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Farm Bureau delivers eminent domain signatures

September 29th, 2010 No comments

Looks like the question of whether to use eminent domain for private economic development projects will be on the 2011 ballot. Here’s a release Farm Bureau sent out earlier today:

JACKSON – The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation today delivered more than 118,000 certified signatures to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann so that the issue of eminent domain reform can be placed on the November 2011 ballot for the people of Mississippi to vote on.

After several failed attempts to get an eminent domain reform bill passed in the legislature, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) decided to go the initiative route and gathered the necessary signatures to allow the people of Mississippi to speak on the issue of private property rights.

“For three years, Farm Bureau urged legislators to protect homeowners and landowners from confiscation of their private property by eminent domain, but to no avail,” said MFBF President David Waide.  “The 2009 Legislature passed H.B. 803, which prohibited the taking of private property under the guise of economic development for private development or business. Both House and Senate passed the bill, but Governor Barbour vetoed it.”

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London that a Connecticut city could take away people’s homes and turn the property over to a private party to develop the property for its own profit. The Court justified this result because the increased tax revenue on the developed property would benefit the public and the use of the property was, therefore, a public use.

Farm Bureau and many others disagree with this decision.

Since 2005, forty-four states have strengthened their private property rights laws to keep property from being taken by eminent domain and used for economic development.  This initiative will give the people of Mississippi the right to vote to ensure that eminent domain will be used only in the traditional ways for public use such as roads, schools, and utilities.

Two businessmen among Medal of Service recipients

September 27th, 2010 No comments

Gov. Haley Barbour announced this morning that he will present seven Mississippians with the Medal of Service tomorrow during a ceremony.

Among the recipients are former Lt. Gov. Brad Dye, former Ambassador John Palmer, former state Archives and History director Elbert Hilliard, former Meridian mayor Al Rosenbaum, the Rev. John Perkins of Jackson, and businessmen Harry Martin of Tupelo and Victor Mavar of Biloxi.

Martin owns and operates a real estate firm and is former president of Tupelo’s Community Development Foundation, where he served for 44 years.

Mavar is director emeritus of Hancock Bank and Holding Co., and has been involved in the radio business and the shrimping industry.

Barbour will present the medals at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Jackson at the Woolfolk Building’s conference center east.

Categories: Haley Barbour, News Tags:

Pledge is the new Contract

September 23rd, 2010 1 comment

Magnolia Marketplace was in the 9th grade in the fall of 1994, so we had no idea then what the Contract with America meant. The only contract we worried about was negotiating a deal with  the parents that would produce a vehicle that was all ours.

Sixteen years later, Republicans are dusting off the broad outline of its Contract with America and rebranding it as the Pledge to America. Different name (barely). Same principles (in fact, nearly identical).

Both plans were unveiled while there was a Democratic president in the White House who wasn’t very popular with anybody at the time, and when the economy wasn’t exactly blazing. Both seek to capitalize on voter fears and frustrations — whether they’re real or perceived — and stake Republicans to power in the halls of Congress. Both hit on general themes of fewer taxes and less government.

The Contract worked in 1994, launching the national political career of then-Rep. Roger Wicker and making current Gov. Haley Barbour, who was RNC head at the time, one of the most powerful and important members the GOP had seen since Ronald Reagan. He’s still considered such, probably more so than ever.

Predicting voter behavior isn’t easy, so who knows if the Pledge will prove as effective as the Contract. But you can be guaranteed that even though political winds will shift, they’ll eventually all blow in the same direction.

Barbour: tea party, GOP stand for same things

September 21st, 2010 2 comments

During one of his recent State of the State addresses, Gov. Haley Barbour made it a point to say he wrote the speech himself.

Barbour (presumably) broke out the pen again for a column in today’s Wall Street Journal, in which he says most of the Tea Party’s principles mirror those of the Republican Party. He makes that point in saying that the GOP establishment should support tea party candidates who are victorious in Republican primaries. That’s been an issue, especially in Delaware. It’s a pretty interesting read. Find it here.

Categories: Elections, Haley Barbour, News, Politics Tags:

Pop the corks: The recession’s over

September 20th, 2010 2 comments

The same group that declared that the Great Recession started in December 2007 is now saying it ended last summer.

The National Bureau of Economic Research announced this morning that the recession officially ended in June 2009, 18 months after it started.

In a conference call on Sunday, the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the NBER determined that business activity in the U.S. hit a low point that month, and that an expansion began immediately afterward.

In a press release, the NBER said it noted that the average of Gross Domestic Product and Gross Domestic Income in the second quarter of 2010 was 3.1 percent above the low it reached in the second quarter of 2009. GDP and GDI are the two broadest measures of economic activity.

So even though the credit markets are still shaky, most businesses still aren’t hiring, and unemployment levels remain in double digits, the recession’s over. Celebrate by reading the full text of the NBER’s findings here.

Gene Taylor is not in this to make friends

September 17th, 2010 5 comments

Gene Taylor has had an eventful week.

Last weekend, the Democrat who has represented the 4th District for two decades was quoted in the Sun Herald in Biloxi railing against the insurance industry’s recruitment of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose his multi-peril insurance legislation, an issue he has been pushing since shortly after Hurricane Katrina. His efforts to push the bill, which would allow the federal government to offer wind and water coverage to homeowners in hurricane-rich areas like his district, through Congress have stalled. A big reason for that is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the insurance industry’s adamant stance against it, and the subsequent unleashing of their armies of lobbyists to kill it.

“It will, unfortunately, probably take a major East Coast hurricane, with some other people suffering as we suffered, for us to pass insurance reform,” Taylor told the Sun Herald in its Sept. 11 edition.

A favored tactic of the business lobby when it runs into opposition is to label its opponents “anti-business.” Most politicians, from both parties, are terrified of that label. Some Republicans would rather kiss Nancy Pelosi than be slapped with it.

That label won’t stick to Taylor, though.

Because five days after his insurance rant, he became the first Democrat to join the GOP’s effort to repeal the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called healthcare reform. It was a major victory for Democrats this summer when it passed, and its repeal has become the centerpiece of many a campaign this fall. Business groups and trade associations hate it, and want it gone yesterday. So does Taylor.

“I didn’t vote for it, people don’t want it, and the taxpayers cannot afford it,” Taylor said in a statement issued on his website.

In less than a week Taylor has called out one of the biggest, most powerful and richest segments of the business lobby over one of his pet projects, and likely enraged his party leadership over one of theirs.

Say this for him: He believes what he believes. That’s pretty rare in a politician these days.

Chinese Co. solidifies stake in Amory steel mill

September 15th, 2010 No comments

What was already official became officially official yesterday in China.

Anshang, a partially state-owned Chinese steel company, finalized an agreement with Steel Development Corp. to purchase a 14 percent stake in SDC’s facility in Amory that will manufacture rebar.

Magnolia Marketplace wrote a story two months ago about some of the angst this was causing members of the Congressional Steel Caucus. They were concerned this move was part of a Chinese plan to manipulate the U.S. steel industry from within, and wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asking him to investigate the matter. The only thing new out of yesterday’s announcement is the 14 percent number. Originally, an SDC spokesman confirmed to the Mississippi Business Journal that Anshang would purchase a  “less than 20 percent stake” in the mill.

Neither Cong. Travis Childers, D-Booneville, who represents Amory as part of the 1st District, nor his general election opponent, Tupelo Republican Alan Nunnelee, had much of a problem with the Chinese investment when we spoke to them in early July. Neither did State Rep. Jimmy Puckett, D-Amory. They all said the area could use the 175 jobs SDC planned to provide once the facility is open. Childers expressed the most concern of the three, saying at one point in his interview with us that he didn’t want to “sell us out to Red China.” Nunnelee was probably the least bothered, countering that the Steel Caucus, whose members are mostly from the Rust Belt, might be a little jealous. “Sounds to me like it’s people trying to meddle in Mississippi’s business,” he said in early July.

