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:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

(Some of) The Republican Caucus Fights Back

The battle for the heart and soul of the House Republican Caucus continues this week with a fundraiser for House District 58 candidate Bruce Bartley of Madison County. Bartley is in a heated primary with fellow Republican Joel Bomgaars (the actual spelling of his family name.)

The fundraiser for Bartley is being promoted by Ridgeland's Republican mayor, Gene McGee, and is co-sponsored by a number of current House Republicans including DeSoto County Reps. Forrest Hamilton and Wanda Jennings. In his letter to supporters, Mayor McGee sounds the alarm on the importance of this particular House seat. McGee notes that there are extremist factions within the Republican Party that seek to foster disunity among Republican voters.

You may recall Bomgaars's name from a recent post written about his involvement in funding campaigns against Republican House members who have historically supported public education like Reps. Hamilton and Jennings. Bomgaar has already spent a hefty sum supporting House Speaker Philip Gunn's agenda to dismantle Mississippi's public education system. Bomgaar and his allies have already spent tens of thousands of dollars supporting Republicans who have voted against public education such as Reps. Joey Hood of Ackerman and Randy Boyd of Mantachie.

Joel Bomgaars and House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton)
In fact, Speaker Philip Gunn is such a big fan of anti-public education candidate Joel Bomgaar that the Speaker tried to reward Bomgaar's efforts by appointing him to the state Board of Education. The state senate rejected Bomgaar's nomination, likely on the basis that since Bomgaar does not support public education that it would be a disservice to have him serve on this board which provides leadership and oversight of our public education system.

This brings us to the contrast that Mayor McGee noted in his letter. He is correct that there are divisions in the Republican Party, and the fact of the matter is that one candidate for House District 58 appears ready to stand up to the crazy. The other candidate is adding fuel to the extremist fire, and his name is Joel Bomgaar.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A deserved thank you to Speaker Philip Gunn (R- Clinton)

By now, you are all very much aware of the online petition to change Mississippi's state flag and the various comments from politicians on the issue.  One in particular stood out, seeing as the Mississippi Republican Party is the official "safe place" of racist white Mississippians.

(Just like this, but in the MSGOP version, both people are white.)
House Speaker Philip Gunn (R - Clinton), whom I have criticized on this blog more times than I can count, issued a statement last night stating his belief that we should remove the Confederate battle flag from the Mississippi state flag. I agree with him, and am glad to see he has opened his mind to the idea that a symbol of our state should be one that unifies, not divides.  So, kudos to him for that.  I stand with you, Speaker Gunn.

Now let's see you get that through a government currently dominated by Republicans. Best of luck.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Phil Bryant Sets Up Dangerous Situation

The United States Supreme Court will soon rule whether it is permissible for Mississippians to receive a tax credit in order to help pay for their health insurance. This is a case with huge implications for tens of thousands of Mississippians who risk losing their health care coverage. The person caring the least about this is Republican Governor Phil Bryant.

As of March 2015, over 75,000 Mississippians receive a tax credit to help pay their health insurance costs. This could all be in jeopardy if the Supreme Court rules against the tax credits. The backup plan from Republicans is nonexistent.

Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney once worked to build a state-based insurance marketplace, but the stubbornness of Phil Bryant killed Chaney's proposal. Thus, Bryant's poor decisions have led us to this precarious (and avoidable) position.
House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) and Governor Bryant,
likely not talking about helping Mississippians get health insurance
For Phil Bryant and the Republicans, it has never been about the Mississippians that are being helped by having health insurance. To them, it is all about making a political statement despite the fact that we have a higher uninsured rate than the national average. Phil Bryant and his Republican Party have done everything within their power to make sure thousands of Mississippians have no health insurance coverage.

Commissioner Chaney summed up the shortsighted, politics-only views of Phil Bryant with this quote:
“He’s got a pretty good approval rating, and he doesn’t have a real strong opponent,” Mr. Chaney said. “So he’s just not worried.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Empowering Bipartisan Opponents of Public Education

Last week, we discussed Empower Mississippi and their efforts to destabilize Mississippi's public education system. This group's out-of-state money has already poured tens of thousands of dollars into Republican legislative campaigns across the state to defeat supporters of public education.

While Empower has focused most of its energy at defeating Republicans who support public education, they have also given money to a Democratic legislator who has helped push along their anti-public school agenda.

Rep. Deborah Dixon 
Meet Rep. Deborah Dixon (D-Raymond). This first-term member has the distinction as being the only co-sponsor to the 2013 charter school bill that was signed by Governor Bryant. Dixon has been an ally of Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, as he passes bills to hurt public education. For instance, Dixon supported the Republicans' bill to slash funding to public education earlier this year. 

To reward Dixon for her assistance, Empower and its anti-public school funds donated $2,500 to Dixon's campaign while giving her a grade of A for her votes against public education. According to Dixon's finance report, she accepted their anti-public school money.

You can be a Republican (or Deborah Dixon) or you can support public education, but you cannot do both.