Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Republicans Resort to Shouting

Republicans are working their hardest to undermine public education in the state of Mississippi. Sadly, this does not matter at all to the state's Republican leaders in the Capitol and governor's mansion. 

At a recent public hearing on supporting public education, Rep. Greg Snowden (R-Meridian) shouted down a constituent of his who dared to speak out against the reckless anti-public education proposal of Snowden and his Republican colleagues. The response from Snowden's constituent is right on target. Check out the video below for the exchange.

What this young man reminds us is that you can either be a Republican or support public education, but you cannot do both. In the case of Snowden, you can still be a Republican hypocrite. 


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Where have all the budget hearings gone?

The annual meeting of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee is scheduled to begin September 21, in a little less than a month. Politicos, lobbyists, and state employees look to the hearings for early insight as to what issues the legislature might take up in the next session, as well as making sure everyone still has a job.

While in years past, these hearings were spread out over several days and allowed agencies plenty of time to present their budgets, the schedule has been consolidated more and more over the years. Now down to a mere two days and missing quite a few agencies, the JLBC seems to be indicating to the public that the members have already made up their minds in back room negotiations about where the funds will go, and these hearings are a just a formality. Or perhaps, they have no genuine interest in where and how the money is spent.

Noticeably missing from the list of agencies with scheduled hearings include: Department of Transportation, Department of Insurance, the Supreme Court, Department of Public Safety, Public Service Commission, Gaming, Department of Agriculture, Attorney General's office, Secretary of State's office, Gaming, Treasurer's office, and PERS.

Some of these committees might not be as glamorous as Medicaid or Education (with a combined 90 minutes to present the largest portion of the state budget at the hearings), but there are definitely issues such as reduced gaming revenue, the alarming road and bridge reports, the status of our public employees retirement account, and the costs and consequences of Kemper's overruns that should be discussed in a public forum.

But this is all quite reminiscent of the first legislative session of Bryant, Gunn, and Reeves in 2012, where legislation was kept hidden and rammed down the public's throat at the last minute.

Here's the schedule as it has been distributed:

2015 JLBC Hearing Schedule

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Beware, Republican Legislative Candidates

After Tuesday's defeat of four DeSoto County Republicans at the hand of anti-public education forces, one has to wonder why House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) allowed his caucus members (two of whom are committee chairmen) to be attacked like they were and ultimately defeated.

As a reminder, DeSoto County Republican Reps. Forrest Hamilton, Wanda Jennings, Pat Nelson, and Gene Alday were all victims of a PAC that has been promoting the anti-public education agenda of Philip Gunn and the Bomgar Caucus.

In speech after speech, Gunn puts county, city, and community leaders on notice that if they do not send a Republican to the Capitol in January, they will get no seat at the table when it comes to leadership and decision-making. The question becomes what good it does to send a Republican to the Capitol when the Republican Speaker of the House kicks the chair out from under his own membership and does nothing to pick them up. Gunn publicly defends his position of changing the state flag, but he does very little to defend his fellow Republican legislators who disagree with him on education issues.

If this is how the Republican leadership treats its members, Republican candidates running for the House of Representatives touting their close relationship to Speaker Gunn should understand that Gunn will use you and lose you just like he has done his soon-to-be former colleagues from DeSoto County. Remember that you can either support public education or be a Republican, but you cannot do both. If you try to do both, Speaker Gunn will not have your back when the attack ads from other Republicans start flying.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Announcing the Bomgar Caucus

With the dust clearing from Tuesday's primary elections, we know one of the biggest losers of the night was public education.

Empower PAC, a group promoting charter schools and for-profit education spent tens of thousands of dollars against incumbent legislators - and they won. Big time. Empower was able to defeat DeSoto County Republicans Forrest Hamilton, Wanda Jennings, Pat Nelson, and Gene Alday. They also went after Republican Rep. Ray Rogers of Rankin County but were unsuccessful.

While Empower was sending checks to its anti-public education candidates, House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) sat idly by while members of his own Republican caucus took hit after hit only to fall last night. Since Gunn is doing Empower's bidding, it seems that good riddance is the best Gunn will offer his soon-to-depart colleagues from DeSoto County.

Dan Eubanks, the candidate who defeated Gene Alday, produced the video below with his brother, Dave. Dave Eubanks challenged incumbent Republican Sen. Chris Massey of DeSoto County but was unsuccessful.

Empower, which claims to seek better schooling options for marginalized children, funded the Eubanks campaign to the tune of about $21,000. Those funds must have assisted in Eubanks's widely-circulated song about "Mississippi values" featuring a disgusting racist caricature around the 1:27 mark. Then again, maybe the racist video was part of a calculated political strategy cooked up by Empower's out-of-state benefactors in order to peel GOP primary voters away from incumbent Gene Alday, who infamously said, "... all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call 'welfare crazy checks.'"

