Farm Bureau recognizes Congressman Gregg Harper for work on Farm Bill, Transportation.


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The Mississippi Farm Bureau today awarded Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) the Friend of Farm Bureau Award for his work in the 113th Congress. This is the third consecutive time that Mississippi Farm Bureau has honored Rep. Harper for his commitment to the farmers of Mississippi.

“We are pleased to recognize Congressman Harper with our Friend of Farm Bureau Award and are grateful for the many things he does for Mississippi agriculture,” said Mississippi Farm Bureau President Randy Knight. “The congressman and his staff have been very supportive of our farmers by attending Farm Bureau events and listening to farmers’ concerns.”

Rep. Harper serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where he is a member of three subcommittees: Environment and the Economy; Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade; and Oversight and Investigation. The state’s senior House Republican also sits on the select Committee on House Administration, a special appointment made by House Speaker John Boehner. Additionally, he serves as chairman of the Joint Committee of the Library of Congress.

Rep. Harper was cited for his support for the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which provides the structure for programs administered by the Department of Agriculture through 2018. He also supported the bill that continued funding for highways and transportation, a key component for farmers getting their products to market. In addition, Rep. Harper supported the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013, which provided for improvements to the rivers and harbors of the United States and for the conservation and development of water resources.

The Friend of Farm Bureau Award is given at the end of each Congress to Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate who were nominated by their respective state Farm Bureaus and approved by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Board of Directors.

Congressman Gregg Harper Press Release

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PULLMAN: A novel way to turn schools over to teachers.


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BY: Joy Pullman| Heartland Institute

One of the major problems with public education is that the desires of school staff and of families can work against each other. Often, what makes teachers comfortable degrades instruction. So here’s a novel idea that could change that: Convert ownership of each public school into stock options that a school’s employees would own.

Benjamin Scafidi runs some numbers and finds “Each teacher in [an] example is now $113,000 wealthier and part owner of a school.” That’s not a bad set of workplace perks. What’s in it for the kids? Scafidi explains:

Employee-owned schools would face a market test–students and the funds dedicated to their education would flow to the schools their parents deem best. If the employee-owned schools could not attract enough students, employee-owners would face a stark reality: They either would have to:

-improve the quality of their academic and social offerings,
-hire new and better management,
-sell their school land and facilities to another educational provider, or
-see the value of their stock fall dramatically.

Thus, employee-owners would have a powerful financial incentive to offer excellent educational programs or sell to someone who will.

Charter schools offer a similar option–they have been and could be started and operated by teachers who decide they could manage their school better themselves.

Worker-owned cooperatives are not new. Multinational butter purveyor Land O’Lakes is one, for example, and so are many natural grocery stores. When people own part of an enterprise, they’re more than figuratively invested.

Clearly, there’s no shortage of ideas for improving education. What children need next are social entrepreneurs who are willing to try out such new ideas–and not through coercion, but by persuading people to join them willingly on new ventures.

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PLUNKETT: Curtis Wilkie’s Mississippi no longer exists.


BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett

Back in August I wrote a response to an article by Curtis Wilkie in the New York Times. Wilkie is an historian and author who grew up in Mississippi, leaving in the late 1960’s to work as a writer. The majority of his career was spent working for the Boston Globe. He returned to Mississippi in 2004 to teach journalism at Ole Miss, and serves as a professor and Fellow at the Overby Center of Journalism and Politics there.

It is apparent from his latest article in Politico that Wilkie placed his memory of Mississippi in a time capsule, and reopened it upon arrival 10 years ago. Should Mr. Wilkie decide to spend a little more time in the flyover country between his academic perch in Oxford and the cocktail parties in New Orleans, he would find we have, in fact, changed dramatically from his memory. He would find that we are diverse, and that communities are fighting for survival against the suffocation of policies from Washington.

In his New York Times article, Wilkie gathered all the “rebellious” conservatives under the heading “TEA Party.” His latest commentary once again hopes to tuck away the grassroots community movement in Mississippi into neatly organized categories.

This time Wilkie throws in Southern Baptists, too. He defines the pro-community crowd as a throw back to the fierce independence of Scots-Irish ancestors, then places us on the losing side of those who fought the Civil War and those who fought against the Civil Rights Movement. That allows him to dust his hands in conclusion: Mississippians hate Washington because of our history.

