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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Lt. Gov. proposes alternative tax cut plan

The House and the Senate have passed competing tax cut proposals:

  • The Senate passed  SB 2839 that would eliminate the corporate franchise tax over 10 years and provide breaks for small businesses and eliminate the 3% bracket on personal income taxes.
  • The House passed HB 1629 bill eliminating the personal income tax altogether within 15 years conditioned upon a 3% or better “growth trigger.”

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has offered a compromise: implement the Senate plan over 10 years and then eliminate the state’s 4 percent income tax bracket over the next 5 years for individuals and businesses with no growth triggers.

The Senate Finance Committee has passed the compromise but the Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has not yet considered it.

Related links:

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

For more information:

Republican Primary 4th Congressional District Candidate: Steven Palazzo

As the incumbent representing Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, there is much written and in the news concerning Rep. Steven Palazzo.  Completing his second term in office, Palazzo originally defeated former Rep. Gene Taylor in the 2010 elections when the Tea Party was rising to prominence.

A former U.S. Marine and currently serving in the Mississippi National Guard, he is no stranger to the military or the issues that affect national defense.  He is also a Certified Public Accountant and owns his own business.

From his website, here are Palazzo’s position on various issues:

  • Obamacare:  Has voted to defund, repeal, replace, and delay multitude of times and will continue to do so.  Obamacare increases healthcare costs and insurance premiums, hurts the quality of healthcare, has added numerous taxes and increased the national debt.
  • Flood Insurance:  Successful in passing legislation that restores grandfathered rates and building codes; removed the home sale trigger that would drastically increase flood insurance premiums.
  • National Security:  The wellbeing of those who serve and have served in the military is a top priority.  Wants to immediately fix and restore cuts to military retirees that happened in the past 2 years.  Will continue to lead the fight to keep shipbuilding at Ingalls as those jobs are vital to the Gulf Coast economy.
  • Taxes:  High taxes and spending are out of control.  Limited resources must be wisely used and entitlement programs must be controlled.
  • Economy:  Congress needs to focus on promoting economic growth for the country.  Will continue to fight for legislation that fixes health care, relieves gas prices, reduce regulations, and restore employment.
  • 2nd Amendment:  Hunting and fishing are a way of life in South Mississippi and the 2nd Amendment is more than just hunting.  Supports the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act and Protecting Gun Owners in Bankruptcy Act which will allow guns to be exempt from estate in bankruptcy.
  • Environment:  Supports the RESTORE Act which restores Mississippi’s natural resources, fisheries and coastal wetlands including the economic health of coastal communities adversely affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill through a trust fund paid for with Clean Water Act fines.

For more information:

Democrat Primary U.S. Senate Candidate: Bill Marcy

Bill Marcy is no stranger to politics.  Marcy ran unsuccessfully for Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District against Bennie Thompson twice as a Tea Party Republican.

Describing himself as “a conservative with Libertarian leanings” On NewsRadio 104.9’s Gulf Coast Mornings, Marcy said, “I am not happy with the Democratic or Republican Party.”  When asked about his switch from Republican to Democrat, Marcy stated, “We switched so that we could bring in the black base. We are very open about that. Black folks just won’t vote for a Republican. . .”

If successful, Marcy would become the first black Senator from Mississippi since 1881.

Marcy spells out his positions on his 2012 campaign website as follows:

  • Economy:  The tax and spend mentality of our President and the Democrat-led congress is making it harder to create new private industry jobs. The only way out of this recession is to permanently lower taxes and cut the size of government.  Opposes the 1993 NAFTA agreement.
  • Taxes:  Believes the tax burden is abusive and has been used for political reward or punishment.  Willing to pay for constitutional items such as national defense, bridges and highways but not pork.  Supports the Fair Tax plan.
  • Bail-outs:  Against bailing out people or businesses that created the current economic crisis.  Believes that no one and nothing is “too big to fail”.
  • Education:  Wants to requires all students to study the U.S. Constitution.  Supports education vouchers to drive competition to improve quality education; tax dollars should follow the given child, not the schools.
  • Drug Legalization:  Supports legalizing marijuana use for adults.
  • Defense:  Believes in a strong national defense as this is the first responsibility of government as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
  • Energy:  “Drill here, Drill Now!”  Incredulous that U.S. policy does not take advantage of domestic resources.
  • Health Care:  Does not believe our health care system is broken but the best in the world; Against the takeover of healthcare under Obamacare which has destroyed full-time jobs.  Supports Health Savings Accounts.  Wants to guarantee insurance portability from job to job and across state lines.  Supports tort reform to reduce cost of healthcare.
  • Immigration:  Wants to enforce existing laws.  Supports legal immigration but need to secure the borders not only to prevent illegal immigration but to prevent terrorists from entering.
  • Abortion:  “[A]bortion is really the killing of unborn children.”
  • Marriage:  Supports the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
  • 2nd Amendment:  “[G]uarantees law-abiding citizens’ right to bear arms. This is not up for debate.”
  • 10th Amendment:  Believes the need for a limited central government with most everything delegated to the states.

For more information:

Will ‘Better Schools, Better Jobs’ Amendment help Miss. schools?

“Better Schools, Better Jobs” is seeking a constitutional amendment to require the Mississippi Legislature to fully fund public education according to the MAEP formula.  If 107,000 registered voters sign their petition by April 2015, the initiative will go on the ballot for voters to decide.

Adopted in 1997, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program is a formula that determines total district funding.  Of the $6 Billion state budget, education consumes $2.4 Billion and is receiving an $85 Million dollar increase in 2015.  Fully funding MAEP would require 10-15% more funding.  Per The Parents’ Campaign, that increase would have resulted in $2.54M, $7.67M, and $5.23M more for Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties, respectively.

While fully funding education sounds like a good thing, there are several important considerations:

  1. Local governments are responsible for up to 27% of the MAEP formula.  Local officials can always vote to increase the local contribution to their city and county’s schools. 
  2. If you send your children to private school, fully funding MAEP is equivalent to a tax increase.  While an actual tax increase may not happen, under the proposed amendment more state tax dollars would be directed away from state services you use to a state service (public school) that you don’t.  Education vouchers would change that calculus but the state legislature rejected such an option for just 500 special needs students during the 2014 session.
  3. The Mississippi Brain Drain Commission reports that the state is a net exporter of college graduates.  While MAEP does not fund college and university education, state universities are primarily filled with state students.  Therefore state tax dollars are ultimately subsidizing other states’ economies.  Improving Mississippi’s economy and job opportunities (and thereby the state and local tax base) is a better way to improve school funding.

For more information:

Gov. Signs gun protections into Law

Yesterday, Gov. Bryant signed into law a tax holiday bill, Senate Bill 2425:

  • Creates a sales tax holiday on firearms, ammunition, and hunting supplies during Mississippi’s “Second Amendment Weekend,”  September 5th – 7th.
  • Creates another sales tax holiday for a variety of organizations and items from July 25th – 26th.

The NRA thanked Rep. Andy Gipson (R-77) and Sens. Briggs Hopson (R-23) and Sean Tindell (R-49) for getting the bill to the governor.

On March 27th, the Governor signed into law several protections for gun owners under House Bill 314:

  • Limit government confiscation of legally owned weapons during states of emergency
  • Clarify local authority to limit the carrying of firearms
  • Affirm the rights of citizens to possess firearms in public housing
  • Prohibit destruction of weapons via government “buyback” programs

The NRA credited Sen. Philip Moran (R-46), Rep. Jeff Smith (R-39), Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and Speaker Philip Gunn (R-56) for getting the measure passed.

For more information: