Gov. Bryant calls special session to begin Tuesday morning. 



Gov. Phil Bryant has issued a call for a special legislative session to deal with a shortfall in Mississippi’s 2016 budget.

The governor’s office said in a news release Monday the special session will start at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The call contains one item: legislation authorizing the governor to transfer money from the state’s rainy day fund into the general fund to cover the 2016 budget deficit.

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MS PERS losing money on investments, could show first annual loss since 2009. 


  

A report by the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi shows the state’s pension fund lost money in the past year, which could further damage PERS’s already weakened bottom line.

According to the third quarter report, the fund has been hit with total losses of 0.47 percent so far this year, with the biggest hits coming in stocks. International equities lost 7.36 percent, global equities were off by 4.26 percent and U.S. equities lost 2.42 percent. Stocks represent 60 percent of the plan’s investments.

If the trend holds in the fourth quarter, it’ll be the first year in the red since 2009, when the fund lost 19.4. In the past decade, the annual rate of return for the plan’s investments has been 8.69 percent.

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Rep. David Baria asks Gov. Bryant to call special session to deal with budget.


  

WJTV reports the House Minority Leader wrote a letter to Gov. Phil Bryant about the possibility of him calling a special session to address the budget concerns for the upcoming fiscal year.

In the letter, Rep. David Baria said he hoped the governor would use his power to do so.

He also asked that Bryant gives legislators a notice of four to five days if he does plan on calling a special session so that they could properly prepare because many members have made summer plans for traveling with their families.

Baria, a Democrat, represents Hancock County in District 122.

Clay Chandler, Director of Communications for Gov. Bryant’s Office release this statement about the possible special session:

“Gov. Bryant is carefully watching revenues versus expenses for state government and will take proper actions to balance the budget if needed. This includes his constitutional right of calling a special session, if necessary.”

Read the full letter HERE.

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Coast hospitals sue state Medicaid for $20 million in under-funded reimbursements.


  

Two large Coast hospital systems are ready to go to court to fight for what they claim are $20 million in under-funded Medicaid reimbursements.

Memorial Hospital at Gulfport says it was shorted more than $10 million by the Mississippi Division of Medicaid during the past fiscal year. Singing River Health System also claims it’s owed more than $6 million in reimbursements.

On Wednesday, the hospitals filed a joint lawsuit against the agency, seeking to recover what they call “underpaid Medicaid funds”.

“This money is available in the state of Mississippi. It is not a state budget issue. It’s in the general fund for the Division of Medicaid, a sufficient amount to get these two Coast hospitals their cost back. That hasn’t happened and we’re asking the court to find out why,” said Memorial Hospital President/CEO Gary Marchand.

Both hospital executives say a new state law enacted in March 2015 sets new criteria to make sure Medicaid patients and the uninsured have access to medical care. However, they also say the funding formula is flawed.

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HARRISON: Budget Transparency and Simplification Act could be the first salvo in the 2019 gubernatorial election.


  

BY: Bobby Harrison

(Attorney General Jim) Hood says that pesky issue of separation of powers prevents legislators from – after the fact – telling agency heads that we should have said this instead of that in the law.

Legislative leaders, particularly Lt Gov. Tate Reeves, said Hood’s opinions (about the Budget Transparency and Simplification Act) are nothing more than an effort by “bureaucrats,” including Hood, to try to protect the fiefdoms, built on those aforementioned special funds.

Perhaps so, but some of those expressing concerns include duly elected Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, a Republican, and respected state Health Officer Mary Currier. (Gov.) Bryant even expressed concerns about the complexity of the proposal when signing it into law.

At any rate, the Budget Transparency and Simplification Act could be the first salvo in the 2019 gubernatorial election.

While there is speculation that Hood, who is in his fourth term as attorney general and has been a top target for Republicans throughout his tenure, will run for governor, there is no doubt that Reeves will run.

Reeves has had his eye on the Governor’s Mansion since before he was first sworn in as lieutenant governor in January 2012. The budget and the Transparency and Simplification Act, developed by his Appropriations Chair Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, are tied to Reeves so he has an interest in trying to defend them against the assaults from Hood.

Reeves has long billed himself “as the grown up in the room” when it comes to budget and fiscal issues.

But now Reeves faces budget woes thanks to sluggish revenue collections and questions about the legislation that is the linchpin of that budget.

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Hinds DA Smith, arrested on 6 counts of aiding criminal defense, fires back at AG Hood for obstruction of criminal investigation. 



As reported earlier today, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith has been arrested following a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and the FBI.

45-year-old Smith was arrested on Wednesday at his office by investigators with the Attorney General’s Office and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office. He was charged with 6 counts of violating state law by advising, counseling, consulting or defending criminals.

According to reports: the joint investigation revealed that Smith violated the law related to his involvement with two different criminal defendants while serving as district attorney.

    • Count 1 alleges that on June 10, 2016, Smith helped Darnell Turner, charged with aggravated assault and domestic violence, by providing his attorney, Dennis Sweet, III, with emails of conversations between the state, the district attorney and the court regarding previously sealed court cases. 
    • Count 2 alleges that on May 26, 2016, Smith helped Christopher Butler, charged with embezzlement and wire fraud, by meeting with him at the Hinds County Jail without the presence of Butler’s attorney.
    • Count 3 alleges that on March 21, 2016, Smith helped Butler by delivering to his attorney, Sanford Knott, a letter in which Smith advises Knott of various ways to attack the state’s pending case against Butler.
    • Count 4 alleges that on May 9, 2016, Smith helped Butler by meeting with him without the presence of his attorney.
    • Count 5 alleges that between January 14, 2016 and June 20, 2016, Smith helped Butler by meeting with his family and referring to Butler as “his client”, attempting to retain defense counsel for Butler and working with defense counsel to obtain his release from the Hinds County Jail.
    • Count 6 alleges that between January 14, 2016 and June 20, 2016, Smith helped Butler, then charged with possession of a controlled substance, by using the power of the grand jury to pressure a sitting circuit court judge to dismiss the charges of possession of marijuana. 

    Smith was booked into the Hinds County Jail and if convicted he could be removed as district attorney and prohibited from holding any other elected office or government position. He also faces a $500 fine.

    But Smith fired back with a press release this afternoon with a countercharge claiming that AG Hood was using the power of his office to intimidate and obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation by the Hinds DA into alleged illegal activities by state officials. 

    SMITH PRESS RELEASE:
    June 22, 2016

    For Immediate Release
    (Jackson, Miss) Today, June 22, 2016, the Office of the Attorney General entered into my office while I was preparing for a Grand Jury presentation. Lee McDivitt, investigator with the Attorney General Jim Hood’s Office told me that they had a warrant for my arrest. Lee McDivitt is the same investigator who had been served with a subpoena to appear before a Hinds County Grand Jury related to an investigation by the Hinds County District Attorney regarding improper and illegal activities by certain state officials.

    McDivitt and other officials who were subpoenaed to appear before the Hinds County Grand Jury conspired to Quash the subpoenas to avoid them having to give testimony under oath.  

    These improper and illegal actions taken by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood are designed to intimidate, embarrass, and obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation.

    These misdemeanors allegations are not only false, but designed to denigrate the credibility of the Hinds County District Attorney.

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    Breaking: Hinds County DA Robert Shuler Smith arrested.


    Sources with knowledge of the investigation have confirmed to WLBT News that Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith has been arrested.

    They would not reveal the nature of the investigation. 

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