Mississippians don’t fit into Mr. Wilkie’s tidy little categories.

His commentary relies heavily on history, but not Mississippi history. He brings in the statements and motives of South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun, as well as Virginian Patrick Henry. Wilkie makes great leaps to condemn Mississippi’s populism by using the words of non-Mississippians. He uses the statements of people who have never set foot here, picked from historical perspectives that don’t align.

Cocktail parties in Oxford and New Orleans don’t count.

Mr. Wilkie, try joining me in small town Mississippi and I think you may be surprised. You may be surprised that on the front of race relations we have made great strides, that we are as diverse and neighborly to one another as any place I have ever been outside of our state, more than many.

You will also find that hard working people are under the pressure of intense regulation of central government, both from Washington and from Jackson. You will find that they have little way of changing this outside force from making demands on their livelihoods and of their families, given only despair in return.

You will find that as federal dollars and federal regulations have become a larger and larger force in our lives, many of our people grow more and more dependent and less responsible. You will find that as our social connections crumble our young people have effectively been warned off of marriage, which is the very foundation of healthy communities. You will find that as people begin angling for more government give-aways, both individual dishonesty and a lack of government transparency grows. You will find that as more regulation from on high makes its way down to we “commoners,” fewer parents take a role in the education or upbringing of their own children.

Generations of Mississippians have been trained to give up.

Yes, Mississippi gets far more back in terms of money from the federal government than it gives. But, that doesn’t translate into success. It has translated into failure. We here in Mississippi communities see it every single day.

We see everyday in communities across this state why Washington deserves our disdain. We see everyday how some with political connections are handed advantages while others are denied and discouraged from living off the fruits of their own labor.

Maybe that view isn’t as clear from where Mr. Wilkie resides in his comfortable academic existence at Ole Miss. The evidence is here for anyone willing to get out of their comfortable places and spend the time driving across the state, truly looking, talking and learning.

It’s a testament to the resiliency of Mississippians that we find ourselves in this difficult position, like so many times in our history before, and are ready to do something about it.

Yes. More and more Mississippians hate Washington, Mr. Wilkie. But, it’s not because of our past history. It’s because of our present circumstances.

About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to HorizonMediaMarketing.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

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Filed under contributor, Entitlements, Federal Government, Keith Plunkett, Ole Miss

Cochran and Childers both on schedule to speak Wednesday at Hobnob Mississippi 2014.


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The 13th Annual Hobnob Mississippi will be held on Wednesday, October 29 from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Held at the Mississippi Coliseum at the State Fairgrounds in Jackson, Hobnob Mississippi is a fun political rally-styled event that features Mississippi’s statewide elected officials and candidates for statewide office.

The event this year will be held inside due to the threat of rain.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, the Republican nominee, and his Democratic challenger Travis Childers will speak during Hobnob, which takes place less than one week before the general election.

Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn will provide the latest on what’s happening at the State Capitol. Other statewide elected officials set to speak are Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Attorney General Jim Hood, State Auditor Stacey Pickering, State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney.

Hobnob Schedule

-9:30 – Welcome
-9:35-9:45 – Mike Chaney, Insurance Commissioner
-9:45-9:55 – Cindy Hyde-Smith, Agriculture Commissioner
-9:55-10:05 – Stacey Pickering, State Auditor
-10:05-10:15 – Lynn Fitch, State Treasurer
-10:15-10:20 – Sanderson Farms Championship – Focus on Blair E. Batson
-10:20-10:30 – Jim Hood, Attorney General
-10:30-10:40 – Delbert Hosemann, Secretary of State
-10:40-10:45 – Alveno Castilla, MEC Chair, welcome
-10:45-10:55 – Philip Gunn, Speaker of the House
-10:55-11:05 – Tony Yarber, Mayor City of Jackson
-11:05-11:15 – Travis Childers, Democratic Nominee for U.S. Senator
-11:15-11:25 – Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor
-11:25-11:35 – Thad Cochran, U.S. Senator
-11:35-11:50 – Phil Bryant, Governor
-11:50-Noon – Miss Mississippi Jasmine Murray
– Noon – Lunch is served
– 1:15 – Minor Party Candidates
– 1:30 – Adjourn

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Filed under Mississippi Economic Council, Politics, Thad Cochran

Charter School Authorizer Board gives 2 groups the go ahead in approval process.


