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Archive for August, 2013

Miss. Supreme Court unanimously upholds open carry law

August 29th, 2013 2 comments

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday afternoon that House Bill 2 – the “open carry law” – is constitutionally clear, agreeing with the state that the law should take effect immediately.

The ruling came in the form of an order, agreed to by all nine justices, and signed by Justice Randy Pierce. The law will take effect immediately.

The fight over HB 2, which passed last legislative session, started earlier this summer when Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith asked Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd to issue an injunction that would keep the law from taking effect July 1. Smith was joined by a handful of law enforcement agencies.

Kidd granted the injunction, saying then that the law was vague. Attorney General Jim Hood’s office appealed Kidd’s ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The high court said in its ruling Thursday that Kidd “erred as a matter of law when he found House Bill 2 to be vague and, therefore, unconstitutional.” The court also disagreed with the portion of Kidd’s ruling that said a reading of the law did not allow a reasonable person to determine what is and what is not prohibited.

HB 2 makes it lawful to carry weapons and firearms, as long as they’re not concealed. Exceptions include certain government buildings like courthouses and schools and private property where they owner has forbidden them. It does not change the state’s conceal carry law, which requires those carrying concealed weapons have a permit.

To read the three-page order, click here.

Miss. Power seeks permission to recoup from ratepayers $45,000 payment to MEI

August 29th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi Power Co. filed as part of its most recent list of business expenses a $45,000 payment to the Mississippi Energy Institute.

Utilities routinely file the expenses with the Mississippi Public Service Commission, asking regulators to allow them to include the expenses in their rate base. That would essentially pass them on to ratepayers.

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said in an interview Thursday morning that Mississippi Power Co. should not be allowed to recoup from ratepayers the payment to MEI. “It’s ridiculous they’d include that,” he said of the payment. The MEI, an energy policy think tank, is one of the primary supporters of a plan to store and transport nuclear waste in Mississippi. Presley has spent the past week opposing the plan.

Jeff Franklin, Mississippi Power’s VP of customer service organization, sits on MEI’s board of directors.

Presley said MEI’s support of the nuclear storage proposal amounted more to lobbying than developing energy policy. He said he plans to try to exclude the payment from the utility’s rate calculations at the PSC’s Sept. 10 meeting. He added that state law prohibits lobbying fees from being included in utilities’ customer rates.

Mississippi Power spokesman Keith Guillot  said in an email Thursday afternoon that utility officials “believe our contribution to MEI is consistent with the purpose of furthering economic development.”

Lucky Town Brewing Co. grows into its own building

August 26th, 2013 3 comments

By this time next year, Lucky Town Brewing Co. should have a permanent home.

Co-founder Chip Jones and his partners have bought a building on North Mill Street in the Midtown area of Jackson. It will serve as the brewery’s first brick and mortar presence since it started operation in 2011. The brewery started in Gluckstadt, and currently contracts with Alabama-based Back 40 Beer Co. to produce its beer.

“We started looking for a place about four months ago,” Jones said in an interview Monday afternoon. “There were a lot of factors, but a lot of it came down to price and where we see the community going in the future.”

The building on a 1.7-acre lot met the specs, and provides room for plenty of expansion. Jones said Lucky Town has applied for a zoning variance and use permit. A public hearing before Jackson’s Planning and Development board to consider the request is set for Sept. 25. If that body recommends approval of the request, it will go before the Jackson City Council in late October. If the variance gains final approval there, it will take effect in 30 days.

If that timetable is followed, construction could begin on Lucky Town’s new building around Thanksgiving, Jones said, and would last until late spring or early summer 2014, when production would start. Construction will include renovating the building to house brewing equipment, carve out office space and create tasting areas. “Most of the work will be on the inside,” Jones said.

Lucky Town is one of the beneficiaries of the modernization of  Mississippi’s beer laws, starting with legislation that raised the cap on the alcohol content in beer, then bills that legalized home brewing and allowed existing commercial brewers to offer samples on site. Those changes have done a lot, Jones said, to creating a legal and cultural atmosphere that’s brewery-friendly. That was a big reason why Lucky Town needed a home, Jones said.

Lucky Town can be had at 95 pubs and restaurants across Mississippi. The new space will allow for an initial brewing capacity of 3,800 barrels a year, which will allow distribution to grow once that level of production is reached. Currently, Back 40’s brewing contract Lucky Town calls for about 500 barrels a year, Jones said.

“And I don’t think we’ll have to expand the building for another four to five years because with existing space I think we could max out around 10 to 12 thousand barrels a year,” Jones said.

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Gunn announces dates for second Ideas Tour

August 23rd, 2013 No comments

Speaker Phillip Gunn, R-Clinton, said Friday his second Mississippi Solutions – Ideas Tour will start Oct. 7 in his hometown’s municipal court building.

