Monday, April 27, 2015

Republicans Want An Issue and Offer No Solution

If you need another example of how the Republicans have no idea what they are doing on education policy, let's take a look at what they were up to today. Having had his feelings hurt by Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Governor Phil Bryant retreated to the warm embrace of his talk radio protectors. During this morning's interview, Bryant discussed why he vetoed a bill which would have established a study committee to review our state's education standards which have been on the books since Republican Haley Barbour was governor.

Phil Bryant opposes our current education standards which challenge students to learn new math and reading skills and wants them to be replaced, but he has provided no examples of what he would like to see instead. This is one of those instances of wanting an issue to fight about and campaign on rather than offering a solution. Bryant even admitted there is no agreement between him and his fellow Republicans on what to do, proving once again that they have no idea what they're doing.

By setting Mississippi on the chaotic course he wants, Governor Bryant is hurting Mississippi in the fast-paced competition for better jobs. As a reminder, Mississippi still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. It makes no sense to withdraw from the education standards that have been in place for years just to win a political argument while, at the same time, the standards seem to be working fine. If we were to make a flowchart of how Phil Bryant and the Republicans make education policy, it would probably look something like this:

  1. "We like skools."
  2. "Wait, we don't want skools doing that."
  3. Yell about it
  4. Shrug shoulders 
  5. Demand something
  6. Offer no solutions 
  7. Pass bills that hurt Mississippi's chances of being competitive in a global economy
  8. Demand something else when Phil Bryant has another bad idea
  9. Offer no solutions, again
  10. Tate Reeves blames Philip Gunn who blames Tate Reeves who blames Phil Bryant
  11. Teachers and students get caught in the political crossfire
  12. Somehow declare victory
What Phil Bryant and the Republicans are doing is confusing teachers by trying to change the rules and making Mississippi school children less competitive than their counterparts in states across the country. Phil Bryant and the Republicans do not care. As long as they can claim a political win, that is good enough for them. As we have noted previously, when it comes to public education in Mississippi, Phil Bryant and the Republicans just aren't into you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Senate Conservative Coalition Opposes: Leading By Example

Earlier today, the Senate Conservative Coalition (or whatever they're called these days) filed paperwork with the Secretary of State to begin collecting signatures to require term limits on officeholders to two terms per office.

Bear in mind that state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the leader of Senate conservatives, is currently running for his third term to the state senate.

Should their efforts to place language on the ballot imposing these term limits fail, will Senate conservatives (assuming they win re-election) abide by a self-imposed two-term rule? If McDaniel's re-election is any indication, this does not seem likely. If the initiative does make it onto the ballot, we should all look forward to the likely debate over alternative ballot language like we saw earlier this year with the Initiative 42 alternative.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Republicans Just Aren't Into You

In the dating world, there comes a time when you hear the phrase "You're nice, but I'm just not that into you." This is true of the Republican Party's feeling towards public education.

Friday afternoon, House Education Chairman John Moore (R-Brandon) participated in a panel discussion on public education funding in Mississippi. During his remarks, Chairman Moore presented a list of reasons the Republican Party just isn't into fully funding public education in Mississippi.

Moore's reasons include:
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • The BP oil spill 
  • WorldCom filing for bankruptcy in 2002
  • No new sources of revenue 
  • Medicaid taking a greater share of the budget (while refusing to accept federal funds to offset the cost)
  • Tornadoes
  • Education funding wasn't his problem prior to 2012 (even though Moore has been in the legislature since 1996)
  • The Mississippi Highway Patrol
Folks, this is the Republican Chairman of the House Education Committee rattling off a weak list of excuses why his party refused to fully fund public education during their four years in the majority. We have heard a lot of grandstanding and lip service from the Republicans about how much they want to fund public education, but the result is a list of lame excuses why they won't. The Republicans give us many reasons why they aren't fully funding public education, yet they don't list any reason why they should. No discussion about poverty. No discussion about economic development. No discussion about keeping young professionals in Mississippi after they graduate. 

It would be more honest of the Republicans if they just came out and say how they really feel: "Public education, we're just not that into you."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Republicans Can't Figure Out Governing

With each passing year, Republicans seek to keep their friends in the political consulting industry employed rather than tackle the mounting issues facing Mississippi. This year is no exception. Rather than get things done during their time in power, Republicans focus on politics over policy.

Look no further than the frustration of outgoing state Rep. Rita Martinson (R-Madison) who has served in the legislature since 1992. On her way into retirement, you can hear in her tone that she is disappointed her fellow Republicans squandered a chance to make a difference during their time in the majority.

From the Madison County Journal,
Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison, said she was disappointed that during an election year officials did more playing politics than legislating. 
With regards to tax cuts proposed by both chambers and the governor's office, she said none passed because it was just politics. 
"That's the whole crux of the matter," she said. "Each body wanted to have their own tax cut. I do think some tax cut in the line of franchise taxes, as well as income taxes, would be beneficial."
The dysfunction and disinterest in governing by the Republicans is summed up best by Mississippi Democratic Trust Executive Director Brandon Jones in the video below.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

IHL Trustees Call for Accountability; Offer Little

As the search for the University of Mississippi's next chancellor begins, there are those who still believe this was a situation manufactured by some within the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees. These Trustees argued that there were financial concerns regarding the University of Mississippi Medical Center which were so egregious that Chancellor Dan Jones had to go.

For all the Trustees' "concerns" about financial accountability, let's take a look at one serious case involving two of the Trustees, Aubrey Patterson and Alan Perry. Mr. Patterson, who is the current President of the Board of Trustees for the IHL, retired from the board of Tupelo-based BancorpSouth in 2014. IHL Board Vice President Alan Perry currently sits on the BancorpSouth Board of Directors.

