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16th Section revenue tops $89 million

June 24th, 2013 No comments

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Monday that revenue from 16th Section land leases reached $89.2 million for fiscal year 2012, which ended last July.

The money goes to school districts.

“This $89-Million will help alleviate some of the financial headaches faced by our school districts today,” Hosemann said in a press release. “In times of serious cutbacks and strict budgets, we were able to increase revenue generated on these public lands to benefit education.”

Hosemann said annual revenue from the leases has increased $34 million since he took office in 2008.

Hosemann’s office executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mississippi Forestry Commission to develop forest management plans for 16th Section land with timber on it. Plans are designed to maximize revenue generated by selling timber. Oil royalty payments have also increased.

All 16th Section leases are posted on the secretary of state’s website at www.sos.ms.gov.

“I made a promise I would protect our public lands for schoolchildren.  Time and time again, we have seen attempts to raid 16th Section land funds for short term gains,” Hosemann said. “This increase in funding shows sound management practices are producing cash results.”

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Hosemann seeks input to reform state’s business laws

May 21st, 2013 No comments

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann wants your input on how to reform Mississippi’s business laws.

The past few years, Hosemann has assembled study groups populated by representatives from almost every industry that does business in Mississippi to kick around ideas. Work done by the groups has led to the passage of legislation like the SMART Business Act, which passed last session and offers a 25 percent rebate for Mississippi companies that contract with state colleges and universities for research.

Past sessions have also included reform to Mississippi’s statutes regarding LLCs, securities, copper theft and corporate trademarks. In all, more than 90 percent of the legislation Hosemann backed has passed.

Hosemann has already put together his business study groups that will work in advance of the 2014 session that starts in January. The groups started meeting this month.

Hosemann’s office has also set up a page on his official website to gather ideas. The digital surveys are designed to complement the work done by the business study groups. The page does not restrict the number or scope of ideas users can submit.

To fill out the form and offer feedback, click here.

Latest deadline has mixed results for business legislation

March 14th, 2013 No comments

Wednesday’s deadline for floor action on bills that originated in the opposite chamber brought mixed results for legislation aimed at the state’s business community.

Of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s legislative agenda, only a bill that would provide a 25 percent rebate to businesses that contract with one of the state’s colleges or universities for qualified research remains alive. The Strengthening Mississippi Academic Research Through (SMART) Business Act would cap rebates at $1 million per business and $5 million per fiscal year. It died in the 2012 session. It has been sent to conference.

Other bills Hosemann supported – tax credits for businesses relocating their headquarters to Mississippi, expanding existing headquarters  and an employee pass-through tax credit – all died for the second consecutive session.

Already signed by Gov. Phil Bryant into law is legislation that that will provide $8 million in additional money to the Workforce Enhancement Training Fund. The WET fund is used by community colleges to provide training for jobs and skills that employers have identified as being in demand.

The money will be generated by a one-year decrease in the unemployment tax businesses pay and a corresponding increase in the WET fund tax. The net effect on employers who pay each tax will be neutral. Also contributing to the additional job training money is $14 million in fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits the Mississippi Department of Employment Security has gotten back.

Bryant signed the bill Wednesday. The measure was supported by the Mississippi chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Legislation directed at the Mississippi Development Authority had mixed results. A bill requiring the agency to issue an annual report of the tax breaks and other incentives it provides to businesses died. Executive director Brent Christensen has said that’s something the agency plans to do anyway, starting with the one issued late last year. Also dead is a bill that would have authorized the MDA to periodically hire consultants to assess the incentives it issues.

Still alive is a measure that would divert money from an MDA fund established to lure Toyota to a workforce training grant fund.

The next hurdle still-active bills face is a conference report deadline on April 4.

SMART Business Act moves forward before Thursday deadline

February 12th, 2013 No comments

The Strengthening Mississippi Academic Research Through (SMART) Business Act has passed the Senate ahead of the next major legislative deadline.

The bill would offer a 25 percent rebate to businesses that contract with Mississippi universities for qualified research. It’s one piece of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s legislative agenda.

The rebates for one business are capped at $1 million, and are capped overall at $5 million per year.

Hosemann said the legislation would fill some of the gap left by disappearing federal research funds, and help to strengthen the partnership between the business community and Mississippi colleges and universities.

The Senate Finance Committee did insert a reverse repealer into the bill, which is a mechanism used to keep alive the legislation before a deadline, like this Thursday’s deadline for floor action on original legislation. It’s also a way to ensure the legislation ends up in a conference committee.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, was the lone “no” vote. The bill is Senate Bill 2537.

