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Aerospace group: Sequestration could cost Mississippi 11,000 jobs

February 22nd, 2013 No comments

The list of potential damage estimates attached to sequestration continues to grow.

Friday, the Aerospace Industries Association said that if the automatic spending cuts set to trigger March 1 actually happen, it could cost Mississippi 11,000 jobs and almost $1.2 billion in gross state product.

Spending cuts have been pegged at $1.2 trillion over a decade, a lot of it coming out of the defense budget that funds aerospace initiatives like Hancock County’s Stennis Space Center.

AIA president and CEO Marion Blakey said in a press release that this weekend’s meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington serves as a good opportunity for state chief executives to illustrate the effects sequestration will have on state economies.

“With little time to act, this weekend provides states the opportunity to make their voices heard at the White House and in Congress, where leaders have yet to begin serious negotiations about avoiding an economic nightmare that will have a negative impact nationwide.”

The AIA issued a report last summer that said sequestration would result in more than 2 million overall jobs being lost in defense, construction, education, healthcare and manufacturing sectors.

The AIA’s alarmism isn’t shared by former Gov. Haley Barbour.

Barbour, who left office in 2012, told a cable news channel earlier this week that he hoped congressional Republicans would allow sequestration to go through, saying it was the only way to “start down a path of trying to get control of spending and reduce the deficit.”

The automatic spending cuts were part of the 2011 debt ceiling compromise the White House and Congress brokered. The cuts were designed to be so severe that it would force lawmakers – specifically, the GOP-controlled House – to work out a deal with President Obama and his allies in the Democratic-led Senate.

The two sides haven’t gotten far in negotiations, and others are starting to share Barbour’s belief that it’s likely the cuts will go into effect.

Fifth Circuit: Federal anti-spoofing measure preempts Mississippi law

December 28th, 2012 No comments

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in early December that a Mississippi law enacted in 2010 that prohibits “spoofing” is preempted by federal law.

In 2010, Mississippi lawmakers passed and former Gov. Haley Barbour signed the Caller ID Spoofing Act, which made it a misdemeanor to spoof – or falsify – the telephone number of a caller. Spoofing is common among telemarketers.

A federal law also enacted in 2010 made it illegal to spoof with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value.

New Jersey-based telecom TelTech Systems, which provides third-party spoofing services, sued the state, alleging that the Mississippi law did not allow non-harmful spoofing, something the federal law was designed to protect. A district court judge ruled in favor of TelTech, and the defendants – which included Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood – appealed to the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

In its ruling, a panel of three Fifth Circuit judges said that the legislative notes for the 2010 federal law revealed that “Congress intended to balance carefully the drawbacks of malicious caller ID spoofing against the benefits provided by legitimate caller ID spoofing.”

Spoofing technology has grown in popularity with the rise in smartphone use. Many apps and websites allow users to spoof their information, and even offer technology that can disguise a caller’s voice.

Instances where spoofing is considered legitimate include use by those who work from home, and want to give the impression they’re calling from an office, or professionals who regularly use their cell phones to conduct business but do not want to give out that number.

Barbour: Vetting process for Twin Creeks was sound

December 14th, 2012 1 comment

Former Gov. Haley Barbour says the vetting process for Twin Creeks revealed a company that had an advantage over its competitors because it used 4 percent as much silicon to make its solar panels.

That wasn’t enough to keep the company from going under, and owing the state just more than $27 million in aid used to build an 80,000 square-foot facility in Senatobia and to purchase equipment to put in it. China’s decision to flood the U.S. solar panel market with products even cheaper than Twin Creeks’ was what did the company in, Barbour said, echoing what Mississippi Development Authority officials have said recently.

“We thought it was a company that could compete very successfully,” Barbour said in an interview with the Mississippi Business Journal. “They had an agreement to sell quite a large number of solar panels in India. Indian officials even came to the groundbreaking. Those expected contracts fell through when the Chinese ran the price down so much. So while Twin Creeks could beat everybody’s price over here, the Chinese didn’t care what the price was. The Chinese were interested in employment. They’ll sell the solar panels for whatever they get. They don’t care about profit.”

To go with its contracts in India, Barbour said Twin Creeks had more than $100 million in private investment committed, something he called “a key indicator” as to whether the company was legitimate.

Barbour said the state has had success with start-ups before, pointing to steelmaker SeverCorr (now Severstal) in Columbus.

“We spent about $35 million on their facility in Columbus – site prep, drainage, and the like,” Barbour said. “Then we gave them a $60 million loan guarantee, which they have paid off. We’re in that deal about $35 million and they’re in it several hundred million dollars.”

Barbour did not praise or criticize current Gov. Phil Bryant’s recent assertion that the state would be more interested in investing in established companies with a track record of success, rather than start-ups like Twin Creeks.

“For us, when we looked at something that was a start-up, it always came back to how much private investors were putting in. It’s up to (the Bryant administration) to set the policies, to fine-tune them how they think is best. Nobody’s crystal ball is perfect.”

MDA CFO: Safety net working in case of Twin Creeks

November 30th, 2012 No comments

The Mississippi Development Authority’s chief financial officer said Friday afternoon that while every economic development project that receives state aid carries some risk, the system of “clawbacks” is working in the case of Twin Creeks Technologies.

Twin Creeks, the California-based solar panel manufacturer, received a $26 million loan from the state to open an 80,000 square-foot facility in Senatobia, but the company never got off the ground and was bought earlier this month by GT Advanced Technologies. GT does not plan to honor Twin Creeks’ agreement with the state.

The state loaned Twin Creeks $15 million to build the facility, and another $8 million to purchase equipment. The state now owns the building and its contents. Another $3 million in public money was used for site prep and for infrastructure upgrades.

“This shows that the clawbacks are working,” MDA CFO Kathy Ghelston told the Mississippi Business Journal in a phone interview. “We have the building, we have the equipment. We will get a settlement hopefully. I think that worst-case scenario, everything we’ve paid for, we have. Best-case scenario the state is made completely whole.”

The state sued Twin Creeks in Tate County Chancery Court in early November. Ghelston said she was optimistic the parties could reach a settlement that would allow the state to recoup its investment.

Ghelston said the first sign of trouble came Oct. 17, when Twin Creeks officials told MDA brass in a meeting that it was not going to be able to make the first loan payment to the state, which was due in December.

“At that point, we knew that the project was in real danger,” Ghelston said.

Gov. Haley Barbour convinced lawmakers late in the 2010 legislative session to pass a $50 million loan package that did not specify Twin Creeks by name, but spelled out the  investment ($132 million) and job-creation benchmarks (500 over five  years) that Twin Creeks claimed it would reach when the company announced in June 2010 that it was building a facility in Senatobia.

Ghelston said Twin Creeks had the technology to produce solar panels cheaper than their competitors in 2010. The problem, she said, arose when China flooded the U.S. market with solar panels that were cheaper.

“I don’t know if there is anything we could have done to prevent what happened from a market standpoint,” Ghelston said.

The MDA plans to market the building for a new prospect to sell or lease. Ghelston said the facility would be ideal for suppliers connected to the aerospace or automotive industry. She took exception to a Memphis-area commercial Realtor’s assertion to the Associated Press that the building is worth far less than the $15 million it cost to construct.

“I question how they would know that considering they’d never been in the building,” Ghelston said. “It’s not a warehouse. It’s a very technologically advanced building. It’s not a shell and that’s not the way it will be marketed. We believe there are real opportunities for that building.”

 

Party chairs assess the past and lay out plans for the future

July 30th, 2012 No comments

The chairs of Mississippi’s two major political parties on Monday assessed how the state’s political dynamic got to where it is, and how they intend either to keep it that way or turn the tables.

Joe Nosef and Rickey Cole spoke to a crowd of about 70 people at Monday’s meeting of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps.

“One thing we’re not going to do is sit around and pat ourselves on the back,” said Nosef, chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party. Nosef and the GOP have had a good run recently, gaining control of each chamber of the Legislature last year and welcoming more than 50 party switchers the past few years. To go with that, seven of Mississippi’s eight statewide elected officials are Republicans, and the party holds a majority on the Mississippi Transportation Commission and the Mississippi Public Service Commission.

