Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fundraising Makes Strange Bedfellows

With last year's retirement of a senior House member to become the mayor of Vicksburg, he who shall not be named, someone had to fill the void of Speaker Philip Gunn's biggest Democratic sycophant.

That honor now goes to a House Democrat who is leading the race for the member most likely to be challenged in a primary next year.

Meet Rep. Angela Cockerham of Magnolia. Rep. Cockerham has been in the House since 2005 and represents the very southwestern tip of Mississippi. She was elected as a Democrat in each of her runs for her seat.

Yesterday evening, Rep. Cockerham held a fundraising reception at downtown Jackson's Capital Club with special guest Speaker Philip Gunn.



A fundraiser for a Democrat. With the Republican Speaker of the House as her special guest. The same Republican Speaker who wants to elect more Republicans to the House next year by defeating her fellow Democrats. I cannot be the only person confused by the terrible optics here.

Gunn does not have a reputation as being the type of partisan Republican that he is to do many favors like this for Democrats. I can hear the rebuttal from Gunn on talk radio now. "Rep. Cockerham is a hardworking member, and she does a great job without worrying about partisan labels. We may not see eye to eye on every issue, but I honor her service..." You get the idea. To Gunn's credit, he is savvy enough to start his whip count for the 2016 vote for Speaker very early. You know, honoring service as he does.

Cockerham's cozy relationship with Speaker Gunn is out in plain sight. Gunn appointed her to be the Chairman of the House Energy Committee in 2012 and appointed her to the powerful Legislative Budget Committee in 2013, once her sycophantic successor moved to another elected position.

Rumors have circulated for years that Gunn's political lieutenants are grooming her for higher office, should something open up. Given the state of Republican primaries in Mississippi these days, some dreams cannot come true.

Cockerham's political calculation is a difficult one for me to figure out, but it is her path to travel. It will be a race to watch next year. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Here come the judicial fundraisers...

It's rare to find a non-election year in Mississippi, and this year clearly is not that year. A great portion of our state judiciary (circuit, chancery, and county court judges) are up for election this November. The campaigning got somewhat of a late start due to uncertainty over judicial redistricting. Here's the invitation to Judge Bill Gowan's fundraiser coming up on April 29, 2014:


I'll freely admit I'm biased heavily towards Judge Gowan. He's easily one of the most evenhanded judges I've had the pleasure to practice before, and I deeply appreciate his service on the bench. As supporters begin to line up behind him, you'll see members of the Bar from all sides of the profession in his camp. That's about as good a sign as you can get of a judge's fairness.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chris McDaniel's radio show comments, poor choice of friends shake up the MSGOP Senate primary

National media began to run with old clips of Chris McDaniel's "The Right Side" radio program over the past week, and the stuff they've released isn't pretty.


Other media outlets began publishing the comments, and Thad Cochran's camp immediately piled on, emailing supporters links to those posts.  MSGOP Chairman Joe Nosef then made some comments on MSNBC about Chris McDaniel being the keynote speaker for an event put on by an avowed white supremacist.  That, in turn, lead the Mississippi Tea Party to demand Joe Nosef resign his chairmanship.  

Ain't this fun?

Oh, sweet Jesus. What on Earth is THIS, Chris McDaniel?

"I dreamt that the Boomers wanted Thad Cochran to come home, too."


h/t Jackson Jambalaya

Monday, April 14, 2014

State Auditor Stacey Pickering (R) releases report on rural hospitals; future "bleak"

A dozen days ago, State Auditor Stacey Pickering (R) released his office's report on the health of Mississippi's rural hospitals.  If you've been paying attention to this blog for the last 18 months or so, you won't be surprised at the findings in Pickering's report: those rural hospitals are dying on the vine.

You also won't be surprised as to the main reason the rural hospitals are suffering:  reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to those hospitals under the Affordable Care Act.  

The Mississippi Business Journal published an article on this today worth reading.  In it, there are some pretty heavy predictions from Mendal Kemp, director of the Mississippi Hospital Association’s Center for Rural Health.  From the article:
Gov. Phil Bryant and legislative leaders refused the expansion knowing the risk of losing the money but have indicated they do not believe the federal government will ultimately remove the money. They cite the Obama administration’s two-year extension of a deadline to begin lowering the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments. 
Kemp and others say the threat of losing DSH payments is real and should be seen as a promise that the ACA requires the government to keep. 
“Year two is going to surprise a lot of folks,” says Kemp, referring to the end of the two-year extension of the close of the federal government’s 2015 fiscal year. 
“Without some help… I see the future looking very bleak.”
The only real question left isn't whether the federal government will follow through with DSH cuts. They will.  The question is will Mississippians re-elect politicians in 2015 who stubbornly refuse to accept repayment of our own tax dollars to protect our hospitals?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Young Democrats of Mississippi hold Biannual Convention in Rankin County

Young Democrats (2 of which are co-authors for this blog) had an exciting weekend in the backyard of our most conservative friends in the state during the biannual convention at Brandon City Hall.

