Sunday, December 14, 2014

House Democratic Caucus calls for reform of sole-source contract process, requests list of all contracts currently in effect

From the Mississippi House Democratic Caucus:

Jackson, MS – The Mississippi House Democratic Caucus has requested legislation to address the award of single or sole source contracts by government agencies at the state and local level. The legislation comes on the heels of the announcement of an ongoing investigation of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the indictment of its director. Under current law, state and local agencies may award contracts without a bid process effectively limiting the public from reviewing or otherwise participating in the bid process.

Mississippi House Democratic Caucus Leader Rep. Bobby Moak (D-Bogue Chitto) said, “We are calling on our colleagues across the aisle to join us in helping change the way contracts are awarded at all levels of Mississippi government. We have requested legislation proposing that all government sole-source contracts, of any character and at any level of Mississippi government, be immediately declared illegal within the state.”

In addition to proposing legislation, the Democratic Caucus intends to seek a comprehensive list of all sole-source contracts currently in effect including the names of the vendors, contractors, sub-contractors, and costs associated with each contract.

Moak added, “While we appreciate the Governor’s decision to form a committee to study this issue, we believe action must be taken in the short term to prevent further abuse. Because we know that the current system is a breeding ground for fraud and abuse, we are asking that our legislation be acted during the opening days of the upcoming session. Now is the time for a full sweep of government contracts and thorough examination of the way tax dollars are being spent by our agencies.”

Sun-Herald editorial: " seems those occupying the highest offices of state government are determined to steer the state off a cliff"

In an editorial this weekend, the Sun-Herald took on Mississippi's Republican leadership on issues of education and healthcare, blaming their grandstanding tactics for the loss of federal education and healthcare money.

Furthermore, they tie the financial difficulties of Singing River Health Systems to the votes of Republicans in our Legislature.

Read it here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mississippi Republicans Supporting Tax Dishonesty

Mississippi Republicans are jumping into a Jackson city council race where the preferred candidate of state Republican chairman Joe Nosef has serious baggage.

Ashby Foote, a candidate for city council, whose race is managed by state Sen. Sally Doty (R-Brookhaven), has tax liens in the ballpark of $75,000! The liens date back to 1996, 2002, 2008, and 2010 - most occurring before the recession. The liens are based on profit; no one pays $75,000 in taxes if they lose money. Mr. Foote is trying to deceive the voters of Jackson with made-up stories, but you and I know he's not telling the truth.

You and I pay our taxes like honest citizens, but candidate Ashby Foote thumbs his nose at the law while the Republican Party cheers him on.

The Republicans want Jackson voters to cast a ballot for a candidate who doesn't feel it's necessary to pay his taxes or be forthcoming about these serious issues. This is a poor example of individual responsibility and fiscal conservatism. Jackson deserves better than Ashby Foote's dishonesty.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Phil Bryant Poorly Managing Mississippi

Another report shows that under Governor Phil Bryant's and the Republicans' watch, Mississippi is near the bottom of state management rankings in the country.

Once again, poverty continues to be a metric that business owners and investors look at strongly when looking to invest in the state. So far, Phil Bryant and the Republicans have not done anything noteworthy to get us off the floor. In fact, Bryant and Republican flip-floppers wielding gavels in the legislature now want to pull the plug on state-run policies that are showing early signs of progress.

The nation's unemployment rate is decreasing while Mississippi's unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the United States. The number of uninsured Mississippians is increasing while the rest of the country is going in the right direction. Republicans must live in the land of opposites because I can think of no other explanation as to why they continue to believe our situation as acceptable. 

With the alleged Department of Corrections and Mississippi Silicon scandals also in the news along with the Republicans' disinterest in solving problems, it is no wonder why Phil Bryant's mismanagement has placed us where we are. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Meanwhile, in Federal Court...

While the rest of the state was breathlessly following Chris Epps’ federal indictment, things in Mississippi’s Northern District Federal Court got, well, bizarre.

First, back in early November, Judge Aycock found that the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality had violated the Clean Air Act by improperly issuing permits to the Mississippi Silicon plant in Burnsville.  A December hearing was scheduled to determine if she could halt construction on the plant – for which the state of Mississippi provided over $25 million in incentives to create 200make that 150 … jobs.

That’s when Nucor – which has two Mississippi facilities – took particular interest in court documents showing MDEQ permitting paper pusher Bonnie Morgan was actively working to keep their company from objecting to the Mississippi Silicon plant. Perhaps irked that the state was taking extraordinary lengths to single them out, they decided to join the lawsuit against Mississippi Silicon.

Around that time, the original plaintiffs turned their sights on MDEQ.  Based on Judge Aycock’s ruling that the state had violated federal law, the plaintiffs decided to include the state of Mississippi in the lawsuit for good measure. If you’re keeping scoring, that’s one new plaintiff – and one new, seriously irritated defendant.

That’s when things got interesting: Judge Aycock recused herself from the case. No reason was given.

In other news, State Auditor Stacey Pickering decided to rebut the Forbes Magazine article calling Mississippi the most corrupt state in the nation. His comedic timing could not have been more perfect.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Governor William Winter Endorses Dorsey Carson

Gov. William Winter's Endorsement of Dorsey Carson for Jackson City Council

Monday, November 17, 2014

Phil Bryant's Tax Plan Needs Work

Yesterday, Governor Phil Bryant rolled out his budget plan for the upcoming legislative session. In his announcement, Bryant noted
“Mississippi should start fiscal year 2016 in the best financial health it’s ever had. This budget addresses the needs of the state while giving back money to the hard working families of Mississippi,” Gov. Bryant said. “The increase in revenues is an opportunity to return money to the taxpayers, not to spend more on government programs.”
This tax credit will allow low to moderate income working families the opportunity to take advantage of a nonrefundable tax credit. This will allow for full or partial relief of an individual’s income tax liability depending on his or her income and filing status.
“I believe the additional money Mississippians will save on taxes will be reinvested in the state’s economy,” Gov. Bryant said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature in providing tax relief to working families, as well as finding ways to reduce the tax burden on small businesses and corporations.”
To make sure the state is protected during uncertain economic times, the tax credit will only be available in years when the “Rainy Day Fund” is full and revenue estimates meet or exceed 3 percent growth. 
Here's the problem: Bryant's proposal is a double standard and does not go as far as it could to help poor Mississippians.

Bryant sets conditions on which a tax reduction would occur for poorer people. When he signed a bill in 2012 giving a $24 million bailout to a shopping mall in Pearl, Bryant did not say that economic growth must exceed 3 percent or that the Rainy Day Fund be full. The difference is that this bailout was given to Bryant's campaign donors, not ordinary Mississippians. Bryant has set no similar standard for companies that get business loans or grants for the state, but when it comes to poor Mississippians,

Additionally, the tax credit is nonrefundable. That means a person or family's tax liability cannot drop below $0. For all Bryant's grandstanding about returning money to the taxpayers, his own statement concedes that this may not occur.

Do not be fooled by what the governor is trying to do. Phil Bryant is trying to have a news cycle where he looks like he is a champion of poor Mississippians. His plan, however, needs a lot of work in order to make that a reality. Bryant needs to go back to the drawing board and try again.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Phil Bryant Keeps Mississippi 50th

You have to hand it to Governor Phil Bryant. He works really hard keeping Mississippi on the bottom.

A review from the conservative Forbes magazine ranks Mississippi 50th in terms of being the best place for business in the United States.

Their reasons for ranking Mississippi where they did repeat what has been highlighted on this site and other economic reports for quite some time: poverty is holding us back. At the same time, Phil Bryant and the Republican Party have done nothing to show they care about the crippling poverty in our state. In Forbes' own words:

Phil Bryant gives away the store to his friends involved with the now-bankrupt KiOR plant, but he keeps turning a deaf ear to the struggles of Mississippians barely getting by. Phil Bryant and the Republicans will give a tax cut to the fat cats, but those benefits are not showing any positive growth for jobs in Mississippi. All we have to do is look at the numbers showing Mississippi still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and that jobs are being lost in our state. Perhaps Phil Bryant needs to get out of the Governor's Mansion more often and talk with and work for ordinary folks that aren't his campaign donors.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Rep. David Baria Calls for Legislative Hearing in Response to Epps

AThis is great to see movement and a more in depth questioning of what I asked last week here:





JACKSON, MISS. State Representative David Baria (D.- Waveland) today called for a Legislative hearing on recent charges against long-time MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps for an alleged bribery and kickback scheme dating as far back as 2007. Baria also called into question the reasoning behind Epps’ re-appointments even while he was under intense investigation by at least one state agency, according to reports.


“The conduct alleged in the indictment—bribery and kickbacks concealed as consulting services—enriched individuals at the expense of Mississippi taxpayers,” Baria, an attorney, said. “As a member of the Legislature charged with being a good steward of public resources, I have questions about what our state leaders knew and when they knew it as it relates to former Commissioner Epps.


“Why was such a powerful official who was under intense scrutiny for years allowed to remain in his position? How much state money has been wasted by the failure to stop shady business deals by an official under investigation?” Baria said.


“Sadly, the MDOC scandal is not an isolated incident of government corruption in our state. It is just the latest example of a larger trend of corruption and cronyism in Mississippi government over the past decade. From the Department of Marine Resources scandal that resulted in multiple federal convictions to a former State Representative being forced to resign for steering state contracts to his family business, there is a disturbing trend of political appointments and state contracts being used to enrich the politically well-connected,” Baria said.


“The frequent use of no-bid and single source procurement contracts similarly puts money in the pockets of the well-connected, but at exorbitant costs to the Mississippi taxpayer,” Baria said. “At a time when we are told by Republican leadership that the State does not have the money to adequately fund education and ensure that working-class Mississippians have access to healthcare, there never seems to be a shortage of funds to enrich those who feed at the trough of state government.


“In light of this trend that only continues to fester, I am asking that we in the Legislature convene hearings to investigate why former Commissioner Epps was allowed to remain in his position despite a long-pending investigation and to comprehensively review the handling of state contracts. Mississippi must get out of the business of back room deals that benefit no one but politicians and their friends and family.”


On November 6, 2014, a federal indictment was handed down against former MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps for a scheme that allegedly enriched him by millions of dollars. It appears that Epps was reappointed to his powerful position twice while under investigation: once by former Gov. Haley Barbour in 2008 and again by Gov. Phil Bryant in 2012.


Baria said he intends to pursue his request for hearings and will be introducing legislation to rein in the lucrative no-bid contract system currently in place.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Questions of the Day

Why wasn't Governor Phil Bryant on top of things by letting the alleged bribery scandal at the Department of Corrections take place on his watch? 

The governor with all these so-called plans somehow lets corruption pass by his desk undetected or ignored. 

Something to keep in mind with all of the private contracting problems: in recent years, the Republican-led legislature and Phil Bryant authorized private contractors be hired to investigate delayed child support payments and drug testing of recipients of assistance programs. These measures were lobbied by the Barbour family. Where is Phil Bryant sending our money? 

Shady deals, money in politics, and an aloof Phil Bryant. What possibly could go wrong?