Joel Bomgar, the financial muscle behind this plot to defeat public education supporters, won a solid victory in his race for House District 58 in Madison County. Using his personal fortune, Bomgar spent what it took in order to capture this seat.

With Bomgar and his Empower-bought supporters heading to the Capitol in January, Mississippi's public education supporters should be terrified. There are now five more Republicans who will join a caucus already doing their best to undermine public education across Mississippi. With the Bomgar Caucus ready to fight public education, the statement still stands: You can either support public education or be a Republican, but you cannot do both.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Philip Gunn Declares the Campaign Over

This morning at the Neshoba County Fair, House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) spoke before the crowd about his vision for the Republican Party. Flanked by fellow Reps. Randy Rushing (R-Decatur), Bubba Carpenter (R-Burnsville), Brad Mayo (R-Oxford), Trey Lamar (R-Senatobia), Mark Formby (R-Picayune), and Herb Frierson (R-Poplarville), Speaker Gunn began his remarks by highlighting his support of changing the state flag. He then asked the House Republicans mentioned above to hold up their hands as Republican legislators who support his agenda.

Gunn Protestor with Gunn Supporters Herb Frierson, Trey Lamar, and Mark Formby
Gunn went on and on about how bad his agenda has been for Mississippi and outrageously doubting the faith of those who disagree with him while getting to another argument. Gunn believes the campaign season is over and Republicans already won. Fortunately, for those of us who are not falling for Gunn's big talk, voters still have the final say.

Voters will have the chance to judge whether the tens of thousands of jobs lost under the past four years of Republican control are worth returning to government next year. They will vote to decide whether to return candidates like Randy Rushing, Bubba Carpenter, Mark Formby, and Brad Mayo back to their offices to help support Philip Gunn's agenda.

Even though Gunn thinks the campaign season is over, he sure is determined to make sure his obedient followers like Rushing, Carpenter, and Mayo are returned to the Capitol in January to help advance his policies.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Delbert Hosemann Crying Wolf

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was in the news this week stating his fear that voters are casting their ballots. In short, Hosemann is scared voters are voting.

State law allows a number of instances where a voter may cast his or her ballot through an absentee ballot. They are:
(a) Any qualified elector who is a bona fide student, teacher or administrator at any college, university, junior college, high, junior high, or elementary grade school whose studies or employment at such institution necessitates his absence from the county of his voting residence on the date of any primary, general or special election, or the spouse and dependents of said student, teacher or administrator if such spouse or dependent(s) maintain a common domicile, outside of the county of his voting residence, with such student, teacher or administrator.
(b) Any qualified elector who is required to be away from his place of residence on any election day due to his employment as an employee of a member of the Mississippi congressional delegation and the spouse and dependents of such person if he or she shall be residing with such absentee voter away from the county of the spouse's voting residence.
(c) Any qualified elector who is away from his county of residence on election day for any reason.
(d) Any person who has a temporary or permanent physical disability and who, because of such disability, is unable to vote in person without substantial hardship to himself or others, or whose attendance at the voting place could reasonably cause danger to himself or others.
(e) The parent, spouse or dependent of a person with a temporary or permanent physical disability who is hospitalized outside of his county of residence or more than fifty (50) miles distant from his residence, if the parent, spouse or dependent will be with such person on election day.
(f) Any person who is sixty-five (65) years of age or older.
(g) Any member of the Mississippi congressional delegation absent from Mississippi on election day, and the spouse and dependents of such member of the congressional delegation.
(h) Any qualified elector who will be unable to vote in person because he is required to be at work on election day during the times at which the polls will be open.
With respect to persons over the age of 65, the counties Hosemann specified have a good number of senior citizens. Benton County's over 65 population is 17.4 percent; Claiborne's is 13.9 percent; Tallahatchie's is 13 percent; Noxubee's is 14.8 percent; Quitman's is 15 percent. Thus, the number of persons who are senior citizens who are eligible to cast an absentee ballot is in line with the turnout rates up to this point. On top of that, Hosemann did not mention how many people are on these counties' permanently disabled voter list or state how many students are likely out of town. 

To sum it all up, Delbert Hosemann is afraid that people in counties with high black populations are voting. In his time in office, he has done practically nothing to make voting easier in the state of Mississippi. All Hosemann has shown us is that his campaign about ballot protection has done almost nothing to prevent fraud. If Hosemann was so concerned about ensuring the integrity of the voting process, he should have put some meaningful proposals on the table over the past eight years rather than grandstanding and confusing elderly ladies on park benches.

