State Legislature debating guns in churches

House Bill 786 was approved by state Representatives and would accomplish three things:   (1) allows church authorities to develop security programs that designate enhanced carry permit holders or those with military or law enforcement backgrounds to protect places of worship, (2) ensures that these participants receive the benefits of existing protections under the state’s Castle Doctrine law; and (3) clarifies current permitless carry options for law-abiding citizens while maintaining the existing enhanced and regular concealed carry permitting systems.

The Mississippi Senate now takes up the bill for consideration.

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Legislature wraps-up 2015 session

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.

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2015 Gulf Coast Candidates for State Senate

The following have qualified for candidacy in the 2o15 election for the Mississippi Senate. Only the Gulf Coast region is represented. For a complete list see Empower Mississippi‘s tabulation for the entire state.

District 40 (Pearl River): Incumbent Angela Hill (R) is uncontested.

District 45 (Forrest): Incumbent Billy Hudson (R) is uncontested.

District 46 (Hancock): Incumbent Philip E. Moran (R) is uncontested.

District 47 (Harrison/Jackson/Pearl River/Stone): With Sen. Tony Smith qualifying to run for the Public Service Commission Southern District, three candidates have qualified to replace him:

  • Jimmy L. “Bo” Alawine (D)
  • Rogena Mitchell (R)
  • Joseph M. “Mike” Seymore (R)

District 48 (Harrison):

  • Incumbent: Deborah Dawkins (D)
  • Joseph B. Piernas, Sr. (D)
  • Walter Crapps (R)

District 49 (Harrison):

  • Incumbent: Sean Tindell (R)
  • Katherine DeCoito (R)

District 50 (Harrison): Incumbent Tommy Gollott is uncontested.

District 51 (Jackson County):

  • Incumbent Michael D. Watson, Jr. (R)
  • Butch Loper (R)

Alisha Nelson McElhenney had qualified for the District 51 seat but switched her candidacy to the Lieutenant Governor seat following Watson’s announcement.

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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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Tim Tebow Act sacked in the Senate

A week after it passed out of the Education Committee, the Tim Tebow Act died on the Senate floor. Senate Bill 2329, named for the eponymous home schooled Heisman Trophy winner, would have given home school students the opportunity to participate in public school athletic and extracurricular programs.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joey Fillingane, said that it gave no unfair advantage to home schooled children. But opponents, led by Sen. Hob Bryan, disagreed citing concerns of fairness. With no companion legislation in the House, the measure is officially dead unless the language is added to another bill as an amendment.

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Senate passes balanced budget amendment for U.S. Constitution

The Mississippi Senate passed Bill 2389 which, if also approved by the House and signed by the Governor, will enjoin Mississippi in the Compact for a Balanced Budget, an interstate effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a federal balanced budget, reduce federal borrowing, and seek state approval before increasing the debt limit. Alaska and Georgia entered the compact in April 2014 and at least 38 states are required.

With three-fourths of state agreeing to the compact, the U.S. House and Senate can pass resolutions without presidential signature to initiate the amendment process. Having the wording agreed upon up front, a 24-hour Article V convention would convene in which each governor, acting as their state’s delegate, would vote “yes” to ratify the Balanced Budget Amendment.

The U.S. Constitution, Article V provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. However, three-fourths (or 38) states are required to ratify an amendment.

Sen. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall introduced the bill.

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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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Miss. Legislature adjourns with Senate & House Civil War

Geoff Pender’s article “Legislature has adjourned sine die” is an interesting look at the politics between the Mississippi House and Senate.  The House rejected the MDOT budget bill due to it being loaded with pork projects voting 121-1 on Monday, March 31st which all but killed funding for MDOT.

However, Gov. Bryant called a special session during the regular legislative session that allowed the Senate pass the bill last night and then adjourn for the legislative session.  This left the House no alternative but to pass the bill if they were to fund MDOT at all.

The $927 Million MDOT budget included $22 Million of pet projects the House did not like.  One of those projects is the $10 Million Mississippi-25/Lakeland Drive project which happens to be in Rankin County and near the home county of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

While much of the House was up in arms, the project had its defenders.  Rep. Mark Baker (R-Brandon) said the project has been planned for years to relieve congestion northeast of Jackson.

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Gov. Bryant urges education vouchers (for special education)

Gov. Bryant is encouraging the Mississippi House of Representatives to approve House Bill 765, the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act.  Since special needs students trail all other students in graduation rates, HB 765 would provide education vouchers for those students under certain circumstances so the parents could choose the best location and type of education to meet their children’s unique needs.

If enacted, the program would fund qualified special education students at the MAEP base student cost plus a share of costs for special programs required by that student.

Passed in 1997 by the Democrat-controlled state legislature, Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) is a formula that produces the base student cost to provide each student an “adequate education” in Mississippi.  Each district must provide up to 27% of that base cost through local revenues with the state funding the difference.

The Republicans now controlling the legislature have not funded education to the MAEP standard by $1.2 Billion since 2008–a point which the Democrats attempt to use against them.  In the current budget talks, the MAEP formula is underfunded by over $200 Million for 2015.

Back to vouchers. . . If education vouchers are good for special needs students, wouldn’t they be good for all students?

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Miss. Senate gives final approval to 3 anti-union bills

The Mississippi legislature is taking steps to prevent union take-over of industry within the state by sending 3 bills to Gov. Phil Bryant.  In what is likely a response to the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) failed multi-year attempt to unionize a Tennessee automobile plant in February, the bills will weaken organized labor influence in the state.

The AP’s Jeff Amy, via the Daily Journal, submitted the following report:

JACKSON – Bills that aim to restrict union organizing and picketing practices in Mississippi, as well as restrict governments’ abilities to pressure employers to use unionized workers, are on their way to Gov. Phil Bryant.

The Senate gave final passage Wednesday to the three bills.

Senate Bill 2473 would make it illegal to coerce a business into neutrality in a union drive or to allow workers to choose union representation by signing cards instead of by secret ballot.

Senate Bill 2653 tries to restrict picketing.

Senate Bill 2797 says the Legislature would have to pass a law to allow any state or local government to make an agreement to use unionized workers on a project. Such a project labor agreement was used to build the Toyota Motor Corp. plant in Blue Springs.

The UAW has tried unsuccessfully to unionize anywhere in the south.  UAW plans attempts to unionize a Nissan plant in Canton, Miss. and a Mercedes plant in Vance, Ala.  The legislation passed by the Mississippi Senate will make such efforts more difficult since the UAW will not have the open access that they enjoyed in Tennessee.

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