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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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Charter schools, Medicaid expansion hot topics at Jackson stop of Gunn’s Ideas Tour

October 8th, 2012 No comments

Among the most popular suggestions at the Jackson stop of House Speaker Phillip Gunn’s Mississippi Solutions – An Ideas Tour were the need for the state to expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, and the lack of need for charter schools.

More than 100 people and a handful of legislators joined Gunn at the Capitol to kick off his 9-city, week-long trek across the state to gather ideas and input from citizens about how to move the state forward and improve quality of life.

“We’re trying to bring the Legislature to them,” Gunn, R-Clinton, said.

Out of 16 people who offered their thoughts, three asked Gunn and the lawmakers to expand the state’s Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act. In its June decision upholding the ACA, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states had the option of expanding their Medicaid programs, but would not incur penalties for not doing so.

Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves have said since that expanding Mississippi’s program would be cost-prohibitive because it would add nearly 400,000 people to the rolls. Gunn has promised to examine the issue once the session starts. He reiterated that stance after Monday’s event.

Ed Sivak, director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, was among the pro-Medicaid expansion crowd, saying refusing to do so could erect barriers to quality healthcare, and increase uncompensated care costs for hospitals. “Some of those hospitals could be forced to close,” Sivak said.

George Schimmel, who sits on the Jackson Public Schools board of trustees but said he was speaking as a citizen, said legislators should be careful when considering charter school legislation to ensure that traditional public schools are not unnecessarily harmed.

“Weakening traditional public schools weakens communities,” he said.

Bryant has said charter school legislation would be near the top of his list of priorities when the 2013 session starts in January. A charter school bill died last session when a group of DeSoto County Republicans coalesced to kill it in committee.

A state’s power to govern itself was the focus of Laura VanOverschelde’s idea. “We’re experiencing a loss in state sovereignty,” said VanOverschelde, the vice president of the Mississippi Tea Party and the organization’s issues chairman. “We’re seeing a federal government that wants to take over the lives of people.” VanOverschelde urged lawmakers to consider legislation that would assert Mississippi’s sovereignty.

Other ideas included state assistance for nonprofits providing financial education to the poor, clarifying statutes governing state control of 16th section land, an increase in the tax on wine, a smoke-free workplace bill, increasing the state retirement age, small business tax reform, and cheaper access to prescription drugs taken to treat multiple sclerosis.

Gunn’s tour was headed to Greenwood and Hernando later Monday. It wraps up Friday in Brookhaven with stops in Tupelo, Columbus, Meridian, Hattiesburg and Biloxi in-between. The full schedule can be viewed here.

Categories: Phil Bryant, Phillip Gunn, Tate Reeves Tags:

Gunn announces ‘Mississippi Ideas Tour’

September 18th, 2012 No comments

Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn, R-Clinton, will kick off Oct. 8 what he’s calling a “Mississippi Ideas Tour.”

According to a press release, Gunn will hold town hall-style meetings around the state to gather from media, citizens and lawmakers “the best ideas to move Mississippi forward.” The tour will start in Jackson on Oct. 8, and end Oct. 11 in Biloxi. Each stop will last about 75 minutes, Gunn’s office said.

The legislative session that starts in January will be Gunn’s second as speaker. This week, Gunn is presiding over his first meeting as chairman of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, as state agencies make their budget requests for fiscal year 2013.

The full schedule of Gunn’s tour is below.

Oct. 8

9:00 a.m.—Jackson, Capitol, Rm. 113*

1:00 p.m.—Greenwood, downtown, city council room

4:30 p.m.—Hernando, city courtroom

Oct. 9

9:00 a.m.—Tupelo, Tupelo City Hall, city council chambers, second floor

1:30 p.m.—Columbus, city hall

5:00 p.m.—Meridian, city hall, third floor

Oct. 11

9:00 a.m.—Hattiesburg, cultural center on Main Street

1:30 p.m.—Biloxi, city hall

*subject to change based on renovation schedule*

 

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Gunn says he’s pleased with first two months of session

March 19th, 2012 No comments

Speaker Phillip Gunn said Monday afternoon that he was generally pleased with the bills the House sent to the Senate before last week’s deadline to do so.

Gunn was the speaker at the lunch meeting of the Stennis Capital Press Corps.

Gunn referred just more than 1,500 bills to House committees. Of those, 268 survived the committee deadline; about 150 survived the deadline for floor action and were sent to the Senate.

“We were able to get out of the House every bill that we wanted to,” Gunn said.

Not without controversy, though. Two days before last Thursday’s floor deadline, House Democrats began to request that a handful of bills be read aloud in the chamber before they were voted on. That caused a few late nights and early mornings before the disagreement among Democrats and Republicans was ironed out. Gunn did not provide details of what brought about the consternation, nor what was done to solve it.

Democrats were especially upset over bills involving illegal immigration reform, restrictions on abortion and the establishment of voter ID, to go with legislation curtailing Attorney General Jim Hood’s power to lead litigation on behalf of the state.

“Disagreement isn’t the problem,” said Gunn, in his first extended meeting with the media since he took over as Speaker in early January. “Not being able to reconcile those disagreements is a problem. We’re going to continue to have disagreements and spats, but as long as we can act like adults we’ll be fine.”

Gunn didn’t sound all that surprised at the sound and fury over the Republicans’ favored bills.

“There are a lot of policy issues Republicans have fought for that they couldn’t get to the floor (when Democrats controlled the House),” he said. Of the GOP takeover of the House, Gunn said, “I think it sends a signal that people want to see change.”

With the first few deadlines relating to general bills gone, leadership in both parties will soon turn their attention to the budget-writing process, something that hasn’t gone smoothly the past few sessions. The bill-reading maneuver Democrats employed is likely to be used again when it comes time to actually pass budget bills. With revenue bills requiring a three-fifths vote in each chamber to pass, there’ll have to be some serious deal-making going on.