Hosemann tells Starkville group research incentive bill still in works

October 2nd, 2012 No comments

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has pushed the past two legislative sessions a bill that would provide a 10 percent tax credit to businesses that contract with Mississippi universities for technology-based research.

The bills have died in committee either in the House or the Senate.

Speaking in Starkville last week, Hosemann made it clear that he plans to try again when the 2013 session starts in January. Hosemann said that the study groups he assembles every year to study the state’s business laws and make recommendations to improve them are still working on the issue. Hosemann said he’s gotten support for the issue from officials at IHL, Ole Miss and the University of Southern Mississippi. A Starkville Daily News story on Hosemann’s entire speech can be read here.

Federal funds to pay for the kind of technology-based research Hosemann is talking about have all but disappeared over the past five years.

Hosemann’s research incentive bill wasn’t the only tax credit legislation that died at the Capitol last session. Hosemann also introduced a bill that would have offered tax credits to businesses that move their headquarters to Mississippi. Another would have allowed employers to pass through a job-creation tax credit to employees.

Tax credit legislation overall didn’t fare well last session. There were exceptions, the inventory tax phase-out being the most notable.

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Need a voter ID? Hosemann wants to hear from you

June 18th, 2012 8 comments

One of the arguments opponents of voter ID have used is that identification can be hard for some folks to obtain.

The bill passed this past legislative session – in response to last fall’s ballot initiative – contains provisions for a free ID for those who need one to satisfy the law’s requirements. (The Associated Press reported in May that the free ID provision has not yet been fully funded.) Of course, the statute won’t take effect until it gets preclearance from the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges in D.C.  A lot of Democrats and Republicans think that’s a long shot.

In case it does happen, though, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is trying to streamline the process of obtaining a free ID.

Hosemann said Monday his office is trying to find “as many people as possible” who need a voter ID, so their information can already be in the system if/when the law is approved.

“If an individual does not have an acceptable form of identification, we encourage them to contact our office,” Hosemann said in a press release Monday.

There are a few ways to do that. You can call 1-800-868-3745, email MSVoterID@sos.ms.gov, or visit www.msvoterid.ms.gov.

Acceptable forms of ID are:

A current and valid Mississippi driver’s license

A current and valid ID card issued by a branch, department, agency or entity of the state

A current and valid U.S. passport

A current and valid employee ID card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by any branch, department, agency or entity of the federal government, the state, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of the state

A current and valid Mississippi firearms license to carry a pistol or revolver

A U.S. military ID

A valid tribal photo ID

A student photo ID issued by a Mississippi university, college or community college

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Hosemann: Deadline for Morgan Keegan claims approaching

June 7th, 2012 1 comment

Eligible investors have until June 16 to file their claim for a portion of the Morgan Keegan settlement.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said at a news conference Thursday morning that only about 800 of 2,400 Mississippians due settlement funds have submitted a claim. The $200 million settlement was reached after regulators accused Morgan Keegan of misleading its investors about the dangers of certain proprietary bond funds.

In Mississippi, Hosemann said, more than $70 million in losses were incurred. “And there’s still a lot of money out there because not all Mississippians who need to have filed their claims,” he said. Hosemann said his office has sent letters and placed phone calls to investors, but his staff hasn’t been able to reach some of them. If you held one or more of Morgan Keegan’s bond funds between early 2007 and early 2008, you’re most likely eligible for a check, Hosemann said.

The June 16 deadline applies only to the $100 million of the settlement that states will distribute. The Securities and Exchange Commission will distribute the second half of the $200 million. It’s important that claimants participate in the state portion of the distribution for a couple reasons, Hosemann said. The first is that the SEC will have vital contact information when it comes time for that agency to start mailing checks.

The second, and most important, is that this $200 million will be distributed no matter how many eligible investors participate. There will be no surplus. It’s possible an investor could receive more money back than he or she lost because enough folks didn’t file a claim.

“Don’t let someone else get your money,” Hosemann said. “Get your name in the hat.”

To do that, contact Hosemann’s office at (601) 359-6742. Or, investors can call A.B. Data, the company handling the claims process, at (800) -208-9083.

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Hosemann responds to DOJ employee who called Miss. “disgusting and shameful”

May 8th, 2012 3 comments

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann would like the Department of Justice employee who called Mississippi’s pursuit of a voter ID statute “disgusting and shameful” removed from any involvement in the state’s application to implement the new law.