It is also worth noting that Hosemann had a press conference today about conservative mystery groups which are funding opposition mail pieces against Republican legislators. The groups Hosemann referenced are not Democratic operations which had been suggested by representatives of Speaker Philip Gunn.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rep. Toby Barker: Actor

If you've looked at your local papers recently, candidates are putting their biographies and issue platforms before the voters. One that caught my eye was of Republican Rep. Toby Barker of Hattiesburg. In his statement, Barker listed a goal to "continue Mississippi's transition into evidence-based policy and budgeting; by implementing this approach in both health and education."

Evidence-based policy? Does he mean the time he voted with House Republicans to gut 30 percent of the state budget without a single hearing on the bill or passing the bill in a matter of only a few hours? He must have forgotten about how this lack of evidence-based policy would impact the University of Southern Mississippi and his local school districts. Rather than solve "problems through tangible solutions that can both pass the Legislature and be implemented" as he claims, Barker falls in line with his Republican leadership's bad ideas every time.

Toby Barker (left) possibly meeting an upset constituent

Monday, July 20, 2015

Have You Seen Philip Gunn?

Ever since making comments about changing the Mississippi flag, House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) has been hiding. Gunn was not at Jacinto in Alcorn County or Lena Day (his family's Leake County hometown) during the Fourth of July weekend, and he was absent from the Superintendent's Association convention on the Gulf Coast last week. Gunn's chief of staff has taken it upon himself to speak on the Speaker's behalf. At an event at the state Capitol today, his church pastor spoke to the attendees while Gunn simply sent along a letter. 

Philip Gunn Showing How Deep His Troubles Are
The latest comment on his Twitter account dates back to June 22 when he declared his support for removing the Confederate battle flag from the state flag. 

Normally, Gunn and his like-minded friends such as Governor Phil Bryant and House Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden retreat to the warm embrace of talk radio in situations like this to reassure their base that there is a steady hand at the wheel. Not this time, it seems. It appears Gunn is going to stay clear of the public view. Perhaps he will grace Neshoba County with his presence next week at the fair. The reaction from the crowd will be fascinating to watch, should Gunn show up. Yet, if Gunn stands by his position, what does he have to fear?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Republicans Sure Would Hate Cuts They Supported

If you have been tuned into the news this week, you have seen the stories about House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson (R-Poplarville) calling together the heads of state agencies to warn them about possible funding cuts if Initiative 42 is approved by voters this November. This is not the first time Frierson has tried this divide and conquer strategy to try and win his position. He used similar talking points when he rejected any attempt to broaden access to Medicaid services in the state. He has killed any attempt to provide hospitals and medical professionals with more paying customers, and he is now trying to scare away and defeat any attempt to provide public schools with the resources they need to educate our students. The message from the Republicans is clear: if you vote to force us fund our own public education formula, then we are going to blame you for firing hundreds of people. This is a false choice set up by Frierson and his fellow House Republicans who refuse to roll back any corporate tax giveways or dip into $622 million of unappropriated revenue to make up the $200 million funding gap in K-12 education.

Herb Frierson
Here is the biggest dose of hypocrisy: Frierson voted for a 30 percent cut to state agency funding earlier this year. If you recall from this year's legislative session, Frierson and the Republicans voted for a politically-motivated cut of around 30 percent to the state's general fund. There were no hearings on the bill. There was no consultation with the state economist. There was no summoning of state agency leaders to alert them of the impacts. How many people would state agencies have had to lay off if the Republicans' tax cut bill had been signed into law? We will never know, because Frierson did not care to ask.

Frierson's crocodile tears underscore what we already know about their stunning hypocrisy: Republicans do not want to fully support Mississippi's education system. They are pulling out all the stops to deflect from their own failures on public education. Frierson and the leadership team of Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) can try to change the subject all they want, but the fact is well known that you can either be a Republican or support public education - but you cannot do both.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

What Would Mike Hurst Do for BP?

This morning, Attorney General Jim Hood announced that Mississippi will receive 2.2 billion dollars from BP's disastrous Deepwater Horizon spill. Along with the tragic loss of lives, the spill wreaked havoc on our gulf coast's environment, fishing, and tourism industries.

In his statement, Hood said:
"We remain committed to ensuring that our coast counties and cities are included in any settlement and treated fairly. I am pleased to say we are upholding our promise. The size and scope of this settlement is the result of a successful partnership of all the gulf states and our state agencies. Together, we held BP accountable for the damage it caused."
But Republican Mike Hurst has different plans for companies like BP; he doesn't want them to face any consequences. How do we know? He'll tell you in his stump speech: