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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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.

For more information:

2015 Candidates for Governor

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will face a primary challenger in Mitch Young who filed his candidacy on February 26th. Little is known about Young who hails from Lamar County. Bryant is undoubtedly the favorite with $2.4 million of campaign funds already on hand not to mention a successful first term.

The Democrats will run 3 candidates in their primary: Robert Gray, Valerie Andrea Smartt Short, and Vicki Slater. Slater, a Madison attorney that has never held public office, appears to be the Democrat front-runner based on media reports.

Primary elections will be August 4th with the general election to follow on November 3rd.

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House passes several Senate bills

With March 11th being the deadline for the House to take action on bills and constitutional amendments originating in the Senate, several significant issues were settled.  From the House of Representatives Weekly Summary, the following issues were approved:

Senate Bill 2389 is an Article V vehicle to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and limit the ability of Congress to raise the debt limit without states’ approval. The bill was passed by the House but not without some contention between Democrats and Republicans.

Senate Bill 2695, the “Special Needs Bill,” was passed to set-up a pilot program to give parents of special needs students allotments (or vouchers up to $6,500) to can seek the educational opportunities appropriate and best suited for their children’s specific situation.

Senate Bill 2161 establishes a commission to study Common Core State Standards, determine suitability for Mississippi school children, and present recommendations to the State Board of Education.

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Congressional District 1 special election field set (and crowded)

There is no shortage of candidates for Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District seat which was vacated when Alan Nunnelee died in February. The following candidates qualified for the non-partisan special election on May 12th:

  • Boyce Adams, Columbus businessman
  • Sam Adcock, Columbus businessman
  • Nancy Collins, State Senator
  • Ed Holliday, Tupelo dentist
  • Starner Jones, Pontotoc ER physician
  • Trent Kelly, Saltillo District Attorney
  • Chip Mills, Itawamba County prosecuting attorney
  • Greg Pirkle, Tupelo attorney
  • Henry Ross, Eupora attorney and former Mayor
  • Daniel Sparks, Oxford attorney
  • Mike Tagert, Northern District Transportation Commissioner
  • Quentin Whitwell, Oxford attorney and former Jackson city councilman
  • Walter Howard Zinn, Jr., Pontotoc attorney

Danny Bedwell, a businessman from Columbus, announced intentions to run but failed to qualify by gathering the required 1,000 signatures by the March 27th deadline.

If needed, a runoff election will be June 2.

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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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House Bill introduced to end state personal income tax

In a bold proposal, Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn introduced a $1.38 billion plan to eliminate personal  income tax in Mississippi with House Bill 1629. Speaker Gun stated, “If we are going to do a tax cut, we want it to be real, substantial and make significant impact on the lives of those who are paying the tax.”

The press release provided the following key points of the bill that the House Ways and Means Committee passed February 24th:

  • 15 Year – $1,380,360,533 individual income tax elimination
  • 3% bracket eliminated by 2019
  • 4% bracket eliminated by 2022
  • 5% bracket eliminated by 2030
  • 3% revenue growth required
  • Mississippi family that makes $30,000 a year – $1,350 Raise
  • Mississippi family that makes $50,000 a year – $2,350 Raise
  • Mississippi family that makes $70,000 a year – $3,350 Raise

The Senate has approved Senate Bill 2839, a $382 million tax-cut proposal that phases out the business franchise tax and the personal income tax on the first $5,000 of taxable income.

For more information: