Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gov. Bryant would ask for your prayers for this law enforcement officer during this difficult time

It takes a lot to get me blogging nowadays, but this did it.  Last weekend, in the wake of the horrific and terrifying deaths of two Hattiesburg Police Department officers, Gov. Phil Bryant decided to weigh in on how society should view law enforcement officers.  The entire op-ed is an embarrassment to our state for many reasons, but a major failing is in Gov. Bryant's overly-simplistic view of the world.  To him, it's all Saturday morning spaghetti westerns, where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. Life simply doesn't afford anyone who's lived it the possibility to maintain such an illusion, unfortunately.  And to be clear, Gov. Bryant doesn't believe that either. How could he in the wake of his appointees repeatedly heading off to the federal penitentiary?  He's just writing that way because he thinks you think like that.

But in keeping with his entreaties to blindly stand by our law enforcement officers as they go after the bad guys, I'm sure that Gov. Bryant would ask you to keep Mr. Andre' Kennedy in your thoughts and prayers.  Mr. Kennedy is currently being charged with capital murder (which is a whole other issue altogether), kidnapping, and armed robbery after he allegedly joined another man in robbing and terrorizing a Jackson doctor at his home this past weekend.  Prior to his arrest, Mr. Kennedy had been working hard to keep us safe under the most extreme conditions as a prison guard for the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

*Personal note - I'm sure some of you will react to this post by saying that I'm not supportive of law enforcement. Incorrect. Pointing out that our governor's composition wouldn't garner a C+ in a junior high social studies class is being disrespectful and unsupportive of our governor, not of our law enforcement officers. I personally know and deeply care for a good number of our law enforcement officers.  I care for them so much, in fact, that I find it important enough to set my law practice and family life aside for 45 minutes to write about the way we should not view interactions between police and society. I hope that you'll honestly join me in pondering the ways in which we foster an atmosphere of violence and distrust between law enforcement officers and citizens, especially nonwhite and poorer citizens, and how we can unravel it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Republican Infighting Continues

Possible "pole dancer" and state Rep. Forrest Hamilton (R-Olive Branch) took to social media to blow up at his fellow Republicans for pushing the idea that he has poor attendance in the legislature in an attempt to discredit him prior to the August primary. Hamilton and other DeSoto County Republicans face primary challengers from conservative challengers in August. Taking a quick trip back in time, Hamilton and most of the DeSoto County delegation voted against charter school legislation during the 2012 and 2013 sessions - making them enemies of Tea Party groups and the Phil Bryant agenda.

Rep. Forrest Hamilton
It was speculated during the 2015 Legislative Session that Tea Party groups and Joel Bomgar (who is running to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Rita Martinson of Madison) were planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat Republicans like Hamilton in the Republican Primary. If you recall, Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) may have broken House rules by stopping the remarks of Rep. Steve Holland (D-Plantersville) when Holland spoke from the House Well that this mystery money was planning to be spent against candidates who support public education. From the Speaker's stand, Gunn demanded Holland reveal the source of the rumor. Always quick on his feet, Holland demanded that Gunn step down from the Speaker's stand to ask a question of a fellow member. Gunn refused.

Hamilton's frustrations are emblematic of how Republicans operate: get with the program or get out of the way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It's 2015, Right, Republicans?

The fact that you are reading this post online from your phone, tablet, or computer means you have access to the Internet. Not only are you reading the quality blog posts off this website, you likely do your shopping online, watch a movie online, pay your bills online, and connect with friends on social media. It's how we as a society have come to interact with businesses and one another. One thing that we cannot do online in Mississippi is register to vote or update our voter information.

20 states (including Louisiana, Georgia, Indiana, Utah, and Kansas) already have online voter registration systems established, many of which cost less than $300,000 to set up. In order to ensure the integrity of the voter registration application, states require information for online applications such as driver's license number, dates of birth, or last digits of a voter's Social Security number.

Delbert Hosemann (Visual Approximation)
Recently, person-who-got-elected-by-confusing-an-elderly-woman-on-a-park-bench and Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann went on a radio program to talk about how his office is setting up an online portal for individuals to invest in businesses. That's right. A business can raise capital by having people invest in their operations from the comfort of his or her living room. For a state where 41 percent of its citizens cannot access the Internet from their homes, this is a big undertaking. If you want to update your voter registration online while reviewing a business plan, you are out of luck. Did Hosemann discuss online voter registration during his interview? Of course not.

Think of how convenient it would be for a voter to access a website or an app and change his or her address in case of a move or change a family name following a marriage or divorce. Unfortunately, Delbert Hosemann and the Phil Bryant-led Republicans have not made secure online voter registration or finding innovative ways to make voting easier a priority.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Trust the Bryant Touch

What do Republicans Dan Moreland, John McKay, Cheri Berry, Fred Pitts, and Mitt Romney have in common?

They all received endorsements from Governor Phil Bryant, and promptly lost. Often in embarrassing fashion. And tonight is no different:

After much ado over Biloxi Mayoral candidate Fofo Gilich's Republican credentials, Bryant endorsed Windy Swetman and made quite a scene in the process. Tonight, Gilich routed Swetman with 60% of the vote. 

Not too much later in the evening we saw a similar scene, when Bryant-backed-Boyce Adams was crushed by much of the field in his attempt at Mississippi's first congressional seat, despite early suggestions that he was the frontrunner.

When it comes to endorsements, we are co-signing a statement from the Mississippi Democratic Trust:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reckless Republican Investments Not Paying Off

Nearly four years into his term as governor, Phil Bryant keeps incorrectly talking a big game about the state of Mississippi's economic growth. The fact still remains that there are nearly 46,000 Mississippians who have lost their jobs since Phil Bryant and the Republicans have been in charge. As Phil Bryant has said when jobs are lost on his watch: "there's nothing more that could have been done."

All the chest thumping from the Republicans about being pro-jobs is still not passing muster. Chief Executive Magazine noted that Mississippi ranks at the low end of its measures for being a place where businesses want to set up shop. According to their findings, which we have been highlighting for some time, the Phil Bryant economy has very high unemployment compared to the rest of the country and slow GDP growth.

While they whistle past the graveyard, this report flies in the face at what Phil Bryant and his Republicans have been spouting over the past few years. While the Phil Bryant Republicans continue to shortchange public education and paying teachers far less than they are worth, the state's economy continues to suffer.

We know the Republicans are not into supporting public education. Again, we see they are not into supporting efforts to improve Mississippi's economy. Mississippi's reckless Republicans are in over their heads.

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?