The tour is a series of town hall meetings in which citizens lay out their plans to improve everything from healthcare and education to  infrastructure and the 16th Section land lease process.

“The purpose of these meetings is to get into communities and hear ideas Mississippians have for improving our State,” Gunn said in a statement. “Last year, we received an overwhelmingly positive response. A variety of people from all different backgrounds attended these meetings and shared some of their biggest concerns and opinions regarding core issues most Mississippians grapple with daily.

“This year, I want to focus on how we can fix those problems,” he continued. “We hope to collect a lot of good information. However, we expect those who come to these meetings to tell us how they think these problems need to be solved. Let me know how you think your elected officials should be solving the issues that matter the most to you.”

Each meeting will last an  hour. The full schedule is below.

 

Monday, October 7

8:00 a.m.—Clinton, Clinton Municipal Court

Address: 305 Monroe Street

1:00 p.m.—Clarksdale, City Council Chambers

Address: 121 Sunflower Ave.

5:30 p.m.—Olive Branch, Municipal Court building (behind City Hall)

Address: 6900 Highland St.

 

Tuesday, October 8

9:00 a.m.—Oxford, Oxford Conference Center

Address: 102 Ed Perry Blvd.

1:00 p.m.—Corinth, City Hall

Address: 300 Childs Street

5:30 p.m.—Starkville, Hunter Henry Center, Mississippi State University

Address: 1 Hunter Henry Blvd.

 

Wednesday, October 9

9:00 a.m.—Vicksburg, Vicksburg Convention Center, Meeting Room 1

Address: 1600 Mulberry Street

5:30 p.m. Natchez, Natchez Convention Center, Room TBD

Address: 211 Main Street

 

Thursday, October 10

8:00 a.m.—Laurel, Train Depot

Address: 230 North Maple St.

1:00 p.m.—Pascagoula, The Grand Magnolia

Address: 3604 Magnolia Street

 

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No public money funding Bigger Pie, organization claims

August 21st, 2013 No comments

Biggie Pie Forum says accusations by an Alabama-based organization that the Kemper opponent has been funded with public money are false.

Patrick Cagle, the executive director of JobKeeper Alliance, wrote Aug. 16 in an editorial for the Clarion-Ledger that Biggie Pie’s funds came from the mothballed Institute for Technology Development, a nonprofit corporation formed in 1983 to promote economic development. Cagle claimed that more than $32 million in public money had gone to Bigger Pie via the ITD.

A Bigger Pie press release issued Tuesday denied those claims, saying money received by ITD had been generated via research contracts with federal agencies and private parties. Bigger Pie claims ITD money – which it claims is not public – has been spent appropriately, and monitored by independent auditors and accountants.

“All of (JobKeeper’s) claims are blatantly false and are reckless and irresponsible attempts to quiet opposition to the Kemper Power Plant through intimidation and by misleading the public and public officials,” Bigger pie says in its release.

ITD, the Bigger Pie release says, also generated money via the development and commercialization of technology related to microelectronics, space remote sensing and infrared sensing.

Bigger Pie was formed in 2012 as a Mississippi LLC. Its mission is to promote economic development, although its most public image has been that of the chief opponent of Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County coal plant. Bigger Pie has claimed the facility relies on unproven technology, and is an unfair economic burden on the utility’s 190,000 ratepayers.

JobKeeper is a business-labor cooperative based in Montgomery, Ala. It was formed in 2011 to, according to its website, promote new jobs and keep existing jobs.

PSC tenure done, Bentz starts new role at SMPDD

August 20th, 2013 No comments

Leonard Bentz resigned from the Mississippi Public Service Commission at 7:59 a.m. Monday.

He officially started his new job as the executive director of the South Mississippi Planning and Development District one minute later. Bentz confirmed the transition Tuesday morning.

“We had economic development meetings (Monday) and I’m on my way to Jackson now to meet with the Division of Medicaid,” he said in a phone interview. “We’ve hit the ground running.”

Bentz’ last meeting with the PSC was Aug. 13. He said afterward that he was comfortable with his decisions regarding Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County coal plant. He said then he hopes his successor will adhere to the agreement between regulators and the utility that holds the plant-related costs ratepayers will have to bear to $2.4 billion.

“I own Kemper,” he said then. “I believe it is the right thing to do.”

Bentz’ staff remains in place, he said, and will continue to operate the Southern District PSC office. The PSC will meet again Sept. 10. Ideally, a replacement will be named by then, but it’s not imperative that happen, Bentz said. Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint Bentz’ replacement. Bryant’s spokesperson Mick Bullock said in an email Tuesday morning that he wouldn’t speculate on a timetable for filling the post.

