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Burton hopes for quick, efficient redistricting

October 4th, 2010 No comments

Third District Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Pearl, took the podium for two minutes or so this morning at the monthly lunch meeting of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps in Jackson.

He wasted no time in chiding his colleagues for leaving Washington and hitting the campaign trail without passing a budget.

“You have to wonder about the leadership abilities in place right now,” Harper said, noting that this is the first time since 1974 the House has not passed a budget before the start of the fiscal year. Harper also all but guaranteed that Republicans will reach a majority in the House with this year’s elections.

When Harper finished, State Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, chairman of the joint committee that will grapple with reapportionment and redistricting next year, spent about 15 minutes providing an update on where that stands.

Burton and other officials just wrapped up a series of 12 meetings across the state to gather public input on the redistricting process. They’ll take that and some Census estimates and begin the process of drawing Mississippi’s state and congressional districts.

Burton is optimistic that the process can and will be done on time, and will avoid some of the legal and political wrangling past efforts have encountered.

“We believe we need to get this done so we can avoid the conflict of running (in consecutive years),” Burton said. “Some of us have been through that and it’s not a very pleasant thing to go throught.” Burton was referring to the redistricting in 1991 and 1992, when the districts had to be redrawn in both of those years, forcing lawmakers to run for office twice.

Burton made it a point to say that he and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, enjoyed a good relationship and shared a desire to get the redistricting done as quickly as possible.

Considering all the requirements each of the districts has to meet, and all the special interest groups who are sure to take an interest in and try to influence the process, that may be wishful thinking.

Categories: Elections, Gregg Harper, News, Politics Tags:

Bryant, Dennis agree: No eminent domain for private use

September 30th, 2010 12 comments

If Dave Dennis and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant are going to butt heads over an issue in their bids to be the Republican nominee for governor in 2011, they’ll have to find something other than the use of eminent domain for private development.

Both are adamantly against it.

“I have long tried to find common ground between Farm Bureau and the Governor on this issue,” Bryant said in a press release. “There must be a balance between growing jobs in our state while not trampling the rights of our citizens. I am for property rights and congratulate Farm Bureau on what appears to be a successful petition drive.”

Bryant was referring to Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation handing over to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann Thursday morning 119,000 signatures of registered voters who oppose the use of eminent domain for private development. Mick Bullock, spokesman for Bryant, said the lieutenant governor was one of the folks who signed Farm Bureau’s petition.

Most likely, the issue will appear on the 2011 ballot. Bryant also alluded to Gov. Haley Barbour’s vehement opposition to the restriction. During the 2009 legislative session, Barbour vetoed a bill that would have eliminated the government’s power to employ eminent domain for projects that did not serve a direct public use, like roads or bridges. His veto was narrowly sustained in the Senate, after being overwhelmingly overridden in the House.

Barbour argued then that stripping government of the power to use eminent domain for private economic development would be deal-killers for major projects like Toyota and Nissan.

Dennis, a Gulfport businessman, disagrees.

“Plainly and simply, if a development is that good and that attractive and that resourceful, then there should be appropriate dollars associated (with it),” he said. “If somebody thinks there’s that good a return coming in, they should be willing to pay market or even premium-of-market value. If for some reason people still would not sell, then you work around them.”

Dennis told Magnolia Marketplace that he has had two pieces of property over the years seized by eminent domain, both times to clear the way for road-widening projects.

“That eminent domain I’m very comfortable with,” he said. “Eminent domain should not be used to take private property for private development. If you’ve got a piece of property that has stayed in your family, it’s hard for me to swallow somebody coming in and taking it.”

Waide: No decision about running for election

September 30th, 2010 1 comment

Magnolia Marketplace just returned from Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office, where the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation delivered 119,251 signatures of registered voters who oppose using eminent domain for private economic development projects.

The issue will very likely be on the ballot in 2011.

Lots of media were there for the ceremony, including our favorite reporter ever, Bert Case of Jackson television station WLBT.

Case asked Hosemann if he would run for re-election next year, or seek a higher office. The rumor mill has been churning for some time now over that very question.

“Are you addressing that to David?” Hosemann retorted, with a hearty laugh. “I think we’ll stay on eminent domain today.”

Afterward, Magnolia Marketplace asked Waide if he had made a decision about next year’s elections. He too has been the subject of a lot of speculation. He will step down from Farm Bureau Dec. 6.

“I’m President of Mississippi Farm Bureau,” Waide said. “I asked the people in ’96 to elect me, and I promised them I’d serve my term. I’m stepping down Dec. 6, but I actually  have not made a decision. I don’t anticipate announcing prior to my leaving office.”

So has Waide not made a decision about whether to run, or has he not made a decision about which office he’s going to seek?

“I have not made a decision about whether I’m running or not,” he said.

So there you go.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

Rumors swirling about biofuel location(s) (Updated)

August 25th, 2010 1 comment

We know for sure that the economic development project lawmakers will most likely approve $50 million in incentives for Friday will have multiple locations.

True to the form he has established in his six and a half years in the Governor’s Mansion, Gov. Haley Barbour is not telling anybody for sure where those locations will be until he’s absolutely ready to do so.

Some checking with folks this morning has yielded two possibilities: D’Iberville and Greenville. One person Magnolia Marketplace spoke to a few minutes ago seems to think D’Iberville is not one of the locations, even though that city is included in the special session call in a separate item from the biofuel project. City leaders in D’Iberville are asking the Legislator for permission to acquire property for commercial development, but no details are given about what manner of development that is.

The fact that it’s separate from the item dealing with the biofuel project, said our source, is significant. “If D’Iberville were one of the places that’s going to get this thing, it would have been included in the nebolous general call,” they said, referring to the location detail-free description of the incentive package lawmakers will consider.

Conversations with folks about Greenville as a possibility reinforce that notion, considering Greenville has more land to offer as one of the locations and sits adjacent to the Mississippi River. Whether the proximity to the River is enough to overcome D’Iberville’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico is anybody’s guess.

Or maybe Greenville and D’Iberville will both be shut out of the biofuel sweepstakes. We’ll just have to wait and see.

UPDATED: Apparently heeding our cry (but probably not), Barbour just announced via press release that he will discuss the project with the media Thursday at 2 p.m. We’ll know everything we need and want to know then.