Stefanie Gyamfi, who works in DOJ’s Voting Rights Division, made the comments on Facebook. Hosemann said at a press conference Tuesday morning that he became aware of them last week.

“I’m tired of people who don’t live in Mississippi stereotyping us,” Hosemann said.

Federal law requires a state seeking approval from DOJ on matters like the implementation of a voter ID law be treated with impartiality, something Hosemann said he’s afraid “isn’t happening here.”

Mississippi’s voter ID law must meet Section 5 of 1965’s Voting Rights Act. That section requires preclearance of any new voting law in states of covered jurisdiction. DOJ has recently rejected voter ID applications from South Carolina and Texas. Hosemann said Mississippi crafted its bill with that in mind. For example, he said, Texas and South Carolina’s law did not provide free IDs to anybody who needed one. Mississippi’s does.

Mississippi’s application process has already started. Attorney General Jim Hood submitted the preliminary paperwork in January, and DOJ responded in March. The next big step will come after Gov. Phil Bryant signs the bill enacting voter ID, which was passed this session in response to last fall’s ballot initiative. The bill will be made a part of the state’s application.

If Hosemann is convinced strongly enough that Mississippi won’t get a fair shake from DOJ, litigating the state’s application in front of a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia is an option. Hosemann said he’s already considering doing that.

With rare exceptions, session that just wrapped unkind to tax credits

May 4th, 2012 No comments

Each session, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann submits a bundle of legislative proposals that seek to reform one way or another the state’s business laws.

The session that ended Thursday was no exception. Hosemann had some success — bills that would do everything from change the valuation process for public improvement districts to creating a single entity to govern registered agents were signed by Gov. Phil Bryant – but what didn’t pass is probably more notable.

Every single piece of legislation Hosemann proposed that offered a tax credit that was not already on the books failed. Perished bills would have offered tax credits to businesses either relocating their headquarters here or expanding existing headquarters; they would have offered a 7 percent credit to businesses that enter into a written research agreement with a Mississippi university; and they would have offered businesses the option of passing through a job-creation tax credit rarely used by start-ups to employees.

Each died in the Senate, which is important to note. All session, it was known around the Capitol that any kind of tax credits would have a hard time in the upper chamber. One very large exception to that was the passage of the inventory tax rebate system, which will phase out the unpopular tax over the next five years. Groups like the Mississippi Manufacturers Association had pushed for the phase-out for what seemed like forever.

Moving forward, tax credits might meet equal resistance in the House, based on what Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, told the Stennis Capitol Press Corps April 23.

Frierson said lawmakers will have to make themselves “reign in” their instinct to pass every business-related tax credit in future sessions.  The state’s budget, which still hasn’t fully recovered from the worst of times in 2008 and 2009 and will have enormous holes to fill with the loss of various sources of federal money, demands that happen, he added.

“There’s going to be a great debate over this,” Frierson said. He was quick to point out that no reasonable person could oppose a tax credit if it was proven on the front end that it would eventually create the kind of economic development that could replace the lost revenue.

The vetting process for those kinds of things, though, will only get more rigorous.

Highway funds bill dies while tax credit measures live on, for now

April 11th, 2012 No comments

Catching up on a few things …

House Bill 791, which would have for all intents and purposes precluded state Highway 9 north of Blue Springs from ever having extensive improvements made to it, did not survive the deadline for committees to report bills that originated in the opposite chamber. Its life officially ended April 3.

Gary Chandler, head of Corinth’s Alliance, who opposed the bill along with officials from Tishomingo and Prentiss counties, said he hopes the issue is dead for the session.

“You never say never,” he said in an interview Friday. “We are monitoring the situation. This was awfully damaging to our efforts to make 9 north a supplier route for Toyota.” There remains the possibility that the bill could be revived as an amendment to another bill that deals with the same section of law.

Also dying was one of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s business law proposals that would have allowed for a “pass-through” from employers to employees of a tax credit normally reserved for creating new jobs. Sharing that fate was another of Hosemann’s proposals to offer a 7 percent tax credit to companies who enter into a technology-based agreement with any of Mississippi’s research universities.

Two of Hosemann’s proposals remain alive, each of them a tax credit of some kind. One is a 50 percent tax credit for companies who relocate their headquarters here; another is a 50 percent tax credit for companies already headquartered here that choose to expand. Each sits in the Senate Finance Committee and faces an April 17 deadline to pass the Senate. Otherwise, they’ll die, too.