Congressman Travis Childers speaks to Young Dems of Mississippi

Speakers at the event included a moving invocation by Democratic Trust director Brandon Jones, State Senator David Blount, YDA Veep Louis Elrod, Democratic Party Chair Rickey Cole and Congressman Travis Childers.  By the end of the event, I think I can speak for everyone when I say this group of Young Dems were ready to work.

New officers include everyone’s favorite Democratic foil and Cottonmouth blogger Ryan Brown (Brandon) as the new YDMS president, and the following:




Vice President: Ouida Meruvia (Philadelphia)
Secretary: Hunter Pace (Oxford)
Treasurer: Will Godfrey (Natchez)
National Committeewoman: Sherika Harvey (Kosciusko)
National Committeeman: Sean Higgins (Ole Miss)

William Faulkner once wrote, “To understand the world you must first understand a place like Mississippi,” and when I saw that diverse group come together in to discuss how we can make our state a better place for all, I was personally proud to be a part of it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Will SB 2681 become the basis for legalizing gay marriage in Mississippi?

While everyone has been focused on how SB 2681 will allow its proponents to discriminate against gays, another angle has been discussed by a few folks. 

The Unitarian Universalist Church has, since 1996, sanctioned same-sex marriages. There are UU churches in Ellisville (hello, Chris McDaniel!), Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Oxford, and Tupelo. What happens when they perform a same-sex wedding ceremony after the enactment of SB 2681, and that couple attempts to have their marriage recognized by the state or a local government? 

And what happens when the ensuing court battle inevitably makes its way to the United States Supreme Court? That's the same court that recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, for what it's worth. 

Wouldn't it be interesting if all of the linguistic machinations employed by proponents of SB 2681 to make certain a court couldn't strike down SB 2681 as discriminatory wound up providing the very basis for legalizing gay marriage in Mississippi? And even more interesting if the state had to foot the bill for the gay couple challenging the law under SB 2681's "loser pays" provision?

Time will tell....

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Yallpolitics catches Sen. Chris McDaniel "palling around" with racists

See for yourself right here in this post by Alan Lange over on YallPolitics.com.

Do you just love a good primary?

Conferees back off the 20-year shoplifting language

Yesterday, I posted about the conference report for SB 2430, which created unbelievable 20-year sentences for what is currently misdemeanor shoplifting.  The message about this terrible language made it to the Senate yesterday, who sent the bill back to conference.

The conferees (this time including Sen. Hob Bryan) all agreed to strip the new language from the conference report.  The second conference report is here.

Civil libertarian concerns aside (why should the state get to take and store someone's DNA without a search warrant, just because they've been charged with a crime of violence?), I don't see the new conference report having any trouble passing both chambers now.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The end run around criminal justice reform

I told anyone who would listen that you just can't trust some of these folks when it comes to criminal justice reform. For them, it's forever 1995, and they can't find enough people (outside of their own family and friends, mind you) to pack into a penitentiary. 

So in spite of the advancements in sentencing laws that were just signed by Governor Bryant yesterday, the conferees on SB 2430 added a provision to that bill that would punish any two individuals who work together to shoplift anything of any value with up to 20 YEARS IN PRISON. Notice I said "anything of value". That's because the conference report makes no distinction between felony or misdemeanor shoplifting. 

So, what does this mean in reality if this bill passes? It means that come July 1, if two college freshmen decided to go steal a six-pack of beer from the local convenience store, they'd be arrested, charged with a felony, have to post felony bonds, face indictment, and stand trial before a jury of twelve. If convicted, the judge could then sentence them to up to 20 years in the penitentiary. Can't we find something better to do with our time?

I have no doubt that the conferees will respond by saying that this bill isn't aimed at college students being stupid, but rather at organized theft rings that go after retailers in places like Flowood. Here's the thing, though: in life, it ain't who you aim for, it's who you hit. 

I could have sworn it was that exact realization that led to sentencing reform this year. I guess I was wrong. 

For the record, the conferees who gave us this monstrosity are all attorneys who should know better. They are: Sen. Brice Wiggins (R - Pascagoula), Sen. Sally Doty (R - Brookhaven), Rep. Andy Gipson (R - Braxton), Rep. Dennis DeBar (R - Leakesville), and Rep. Joey Hood (R - Ackerman). Sen. Hob Bryan (D - Amory) was a conferee, but he refused to sign the conference report.

My instincts tell me that Sen. Wiggins is just trying to save his DNA collection bill, to which the problematic language was added, and that Rep. Gipson pushed for the addition in response to lobbying from retailers and Rankin County law enforcement who weren't happy with the way Gipson's sentencing reform law handled shoplifting. 

Floor action is expected today.