An issue facing BancorpSouth is a 2014 federal investigation into mergers planned by their bank while Patterson and Perry were on the Board of Directors; the investigation is ongoing. According to the Mississippi Business Journal,
BancorpSouth has learned that federal bank regulators have identified concerns during the course of routine supervisory activities regarding BancorpSouth’s procedures, systems and processes related to certain of its compliance programs, including its Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money-laundering programs. In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau currently is conducting a review of BancorpSouth’s fair lending practices.
While Patterson and Perry kick Dan Jones out of his position for so-called financial concerns, they seem to be content with their positions at a bank under federal investigation for possibly violating federal law. This calls for another executive session. All in favor?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Republicans Kill Tidelands Funding for Bay St. Louis

For the first time since coastal municipalities began receiving Tidelands funding, the city of Bay St. Louis will not receive a single dime when this year's funds are disbursed.

Senator Philip Moran (R-Kiln)
The Hancock County Republican delegation, led by state Sen. Philip Moran, killed $300,000 in Tidelands funds for the city of Bay St. Louis. Hancock County usually gets about 25-30 percent of the annual Tidelands money but only received around seven percent this year when Moran was in charge of the Hancock County portion. Of the allocation for Hancock County, nearly $500,000 went to Moran's hometown of Diamondhead.

In 2011, Philip Moran was challenged in the Republican Primary by Mickey Lagasse for the state senate. This year, Mickey Lagasse is running for House District 122 against state Rep. David Baria.

Mickey Lagasse
In an interview with Cottonmouth, Mississippi Democratic Trust Executive Director Brandon Jones
said, "One of the primary purposes of Tidelands funding is to preserve Mississippi's Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. These funds have been critical in rebuilding Bay St. Louis. As a tip of the hat to his former opponent, Senator Moran is cutting off vital funds from an important Gulf Coast community. This is a perfect example of the way Republicans have misused the legislature over the past four years. This November, the voters of Mississippi will have a chance to stop this type of help-your-buddy government."

According to the Secretary of State,
Public Trust Tidelands and submerged lands are lands lying under waters naturally subject to tidal influence. The inland boundary is the line of mean high tide and the seaward boundary is the State boundary, three miles south of the barrier islands. Public Trust Tidelands are owned by the State in trust for all the people of Mississippi. The Secretary of State is the trustee of this great public trust.
It is the policy of the State of Mississippi to favor the preservation of the natural state of the public trust tidelands and their ecosystems and to prevent the despoliation and destruction of them, except where a specific alteration would serve a higher public interest in compliance with the public purposes of the trust. Public Trust Tidelands are managed with a view towards preservation. Revenues from the Tidelands are deposited into the Tidelands Fund and disbursed to the Department of Marine Resources for programs and projects relating to conservation, reclamation, preservation, acquisition, education and enhancement of public access to the tidelands.

Friday, March 27, 2015

SOURCE: DAN JONES TO GET 2-YEAR EXTENSION AT 2 PM IHL MEETING

There will be no apology from Jobes, as had been reportedly demanded by IHL.

This would bring a temporary end to one of the uglier chapters in recent Mississippi higher education history.

More as time allows....

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Conservative Republicans Suffer First Loss of 2015

We reported two weeks ago that Haley Barbour and his clients are determined to preserve their Republican majority on the Public Service Commission. Our prediction turned out to be correct as the first Republican to enter the Central District Public Service Commission primary is the first to drop out.

Jackson attorney Mitch Tyner fell to the pressure from the Haley Barbour political machine by announcing he is withdrawing his candidacy for the Public Service Commission while calling for "party unity." This strategy seems to run counter to what happened last year when conservatives, sick of the doctrine which Tyner has now adopted, challenged Thad Cochran for his senate seat. Additionally, party unity is what typically occurs after a party primary - not before.

Food for thought: Tyner notes that he and Haley Barbour had a discussion. If they weren't discussing the Public Service Commission race, what else would they talk about? Haley doesn't strike me as the type to pick up the phone and chit-chat with the attorney for the guy who almost defeated his friend who happens to be a United States Senator, and Mitch Tyner doesn't strike me as someone who would initiate a conversation with Haley Barbour.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Gubernatorial Candidate Vicki Slater Comments on Chancellor Jones Ousting

Says Slater: 

"Dan Jones has been a very successful chancellor, and his termination today stinks to high heaven.

Dan Jones has fought cancer, and he never missed a beat while undergoing treatment. With no supporting information, news of Chancellor Jones' termination was released late on a Friday afternoon. Mississippians deserve better from Governor Bryant's appointed IHL Board.

This is exactly why I'm running for governor. Education, and most assuredly Higher Education, must be a priority, and Phil Bryant has failed Mississippi on Education.

This is a real loss for Ole Miss and for our state."

Gov. Philbo strikes again: Dan Jones out as Ole Miss chancellor

There has been an ongoing power struggle at the Institutions of Higher Learning, with Gov. Phil Bryant and his appointees pushing to politicize the curriculum at our state's colleges and universities by increasing the power wielded by the IHL.

Gov. Bryant has been no fan of University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones, despite the outstanding things Jones has done for the University. (Bryant is in league with supporters of the old Confederate imagery that Jones worked to wipe from the University's image.)

Expect to see someone well-connected to Gov. Bryant be named to replace Jones. And expect that they will be less enthusiastic about getting rid of the Old South trappings long-associated with Ole Miss.

So, what's with the "Philbo" line in the title of this post?  In 1930, Gov. Theodore Bilbo got the predecessor to IHL to fire 3 college presidents and fire 179 professors.