Bill would use casino taxes for bridges, little for tourism


Mississippi lawmakers met Sunday and neared final approval of House Bill 1630, which would use $36 million a year in casino taxes mainly to rebuild deficient bridges on state highways.

Lawmakers agreed after casinos opened to use that revenue stream for road projects to improve access to casinos. But with those projects completed and bonds mostly paid off, the money in recent years has been flowing to the state Department of Transportation to spend as it wants.

Under a conference report between to the House and Senate released Saturday, House authorizes $200 million in bonds for bridge repairs, lower than the $400 million proposed earlier. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, said the total amount was lowered because of fellow Republican and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ opposition to borrowing. In 2012, the first year of Reeves’ term, he refused to agree to any bond bill.

Smith said House Bill 1630 has become tied to Senate Bill 2906, which would grant borrowing authority for universities, community colleges and other needs. That bill’s final version still hadn’t been filed as of Sunday evening, although lawmakers must adopt it by Monday. Reeves described the amount in the main bond bill as slightly over $200 million, while Smith said it was $250 million.

Regarding House Bill 1630, Reeves said it would take about $15 million a year to service $200 million in debt over 20 years, leaving about $20 million a year in the department’s budget.

Senators approved the conference agreement Sunday, leaving House approval before the bill would go to Gov. Phil Bryant. However, Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, said that House members are still trying to make changes to the bill.

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Natchez Regional Medical Center leaves retirement benefits vulnerable.


Officials say the collections for the Natchez Regional Medical Center bankruptcy settlement are holding steady, but the question of what will happen with former employees’ retirement accounts is still unanswered.

The formerly county-owned hospital filed for bankruptcy protection March 26, 2014, after operating in a deficit of millions of dollars.

The case was settled in October when the hospital was sold to Community Health Systems for $10 million. An arrangement for the company to pre-pay $8 million in taxes was necessary to cover the hospital’s debts, and by the time the case was closed, Adams County had to take out a $3 million loan to cover closing costs.

Approximately $4 million of the proceeds had to be placed in an escrow account for two years in case Medicaid and Medicare audits result in the clawback of funds previously remitted to the hospital.

One of the notable unsecured creditors in the filing was the Mississippi Public Employee Retirement System.

While employees continued to make contributions toward PERS, from November 2014 until the bankruptcy filing the hospital did not remit the employer portion of the payments. Under the PERS system, employers make a 15-percent match to employee contributions.

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Our Lord’s Surprise Visits


BY: Oswald Chambers

You also be ready… —Luke 12:40

A Christian worker’s greatest need is a readiness to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn. This is not easy, no matter what our experience has been. This battle is not against sin, difficulties, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself at every turn. The greatest need is not facing our beliefs or doctrines, or even facing the question of whether or not we are of any use to Him, but the need is to face Him.

Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical situations. The only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness will not be brought about by service, but through intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have. If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle— we must be spiritually real.

If you are avoiding the call of the religious thinking of today’s world, and instead are “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), setting your heart on what He wants, and thinking His thoughts, you will be considered impractical and a daydreamer. But when He suddenly appears in the work of the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready. You should trust no one, and even ignore the finest saint on earth if he blocks your sight of Jesus Christ.

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Ballot alternative to #MAEP funding initiative challenged in court, attorney says Hinds County Judge’s decision can’t be appealed. 


The language slated to appear on the November general election ballot as an alternative to the citizen-sponsored education funding initiative is being challenged in Hinds County Circuit Court.

Adrian Shipman of Oxford, a mother of two in the Oxford School District, has filed the challenge, claiming the language recently approved by the Attorney General’s office is not a true reflection of legislative intent.

Shipman claims the legislative alternative “creates significant risks of confusing the electorate.”

Under the state’s initiative law, a person is allowed to challenge the language of any legislative alternative to a citizen-sponsored initiative. And the judge has 10 days to rule on whether the language must be changed. According to James Keith, a Ridgeland attorney representing Shipman, the judge’s decision cannot be appealed.

“This legislative alternative is meant to confuse voters into killing the real school-funding initiative, Number 42,” Keith said in prepared remarks. “Mrs. Shipman appealed its official wording because she believes voters must be able to tell the difference between the real initiative and the decoy initiative.”

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Tyner bows out of race for PSC Central District Commissioner


Paul Hampton at the Sun Herald is reporting that Mitch Tyner has ended his campaign for Central District Commissioner of the Public Service Commission citing “party unity”.

“Last year the party had a very divisive U.S. Senate race,” said Tyner in the release. “The party cannot remain divided and continue to win elections, especially in districts so evenly split like Mississippi’s Central District. I’ve known Tony Greer since college. He has served several terms as a Clinton alderman as well as the unexpired term of Mayor Fisher’s supervisor seat. I want to do my part in restoring party unity and electing good conservative candidates.”

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United Conservatives Fund moves into next phase for 2015 races. 


(Laurel, MS)–The United Conservatives Fund (UCF) today opened the process of candidate vetting for upcoming elections by the UCF Executive Committee to the general public. Members of the organization began recruiting conservative candidates to submit their information for consideration three-weeks ago. 

 UCF Director of Policy and Communications Keith Plunkett said the first call went out to members weeks ago in order to give them a head start on networking among candidates. 

 “UCF is a member-led organization and we take that organizational principle very seriously,” said Plunkett. “Our members received instructions of how candidates could submit for the process days after the qualifying deadline. They lead this organization with their action and their ideas. They first and foremost have the responsibility of determining who are the best candidates.” 

 “Having given members enough time to begin the search, we now are prepared to open the process to those who are currently non-members,” he added. 

 Plunkett says if approved for support from the executive committee resources for candidates could come in a variety of ways thanks to the ground-up organization that was built during Sen. Chris McDaniel’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 2014.

“It’s important to stress that we are a young organization. There are only a few opportunities we will have for our executive committee to conduct face-to-face interviews, and our financial resources are not endless in these early stages. So getting in early is important,” Plunkett said. “However, assistance could come in many ways.” 

“I think just about anyone recognizes that during the course of 2013 and 2014, we built an impressive organization with the McDaniel Campaign. In less than six-months we had a massive grassroots effort and a team in place to support it. That is something that conservatives didn’t have before. It is our aim to build it into an even more solid network, and use it to get like-minded people elected to public office in Mississippi.” 

Candidates who would like to be considered may contact UCF by emailing directly to info@unitedconservativesfund.com using the subject line ‘Candidate Vetting’. They will receive a response with a list of required information along with instructions on how to properly submit it.

United Conservatives Fund Press Release

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MS Senate removed provisions in transparency bill requiring officials to file annual disclosure reports, and closing loopholes for state contracts. 


Some representatives who voted against the (House Bill 825 to strengthen Mississippi’s contract laws on) Monday said they wanted to force it into a final round of negotiations with the Senate to restore parts of the bill that the Senate removed.

But Republican Rep. Jerry Turner of Baldwyn, chairman of the House Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee, said he feared the bill would die if it were sent into negotiations because the Senate killed a similar bill last year.

“The Lord willing, we’ll be back next year,” Turner said. “We’ll be able to address any shortcomings this bill has.”

The bill would establish a board made up of people appointed by the governor and lieutenant governor to examine any state contract worth at least $75,000, Turner said. Under current law, a board made up of state agency directors examines state contracts that are worth at least $100,000.

Turner said the Senate weakened the bill by removing provisions that would have prevented large contracts from being broken into smaller pieces to avoid scrutiny.

The Senate also removed requirements that public officials file annual ethics reports disclosing gifts from people who are not relatives or friends, Turner said.

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Dr. Alveda King to Keynote Annual Pro-Life Mississippi Banquet


Pro-Life Mississippi, an organization dedicated to the sanctity of human life, announced today that Dr. Alveda King will serve as keynote speaker for their annual banquet to be held on Thursday, April 23, 2015, at First Baptist Church of Jackson. 

 

“I am looking forward to spending time with the committed and passionate people of Pro-Life Mississippi,” said Dr. King. “My heart broke last year when it was revealed that 72 percent of abortions in the state take the lives of African-American babies so I am particularly grateful for the efforts of these tireless warriors for life. I am hoping to return to celebrate with them when the state’s only abortion clinic is finally closed for good,” she concluded.

 

Dr. Alveda King advocates nationwide for the pre-born as a continuation of the civil rights struggle. 


She serves as a Pastoral Associate and Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries.  She is also a voice for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, sharing her testimony of two abortions, God’s forgiveness, and healing.

 

 The niece of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the daughter of the late civil rights activist Rev. A.D. King and his wife Naomi Barber King, Dr. King served in the Georgia State House of Representatives and has won multiple awards for her efforts in the pro-life movement.  She is also a regular columnist for Newsmax.com and a contributor to Fox News.


Pro-Life Mississippi Press Release. 

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PENDER: Tax Cuts dead because Republican leaders can’t work together?


BY: Geoff Pender

The large GOP tax cuts appear dead for this legislative session.

But they will live on, at least through November, in campaign push cards, robocalls and ads. Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn has already repeated the chorus: Democrats killed the tax cuts.

They did. In the House, Democrats caucused and blocked the three-fifths supermajority needed to pass $555 million in corporate and individual tax cuts.

But if Republican leaders really wanted tax cuts instead of just campaign fodder they shoulda-coulda-woulda done things differently. They should have worked together. They did not.

The Great Tax Cut Hullabaloo of 2015 raises a recurring question: Can the state’s Republican leaders not get together, at least on major state-altering policy?

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Lt. Gov. Reeves tying together Senate franchise tax cut and House income tax cut bills ends any hopes for relief in 2015.


The efforts of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Speaker Philip Gunn and Gov. Phil Bryant to pass a tax cut during the 2015 legislative session appear to have died a quiet and uneventful death Friday.

Friday was the deadline to reconsider the vote by which the House killed what Reeves had described as a compromise between what the House passed earlier this session and what was passed by the Senate.

But the Republicans could not muster the three-fifths vote earlier this week to pass the plan. Democrats voted in near unanimity against the proposal.

The Republican House leadership could have opted Friday to send the proposal to a House-Senate conference committee to hammer out a new agreement. But the new proposal, under the procedural rules, could have included only a cut in the income tax paid by individuals and businesses, not the elimination of the business franchise tax the leadership wanted. The business franchise tax is a tax on a company’s capital investment.

In conference the franchise tax could not have been part of an agreement because the House had not passed that plan earlier in the session. The House had passed legislation to completely eliminate the income tax over a period of time. So the conference agreement could have included only an income tax cut.

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