Couple that with the party switchers – the vast majority of whom were local officials, where Democrats held sway for decades – and Mississippi has cemented itself as a Republican stronghold.

The reason for that, Nosef said, is the national Democratic party has moved so far left that its policies have left no room for conservatives. “There’s a saying that’s developed in Mississippi, and I believe it’s true and I say it with no rancor whatsoever, that here you can either be a conservative or a Democrat,” Nosef said.

Democratic chairman Cole said there were two reasons Democrats have lost power and Republicans have gained it.

“The first is, Haley Barbour came home and brought Washington politics to Mississippi,” he said. “And the second is that we were asleep at the wheel. We didn’t have the organization and we’ve been looking for that knight in shining armor to ride in and save us. We were looking for the Democrat Haley Barbour and we’ve yet to find him. Now we have the hard work of a generation – not just an election cycle – to create a viable political party.” Cole pointed to Attorney General Jim Hood, the lone statewide elected Democrat who’s serving his third term, and the defeat of the Personhood Amendment last fall as evidence that Mississippi is not an automatically red state.

A good start to ensuring that becomes the case is to enact good policy, Nosef said. “We have to govern right,” he said. He pointed to this past legislative session’s passage of the Sunshine Act and medical industry incentives as examples of that.

 

Categories: Haley Barbour, Joe Nosef, Rickey Cole Tags:

Supreme Court denies Hood’s motion to rehear pardons case

May 17th, 2012 No comments

The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied Attorney General Jim Hood’s motion asking justices to reconsider their decison to uphold the pardons of former Gov. Haley Barbour.

The Court, split 6-3, ruled in early March that it had no jurisdiction to review Barbour’s decision, because doing so would violate separation of powers.

The vote denying Hood’s motion for rehearing was 8-1. Justice Bubba Pierce, of Leakesville, was the lone vote to rehear the case. Such motions are rarely granted.

I’ve left a message with Hood’s spokesperson. It’s likely he’ll have a reaction to this at some point this afternoon. If/when he does, I’ll post it.

UPDATE: Hood has released a statement. Here it is, verbatim:

“It is a shame that former Governor Barbour abused the pardon power.  It is even more of a travesty that a majority of the present Mississippi Supreme Court chose not to enforce the clear language in our State Constitution.  The people will have to enforce the law by going through the initiative process to amend our Constitution to prevent this abuse of the pardon power and this travesty of justice from ever happening again.  I pray no person becomes a victim of any of these pardoned criminals.”

David Rae Morris falls short of fundraising goal for Yazoo documentary

May 15th, 2012 No comments

I’ve written recently about the success a few Mississippi small businesses and artists have had with online fundraising tools like Kickstarter.

Not all campaigns are as successful as those, though, and one example of that comes from a documentary David Rae Morris, Willie’s boy, wanted to do about Yazoo City. “Yazoo Revisited” would have examined via interviews with people who were there — including former Gov. Haley Barbour — the racial and social dynamics of Yazoo City during the second half of the 20th Century. School integration would have been a big part of it.

Morris reached less than half of his $15,000 goal before his deadline. That’s a shame, and I hope he gains the money he needs to tell this story, because it’s one worth telling.

For a preview of what he’s already done, click here.

Hood: Justices in the majority have to agree: Barbour pardons an abuse of power

March 9th, 2012 No comments

Attorney General Jim Hood entertained questions from reporters in his office Friday afternoon about the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the scores of pardons issued by former Gov. Haley Barbour.

He didn’t reveal much beyond what he said in a statement Thursday afternoon. He was disappointed with the ruling. He thinks it sets a dangerous constitutional precedent regarding the separation of powers among the three branches of government. And, he plans on pursuing a ballot initiative to strengthen the newspaper publication requirement related to the pardon process.

