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When (Phil) Bryant was a freshman state representative from Rankin County in 1996, the Democratic leadership in state government — House Speaker Tim Ford, Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Charlie Capps — had an ambitious $52 million teacher pay hike plan on the agenda as the 1997 session took shape.
One of the mightiest voices opposing that plan was then-Gov. Kirk Fordice. Fordice was a proponent of merit pay for teachers, writing in a 1997 veto message: “Philosophically, I do not believe that spending more money on public education will automatically result in higher student test scores. Even the most ardent promoters of increased education funding must admit that a district’s funding level is only one factor that influences the success of its students.”
Fordice was Phil Bryant’s Republican political godfather. The merit pay concept is one that’s been a favorite of legislative conservatives for more than 20 years in Mississippi politics. Now, Republicans control both houses of the Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion. Bryant’s proposed education reforms line up with reforms proposed by other GOP governors across the country.
During the administration of former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, the Legislature passed a six-year phased, $336 million comprehensive teacher pay hike. The Legislature loosely linked performance of the school districts to that pay hike bill.
Back when Bryant was a freshman state legislator in the minority in the House, merit pay was little more than a throwaway line in Kirk Fordice’s veto messages – vetoes that were routinely and almost summarily overridden. But the legislative numbers, an ailing state budget and public sentiment finely attuned to accountability make merit pay an issue that may well get traction during the 2012 session.
via Pay plan has long pedigree » Opinion » The Picayune Item.
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Claims from Democratic lawmakers that Republican legislation aimed at changing the state’s outside counsel process for the attorney general’s office is “retaliation” against Attorney General Jim Hood‘s stance on former Gov. Haley Barbour‘s controversial pardons ignore a substantial amount of Mississippi legal and political history.
State Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, called Senate Bills 2084 and 2102 “retaliation” against Hood against fighting Barbour’s “release of over 200 Mississippi felons, including murderers, rapists and child sex offenders” at the end of Barbour’s gubernatorial term. The legislation would limit fees outside counsel attorneys can receive from contingency fee contracts with the state. Current law places no limits on attorney’s fees in such suits.
“This retaliatory stunt couldn’t come at a worse time,” said Evans. “At this moment, General Hood is working to recover tens of millions owed to the state’s retirement system, now is not the time to tie his hands.” Evans went on to assert that Hood had recovered over $500 million for state taxpayers that “didn’t cost taxpayers a dime.”
But the fact is that the furor over outside counsel contracts has been raging long before Barbour was elected governor and the legislation filed this session had absolutely nothing to do with the pardons.
The outside counsel fight has been ongoing in Mississippi since the late Gov. Kirk Fordice and former Attorney General Mike Moore battled over Mississippi’s $4.1 billion tobacco settlement.
Current Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, while serving as state auditor in 2006, filed suit to get back $14 million in legal fees from the state’s MCI-Worldcom lawsuit – claiming the legal fees belonged to the state and must under law be appropriated by the Legislature. Current Republican State Auditor Stacey Pickering carried on the Bryant lawsuit.
via Curbs on AG’s hiring counsel have historical precedent | The Clarion-Ledger | clarionledger.com.
Filed under Attorney General, Ethics, Governor, Jim Hood, Legislature, Mississippi, Mississippi State House, Mississippi State Senate, Opinion, Phil Bryant, Politics, State Government
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“I am pleased to have so many experts from all over the state of Mississippi on these policy committees to help build an agenda for the upcoming legislative session,” Bryant said in a statement. “I am confident that the experience and dedication everyone collectively brings to the committees will help make the legislative session in January very productive.”
The policy committee structure will be chaired by Mark Garriga, former chief of staff for Gov. Kirk Fordice.
The chairs of the policy committees are:
- Agriculture/Forestry: State Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Ag Commissioner-elect
- Budget: Dr. John Kelly, city administrator for Gulfport
- Education: State Board of Education chairman Charles McClelland
- Energy: Atmos Mississippi President David Gates
- Government Accountability: Former executive director of state Dept. of Finance and Administration Hoopy Stringer
- Health Care: Mississippi State Medical Association President Dr. Randy Easterling
- Information Technology: Hancock Bank CEO John Hairston
- Jobs: Advance Mississippi chairman Glenn McCullough, former director of the Tennessee Valley Authority
- Public Safety: Madison County Sheriff Toby Trowbridge
- Regulatory: Mississippi National Federation of Independent Businesses executive director Ron Aldridge
- Tourism: State Sen. Billy Hewes
“The governor-elect has put together a knowledgeable and well-respected team of experts to help guide his policy agenda for his term in office,” Bryant’s transition chairman Jim Herring said in the release. “These policy committees will review Gov.-elect Bryant’s proposals and policies as well as new ideas, and they will make recommendations about strategies to make them successful.”
via Gov.-elect Bryant names transition committee leaders | The Clarion-Ledger | clarionledger.com.
Filed under Agriculture, Budget, Economic Development, Education, Energy, Governor, Gulf Coast, Law Enforcement, MDOT, Mississippi, Phil Bryant, Politics, Public Safety, Public Service Commission, Republican, Spending, State Government, Taxes, Tourism