“The sooner the better, obviously, but I don’t think there will be any decisions that are pertinent at that meeting, but it would be nice,” Bentz said Tuesday. “Otherwise, it’ll be business as usual at my old office. My former chief of staff and the rest of the people there have been with the PSC a long time and are very capable of doing what needs to be done.”

College board approves agreement for MSU mixed-use development

August 19th, 2013 No comments

The College Board last week approved a land-use agreement between the developer of the Mill at MSU and Mississippi State University.

The agreement, which clears the way for the mixed-use development’s parking garage, effectively ends the transactions on the city of Starkville’s side. City officials will use an $8 million Community Development Block Grant to pay for the 450-space garage. The city and Mississippi State will split any profits the facility  produces. The 1.67 acres on which the garage will be built will be leased to the city for 10 years. At the end of the lease, the city will assume ownership of the property.

The Mill at MSU will feature conference space in MSU’s Cooley Building, office space and a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

Mill developer Mark Castleberry told Columbus newspaper the Commercial Dispatch he hopes to break ground on the project this year.  That’s the same timetable Castleberry used in an interview with the Mississippi Business Journal earlier this year.

Castleberry said the project’s construction schedule should clear up after the College  Board’s Oct. 15 meeting, when that body could approve additional land agreements.

Yokohama opens office in MSU’s Cochran Research Park

August 14th, 2013 No comments

Yokohama Tire Corp. has opened an office in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park on the campus of Mississippi State.

The tire company is building a manufacturing facility in West Point.

The office in Starkville will serve as the company’s operational headquarters while its West Point facility is under construction. It will house several divisions, including general management, human resources, information management and business and strategic planning.

“We are very pleased to welcome members of the Yokohama Tire team to the Thad Cochran Research Park and Industry Partners Building, and to develop a new pipeline of communication between us,” Marc McGee, director of the MSU Research and Technology Corporation, said in a school press release. The RTC manages the technology park.

The West Point facility is expected to have a total investment of $300 million initially and employ approximately 500 people. Additional phases are expected to create up to 2,000 jobs and represent a total investment of  $1.2 billion over the next decade. Production is scheduled to start in fall 2015.

The state provided $70 million to help Yokohama purchase the property and upgrade infrastructure.

Ole Miss at No. 44 on apparel sales list

August 12th, 2013 No comments

Collegiate Licensing Co. announced Monday its annual list of institutions whose apparel makes up the company’s top sellers.

Ole Miss, at No. 44, was the only Mississippi school in the top 75. The University of Texas – who Ole Miss plays Sept. 14 in Austin – was No. 1 for the eighth consecutive year.

CLC says the retail marketplace for college-licensed merchandise in 2012 reached $4.6 billion. Royalties generated from the sale of a school’s apparel goes back to the institutions, but not to the player who wears the jersey.

That has been an issue at Texas A&M, whose Heisman-winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel, has dealt with accusations the past few weeks that he took money in exchange for autographing memorabilia. That would violate NCAA rules. (Texas A&M, due in no small measure to Manziel’s Heisman season, jumped from No. 19 to 12th in total apparel sales on CLC’s latest list.)

“CLC is proud to work on behalf of our partner institutions to connect the more than 173 million passionate college fans to the brands they love,” Cory Moss, Senior VP and Managing Director of CLC, said in a company press release. “Licensed merchandise provides fans an outward expression of their college traditions and spirit. As we kick off another school year, we look forward to assisting our partner institutions in expanding their brand protection, management, and development initiatives to grow the collegiate licensed segment of the marketplace in conjunction with collegiate licensees and retailers.”
For the complete list, click here.

Categories: Johnny Manziel, Ole Miss Tags:

Tanglefoot Trail opening postponed

August 7th, 2013 No comments

North Mississippi’s Tanglefoot Trail has had its opening delayed.

The multi-use recreational trail was scheduled to be open to runners, walkers, bicyclists and those on horseback Aug. 17, but that has been delayed as contractors wrap up their work.

A newsletter the Pontotoc County Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Association issued Monday said the opening date has been pushed back “at least a few more weeks.”

A grand opening ceremony was set for Aug. 17 in Houston and New Albany, which represent the northern and southern ends of the 44-mile trail.

The trail is an old Gulf Mobile & Ohio railroad bed that has been paved. Whistle stops have been added in Houlka, Ecru, Algoma and Ingomar. A study conducted last year said the trail could draw 100,000 visitors annually, and have an economic impact of about $5 million in the seven towns it passes through.

Betsey Hamilton, chairperson of the GM&O Rails to Trails Recreational District, said in June that those numbers are preliminary, and are based on data from South Mississippi’s Longleaf Trace Recreational Trail. “I don’t know we’ll be that big” immediately, Hamilton said.

Tanglefoot was paid for with a $9.6 million federal transportation grant, to go with $450,000 in state and local money.

Construction started last year.

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