Hood did say that if various victims’ rights and law enforcement organizations would prefer a pardon review board be put in place — something several states have — instead of using the ballot initiative to simply force the state’s high court to enforce the publication clause, he would go along with that. He also said more than once that folks who think that Barbour was within his rights to issue as many pardons as he did, would be hard-pressed to deny that it wasn’t an abuse of power.

“Even the justices who voted with the majority realize that,” Hood said.

As for the initiative, Hood wasn’t sure which ballot would be the earliest the initiative could potentially be on. With roughly 120,000 signatures from the five old Congressional districts needed, it would be impossible to get the issue before lawmakers for them to put on November’s ballot before the session ends in late April. After November, Mississippi’s next statewide election will be in 2015.

There is one remedy still available to Hood. He could file a motion for re-hearing, which would entail asking the same court that ruled against him Thursday to reconsider its decision. Hood didn’t slam the door shut on that possibility; he didn’t sound very likely to actually do it, either. Such motions are almost never granted.

State Supreme Court rules Barbour’s pardons are valid

March 8th, 2012 No comments

In its list of hand downs Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld former Gov. Haley Barbour’s pardons.

The Court, split 6-3, ruled that it had no jurisdiction to review Barbour’s decision, because doing so would violate separation of powers.

“This case is about whether this Supreme Court has the right, authority, and power to declare itself superior to, and above, both the other two branches of government in all matters of constitutional compliance. While this Court clearly has the constitutional duty to interpret the content of laws passed by the Legislature and executive orders issued by the governor, we decline – as have so many other courts before us – to assume for ourselves the absolute power to police the other branches of government in fulfilling their constitutional duties to produce laws and executive orders, unless there is alleged a justiciable violation of a personal right,” Justice Jess Dickenson, writing for the majority, said in the opinion.

In all, Barbour issued 198 pardons, 26 of which applied to inmates who were incarcerated at the time. Some of those 26 received conditional clemency or were released to keep the state from having to pay their extensive medical bills. The others had already completed their sentences, and had been free in some cases for several years.

Attorney General Jim Hood argued that only two dozen or so of the pardoned had met the newspaper publication requirement, which required notice 30 days in advance that an inmate was seeking a gubernatorial pardon. He made that the centerpiece of his argument in January in front of Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green, who issued an injunction temporarily invalidating the pardons, and in early February in front of all nine of the Supreme Court justices. Green’s injunction ordered those who were incarcerated to remain in custody until appeals were exhausted.

Hood concentrated on five inmates who served as trusties at the Governor’s Mansion during Barbour’s time there, all of whom had been convicted of murder. They had already been released from confinement by the time Green issued the injunction. Each was ordered to maintain regular contact with the Mississippi Department of Corrections while the appeals played out. One, Joseph Ozment, remained missing for several days before being found in Wyoming.

MPA head: ‘Long list’ of Barbour pardons not advertised beforehand

January 12th, 2012 No comments

An email from Mississippi Press Association executive director Layne Bruce says that “a long list” of Gov. Haley Barbour’s last-minute pardons were not properly advertised in advance, as required by state law.

That’s the crux of the argument Attorney General Jim Hood made Wednesday before Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green in his attempt to gain an injunction to stop the release of some of those pardoned who were still in prison.

In the email. sent Wednesday night, Bruce told members of a MPA listserv that a search by MPA staff members to determine if each of the pardons met the 30-day notice requirement before the pardons were issued “turned up quite a long list of those that didn’t. In more than one case, the public notice for someone requesting a pardon won’t even start publishing until tomorrow (Thursday), two days after the former governor signed the pardon order.”

Green apparently had similar doubts about some of the pardons meeting the advertising requirement, because at Hood’s request she signed an order Wednesday evening halting the release of the still-incarcerated pardons.

What this means in the long run, it’s hard to tell. That the MPA, whose member newspapers in a lot of cases would serve as the advertising medium, has already determined many of Barbour’s pardons were not properly noticed certainly does not bode well for the validity of what the former governor did.

Complicating things is Butler Snow’s announcement Wednesday afternoon that Barbour had joined the firm.

Why would that be troublesome? Butler Snow serves as MPA’s general counsel.