Clinton, MS hosts Initiative 42 Debate

As home to both Nancy Loome and Philip Gunn, Clinton, MS hosted an election forum and provided opportunities to the Parents’ Campaign leader and House Speaker to present their positions on Initiative 42. See the video below.

Gov. Bryant approves ballot language for state constitutional amendment

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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.”

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Governor’s review of the 2015 Legislative Session

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.

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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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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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Gov. Bryant to sign special needs education voucher bill into law

In an effort to meet special needs students’ educational requirements and increase graduation rates (currently 22.5% compared to 74.5% for all others), the House and Senate have concurred on Senate Bill 2695 sending it to Gov. Bryant for signing into law.

The bill will provide $6,500 scholarships, sometimes called “vouchers,” to participating students to be used by parents to acquire education that is oriented to the specific needs of their special needs student. The program will be open to 500 students in the 2015-2016 school year; 250 vouchers will be given on a first-come, first-served basis and 250 vouchers will be awarded by lottery.

A similar bill failed to pass the House in 2014. Rep. Carolyn Crawford of Pass Christian vowed to bring the bill back for the 2015 legislative session and, working with Sen. Nancy Collins, pushed the bill to the governor.

Arizona and Florida are the only other two states that have similar programs which are called Educational Savings Accounts.

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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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