After running for U.S. Congress in 1998, serving the U.S. Electoral College in 2000 and chairing the Capital Foundation of the Mississippi Republican Party, Phelps Dunbar attorney Delbert Hosemann won the vote to take over for retiring Secretary of State Eric Clark in January 2008.
Hosemann, who studied at Notre Dame, earned a law degree from Ole Miss and specialized in taxation at NYU, chatted with the Mississippi Business Journal about his plans for the next four years in office, including the implementation of a business court system.
Mississippi Business Journal: What are your priorities for legislation in the 2008 session?
Delbert Hosemann: First, our Election Task Force has completed the initial research and drafting of the blueprint for a comprehensive Voter Reform Act. We’ll be meeting with election officials and members of the Legislature concerning the proposed changes. We believe the integrity of our elections is our first priority for the 2008 legislative session.
In addition, we will be addressing certain 16th section land reforms and business law reforms. The business law reform issues will be preparatory to a revision of the Mississippi business code to reflect the most up-to-date business laws available in any state, including the implementation of a business court system. While this legislation will be discussed during the 2008 session, I anticipate its introduction will be in the 2009 legislative session.
MBJ: How do you see open primaries fitting into the future of Mississippi’s elections?
DH: I enter this discussion with no preconceived opinion. The Secretary of State’s Office will begin research concerning open primaries, their effect on the elections, their conduct in conjunction with current laws and we’ll gather this information to provide to the Legislature. During the 2008 session, our office will be providing the Legislature with this information and research. The public will also have access to this information to enable an informed public discussion and debate of this election alternative.
MBJ: How do you think the new voting machines are working in Mississippi? What glitches need to be ironed out?
DH: In a review of all complaints to the Secretary of State’s Office from across the state following the November 7, 2007, general election, we noticed very few negative comments about the accuracy and integrity of the votes cast on machines. Instead, we experienced more problems with programming the machines and maintaining their operation. Apparently, the citizens of Mississippi are now becoming more comfortable with the utilization of the voting machines. I anticipate this comfort level will increase with each election cycle.
Post-election discussion points will include ensuring the existence of a paper trail to audit voting machines (which I will insist upon) and the use of alternative electronic means such as scanning devices, as opposed to the voting machines. These decisions will probably be made on the county level and will need to conform with the Help America Vote Act, our mandated federal standard.
MBJ: How do you plan to better manage the public lands that help fund Mississippi schools?
DH: In conjunction with the Mississippi Forestry Commission, local school boards and some Mississippi universities, we intend to review the characterization and management of all 16th section lands. Terms of the leases on these lands will be published for public review within the first 90 days of our administration. We anticipate additional information (hopefully including satellite mapping) will be available to the public on our Web site.
We intend to develop a business plan, similar to any other business, that will allow all parties to prioritize the management of the public lands for a maximum return to the schools. This business plan will address both short- and long-term needs and issues facing public lands. I expect to receive widespread input on the development of this business plan.
MBJ: How do you plan to improve the process of insuring easily accessible public information and transparency for all public lease lands?
DH: The business information concerning the leases will be published on the Secretary of State Web site soon after January 10, 2008. The actual leases will also be placed on the Web site, beginning with the ones with the shortest time period to expiration. There are approximately 12,000 of these leases, which will eventually be made available to the public on our Web site.
MBJ: How do you plan to create a more business-friendly environment for Mississippi?
DH: In addition to the business law reform and business court matter discussed above, we want to ensure that the Secretary of State’s Office works closely with the governor and with the Mississippi Development Authority in capturing inquiries for business opportunities into our state. For example, if a corporation registers to do business as a foreign corporation in Mississippi, they have done so for a reason. Hopefully, that reason would include establishing a presence in our state. Our goal is to assist the Legislature in drafting a very business-friendly statutory environment and combining this with aggressive assistance in marketing to existing and new businesses in the state. The current Web site, with updates thereto, will be a key and you should anticipate changes in that website to allow easy links between the Secretary of State’s Web site and information available by the Mississippi Development Authority, local chambers of commerce and various regional business alliances in the state.
Mississippi has abundant land, affordable utilities, water, ports, favorable climate and many natural advantages. Most importantly, Mississippi has an energetic and trainable workforce. Our natural resources and our work ethic distinguish us from other states. We want to be certain that the Secretary of State’s Office works in conjunction with the many other state entities to ensure maximum exposure to our assets.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.