Mississippi’s Charter School Authorizer Board has moved two groups that want to open schools ahead to the final stage of consideration.

Inspire Charter Schools, which was a finalist in the first round of applications earlier this year, is seeking to open a school serving 360 students in grades K-6 in Columbus. Midtown Partners is seeking to open a school serving 208 students in grades 5-8 in Jackson.

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Coast residents pushing for wind insurance clarity bill in 2015.


Coast residents are gearing up to get a wind insurance clarity bill passed in the Mississippi legislature in 2015 MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports.

The legislation is modeled on a similar bill in Alabama, which requires insurance companies to disclose how much they take in in premiums and how much they’ve paid out in claims by county or zip code. State Representative Scott Delano of Gulfport introduced a clarity bill this past session, which passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

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CALLEN: More choices, not more money, is answer to what ails Mississippi education.


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BY: Grant Callen

Mississippi is on top of the college football world. This historic accomplishment has generated tremendous publicity for Mississippi, even in areas unrelated to football. As a lifelong Mississippian, I can attest there is much to celebrate here. For my three children, my wife and me, Mississippi is the best place in the world to live and raise a family. However, we have major challenges, none greater than our last in the nation education system. For too many students, our education system is woefully inadequate.

What do we do about it?

Supporters of the so-called MAEP Ballot Initiative argue it is simply a money problem. They contend the legislature has failed to “fully fund” education, so the initiative would take that power from the legislature and give it to a Hinds County Chancery Judge.

Throwing more money at education will not fix it. We have steadily increased public education funding for thirty years and it has produced almost zero measurable academic improvements. Since 1980, expenditures per student increased 457 percent, yet our average ACT score has remained flat. If money could fix education, the District of Columbia would be a mecca for parents looking for a quality education for their children. DC spends more money on public education than most any state, yet it consistently battles it out with Mississippi for last place in academic achievement.

The amount of money we spend on education is important, but not nearly as important as who makes decisions about how it is spent. This week State Auditor Stacey Pickering released an audit of the MAEP funding formula and noted that only a fraction of the money allocated is actually getting to the classroom.

We agree the education status quo must change. But while supporters of the ballot initiative want to empower one judge in Hinds County with the authority to determine the adequacy of your child’s education, Empower Mississippi proposes empowering parents with the ability to choose an education that they determine is right for their children.

No one knows a child and his unique educational needs better than his parents. What if we allowed the public funds allocated for a child to follow him to whatever school his parents determined could best meet his needs, whether at a traditional public school, charter school, or private school? In 44 states, policymakers have done that. Through a variety of education choice programs, states like Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina have empowered parents to make decisions about their children’s education, and the results are remarkable.

To the east, Florida has been the number one state in the country to close the achievement gap for minority students since implementing school choice programs. Since 1999, graduation rates for Hispanics have increased 28 points to 75 percent, and rates for black students have increased 23 points to 65 percent.

To the west, the education system in New Orleans has changed dramatically since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Today, ninety percent of students in the city attend charter schools, with amazing results. In 2005, only 12 percent of city schools were rated A or B and 75 percent earned an F. By 2013, 34 percent of schools earned an A or B while only 17 percent earned an F. From 2004 to 2012, the New Orleans graduation rate has gone from 54 percent to 78 percent – surpassing the state average.

At Empower Mississippi, not only do we believe an education revolution can happen here at home, but it is already underway. It simply requires the courage to enact much needed reforms that tear down the barriers to educational opportunity. Many Mississippi legislators have already championed education choice policies, as evidenced by the 24 Senators and 50 Representatives who scored an “A” on our Education Choice Scorecard released this week.

We applaud these policymakers for their initial steps, but greater choice is needed. For the children trapped by a failing system, help can’t come soon enough.

Grant Callen is President of Empower Mississippi, an organization that seeks to empower citizens to advocate for policies that help people thrive. Learn more at http://www.empowerms.org.

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Filed under contributor, Education, Empower Mississippi, Grant Callen, Mississippi, State Government