Bryant starts his new job reinforcing familiar themes

January 10th, 2012 No comments

Other than anecdotes about his family, there wasn’t much new in Gov. Phil Bryant’s inaugural address.

Like he has for most of the past four years, Bryant used his platform to talk economic issues: job-creation, education, the high cost of teenage pregnancy and his political pet project, performance-based budgeting.

The energy and healthcare industries, Bryant said, are two areas ripe for growth over the next decade-plus. The extraction and processing of natural gas, biofuels and clean coal can – and according to Bryant, will – help the state in its revolution from low-wage industrial haven to modern manufacturing empire.

Offering incentives for the healthcare industry, and bringing 1,000 new physicians to Mississippi by 2025, can turn the state’s metro areas and their medical corridors into burgeoning centers of medical power, Bryant said.

Having a stable of workers to fill those jobs will require a shift in thinking when it comes to public education, he said. Solutions don’t begin and end with funding, but will take redesigning curriculums to better serve students not on a college track, but headed for vocational employment, and a clearer path for charter schools to establish.

“When a Mississippian has a job, it changes absolutely everything,” Bryant said.

Bryant saved his strongest words for the state’s high teenage pregnancy rate, which has become as much of a Mississippi hallmark as the state’s musical and literary heritage.

“It must come to an end,” he said, adding that churches and other religious organizations have to partner with public institutions in reaching that end. “We can no longer turn our heads and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.”

Bryant compared the cultural change that would have to happen to do that to the one that has managed to eradicate smoking in nearly every public building and gathering spot in Mississippi, including the Capitol. He noted that a lot of folks 40 years ago would have filled the place with cigarette and cigar smoke during his address.

Obviously, Bryant’s plans will be met with a great deal of resistance in the Capitol, some from within his own party, but mostly from Democrats, who just watched their long-held power and influence all but evaporate.

Bryant’s Smart Budget Act, which bases agency funding on results achieved, is wildly popular with fiscal conservatives, but not with many agency heads, who cite the difficulty in tracking those results, not to mention the ease with which those results can be manipulated.

With a Republican-led Legislature, though, its passage is likely, if not guaranteed. The same goes for Bryant’s education reforms, though it’s worth noting the funding fight is likely to be as spirited as it’s ever been.

The wild card in that notion will be just how badly new legislative leadership – Speaker Phillip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves – want to return Mississippi’s government to one in which lawmakers hold the majority of power.

Either way, the game is afoot.

Metro Jackson well-repped in key political positions

January 1st, 2012 No comments

The governor’s office and both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature will have entirely new leadership when the 2012 session starts at noon Jan. 3.

And each of the new faces has roots in the Jackson Metro area.

Gov.-elect Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov.-elect Tate Reeves are from Rankin County. Rep. Phillip Gunn, a Republican whose district includes portions of Clinton and Madison County, is all but guaranteed to be the next House Speaker.

The three men whose approval each piece of legislation must receive before it becomes law are intimately familiar with the city of Jackson and its needs and problems. Will that give Jackson a built-in advantage in getting its legislative wish list passed?

“I would hope it would help,” said Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, who has been the tip of the spear for many a legislative fight on behalf of Jackson. “But of course, (former speaker) Billy McCoy has been a big supporter of Jackson.”

Indeed, McCoy told the Mississippi Business Journal during an interview last session that one of his favorite ways to unwind after a day at the Capitol was to drive by the Farish Street project and check on its progress. David Watkins, who is developing the historic Farish Street district, said in a separate interview last April that he and McCoy would often run into each other in the construction zone.

“He’s really interested in what we’re doing here,” Watkins said of McCoy. “He realizes what Farish Street could do for Jackson.”

Brown was part of a meeting right before Christmas with Jackson officials in which the city’s legislative priorities were discussed. And while specifics weren’t laid out, Brown said the city’s agenda would be similar to those from previous sessions.

“They have to decide what they want to do,” he said. “Obviously, they’d like some help with some of the infrastructure projects that we have. We don’t know exactly what they’ll ask for, but roads are always a problem. There’s just not enough money for them.”

Brown said he expects to receive Jackson’s legislative bundle by mid-January, in time to file the bills before the session’s first deadline on Feb. 20.

It’s likely the agenda will include a mechanism to enact a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes law, in which Jackson would receive a lump sum from the state to offset the revenue the city loses from state buildings being exempt from property taxes.  The bill would likely be dead on arrival, though, Brown said.

“I’d like to see it. I think we need to do it with our property tax situation. With the budget like it is, I think anything that adds cost to the state general fund is going to be a non-starter.”

With revenue bills required to originate in the House, such legislation would have to earn Gunn’s approval before hitting the floor. Gunn did not return messages by the time the MBJ went to press last Tuesday.

Jackson scored a couple major victories during the 2011 session. A bond package totaling $38 million for a civil rights museum and a Mississippi history museum passed. The two museums should be open in time for the state’s bicentennial in 2017. They will sit adjacent to each other in downtown Jackson.

The bill setting up the fund for the museums enjoyed support from Gov. Haley Barbour, and several key committee chairmen whose districts are outside Jackson. It would have been difficult to form that coalition in the past, Brown said.

“I don’t’ sense as much anti-Jackson (sentiment) as maybe there was 20 years ago. A lot of cities in the state need help. There has been some concern in other parts of the state that if we help Jackson, what will happen for Hattiesburg, Meridian, the Gulf Coast. Everybody needs help.

“I do see some concern about just the whole financial situation,” Brown continued. “We don’t have enough money to do the things we need to do. There’s just not enough to go around.”