governor

Incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will be challenged in the Republican primary by Alisha Nelson McElhenney while Jelani Barr and Tim Johnson will square off in a Democrat primary battle.

The winners of the respective primaries on August 4th will meet in the general election on November 3rd.

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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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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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Clarion-Ledger: Bryant, Reeves declare legislative victory at deadline

Bryant, Reeves declare legislative victory at deadline

Geoff Pender, The Clarion-Ledger, 03 Feb 2015

With Tuesday night’s deadline, both Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves were declaring success, with most of their legislative agenda’s surviving the deadline for passage from committee.

A spokeswoman for Bryant said his legislative agenda is “full steam ahead,” and provided this list:

Alive and subject to today’s deadline:

Mississippi Works Fund, $50 million for workforce training (SB2457, HB 911)

MS Works Scholarship, $3 million for career tech students (SB2452, HB950)

Common Core Reform (SB2161)

Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act (SB2695, HB394)

Government Reform: change composition of Contract Review Board (SB2553, HB825)

Government Reform: move Inmate Canteen Fund to Treasurer’s Office (SB2521, HB400)

Government Reform: move Ag leasing to Secretary of State (SB2562, HB403)

Government Reform: require DFA sign off on emergency contracts (SB2400, HB1137)

Measures to require casinos to seize gaming earnings of parents who owe back child support and to fund state trooper training did not pass committee. As long as the code sections are open, these efforts are not “dead, dead, dead”

Reeve’s office released:

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ agenda proposals, which include bringing transparency to state purchases and eliminating the vehicle inspection sticker, cleared Senate committees by today’s deadline. The Senate will consider bills over the next week

Lt. Gov. Reeves said he appreciated the support of senators on initiatives aimed at eliminating wasteful spending and making government more efficient.

“We’ve taken a strong first step in making real reforms happen in several areas of government that have been neglected for too long,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said. “We need bold reforms to make a difference for taxpayers.”

His agenda included Senate Bill 2553, by Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, to tighten state contracting laws and increase scrutiny on government purchases. The bill remakes the Personal Service Contract Review Board, requires a biannual review of procurement practices by the legislative watchdog committee, and ensures pricing details and terms of contracts are public records.

Other bills on Lt. Gov. Reeves’ agenda include:

·Senate Bill 2519, by Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, eliminating the vehicle inspection sticker.

·Senate Bill 2407, by Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, placing public hospital boards under the Open Meetings Act

·Senate Bill 2481, by Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, improving care for the mentally ill.

·Senate Bill 2161, by Sen. Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian, ensuring high academic standards for Mississippi students.

·Senate Bill 2695, by Sen. Collins, providing school choice for special needs children

·Senate Bill 2394, by Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, reducing concealed carry permit fees.

·Senate Bill 2619, by Sen. Haskins Montgomery, D-Bay Springs, recognizing military training for firearm permits.

Lt. Gov. releases 2015 priorities

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves published his priorities for the 2015 Legislative session.  As the second-highest ranking official in Mississippi and the President of the Senate, the Lieutenant Governor wields significant power in appointing members to Senate committees and setting the legislative agenda.

His initiatives are summarized as follows:

  • Eliminating the vehicle inspection sticker.
  • Placing public hospital boards under the Open Meetings Act.
  • Reforming state contracting laws.
  • Expanding physician residency access.
  • Improving care for the mentally ill.
  • Ensuring high academic standards for Mississippi students.
  • Spending more on education based on effective district management.
  • Providing school choice for special needs children.
  • Reducing concealed carry permit fees.
  • Recognizing military training for firearm permits.

Further explanation can be found on the Lieutenant Governor’s website. Like all state-wide offices, Mr. Reeves is up for re-election in 2015.

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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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