At that time, there was no target date for the mill’s opening. That’s still the case.

To go with its 14 percent stake, Anshang will provide some of the technology the mill uses to make rebar, and it will also have a seat on SDC’s board.

Eminent domain sure to be hot campaign topic

September 14th, 2010 25 comments

Mississippi Farm Bureau President David Waide has told a couple Mississippi media outlets the past few days that supporters of an eminent domain initiative are getting really close to gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the 2011 ballot.

With Waide telling a newspaper in Tupelo that enough signatures have been gleaned from three of the four required Congressional districts, it would be a surprise at this point if organizers did not meet the Oct. 6 deadline to submit their documents to the secretary of state’s office.

The notion that government can use eminent domain to benefit a private enterprise is one of the most contentious political issues Magnolia Marketplace has covered. It is a near certainty that it will be a major talking point for statewide candidates next year.

The most interesting dynamic will likely play out on the Republican side of the field. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who will run for governor in 2011, did not strongly commit one way or another on the issue during the 2009 session, when the Senate narrowly upheld Gov. Barbour’s veto of a bill that would have restricted the use of eminent domain to projects of public interest, like roads and utilities. It would have been really interesting if the sustain/override vote in the Senate would have required Bryant to break a tie. He’s probably glad it didn’t.

Barbour spent many hours and a lot of energy lobbying lawmakers after he vetoed the legislation, which originally passed both chambers easily. It didn’t garner a single nay in the Senate, clearing that body 52-0. The crux of Barbour’s argument was that things like Toyota and Nissan would not be here if the state were not allowed to use eminent domain during the development of each.

Waide told the Mississippi Business Journal earlier in the summer that he expected enough signatures to arrive some time in September, and that timeline looks like it will be met. Voters will most likely decide the issue next fall. This is one of those issues where candidates will have to go all in or all out. There is no comfortable middle ground. The landowners’ rights lobby and economic development groups both have deep pockets and big voting blocs. Alienating either is never a good campaign strategy, so candidates have a tough decision to make.

New round of spill finger-pointing begins

September 8th, 2010 10 comments

British Petroleum released yesterday a report related to the oil spill. It follows BP’s internal investigation into the how and why behind the disaster.

BP took some of the blame, but not all of it. Transocean, which owned the rig that exploded and sank, is furious because BP said it was partly responsible for the mess. Several other companies, including Halliburton, aren’t very happy either, for similar reasons. You can read the report here, but you better block off the rest of the day, because it’s almost 200 pages long.

The litigation related to the spill  is just getting started, and will most likely last well into the next decade. So it’s not surprising that the companies who had a part in the construction and operation of the Deepwater Horizon rig and the Macondo Well are pointing fingers. It’s financial preservation.

Categories: Gulf Coast oil spill, News Tags:

Mississippi GOP endorses Barnes

September 7th, 2010 No comments

The Mississippi Republican Party announced this morning that it will endorse state Court of Appeals Judge Donna Barnes in this fall’s election for the right to represent North Mississippi on the appellate court.

There’s nothing unexpected about the endorsement. Barnes, of Tupelo, was appointed to the Court six years ago by Gov. Haley Barbour. She ran unopposed in 2006.

Barnes has an opponent this time around. Kelly Mims, also of Tupelo, is a veteran of Opertion Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to his campaign website. (View Barnes’ campaign website here.)

Magnolia Marketplace made it a point Saturday in the Grove to gauge the presence of both candidates. Barnes had a large banner hanging from one tent. We didn’t see anything with Mims’ name on it. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything. We just didn’t see it. And what we saw on the turf at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, we’d just as soon forget.