Health

Hyde-Smith shows support for chronic wasting disease research

In a bipartisan move by the U.S. Senate, the legislation would allow state and tribal governments to address and prevent CWD outbreaks. 
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith has backed a bill that would increase research and management of CWD in the state of Mississippi. This disease has been show to negatively affect recreational hunting, outdoor tourism, local business, farms and ecosystems in the state.
CWD is a neurological disorder, similar to “mad cow disease,” which is contagious within each species and always fatal.  As of 2021, CWD has been discovered among deer, elk, and moose (cervids) in 26 states, including Mississippi.
She joins U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) in proposing the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act (S.4111).

The bill allows for a five year CWD research program to be conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The work will be carried out with state and tribal agencies as well as the Ag department.
The bill would also allow for those agencies to develop education materials to inform the public on CWD.
“The spread of chronic wasting disease, which has a presence in Mississippi, is a major cause for concern.  We must dedicate more resources to understanding all we can about the cause, spread, management and control of this always-fatal disease,” Hyde-Smith said.  “I am pleased to support Senator Hoeven’s legislation to give the USDA more resources to focus on this problem.”

“CWD is a growing threat to both wildlife and livestock, impacting sportsmen, ranchers and the local ecology of regions across the U.S.,” said Hoeven.  “Our legislation would empower state and tribal governments to better manage and prevent outbreaks of this deadly disease, while also advancing new methods for detecting CWD and limiting its spread.”
There are roughly 1.75 million whitetail deer in Mississippi. Deer hunting encompasses the state’s largest outdoor/hunting industry and helps fund the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
S.4111 would authorize funds for the following priorities:
Research

Methods to effectively detect CWD in live cervids and the environment.
Testing methods for non-live cervids.
Genetic resistance to CWD.
Sustainable cervid harvest management practices to reduce CWD occurrence.
Factors contributing to local emergence of CWD.

Management

Areas with the highest incidence of CWD.
Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying, and researching chronic CWD.
Efforts to develop comprehensive CWD management policies and programs.
Areas showing the greatest risk of an initial occurrence of CWD.
Areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD.

In addition to Hyde-Smith, additional original cosponsors include Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). […]

Health

WICKER: Ukraine will need U.S. help for the long haul

Submitted by Senator Roger Wicker
“We need to give Ukraine the tools they need to defeat Russia even if it takes months or years,” Wicker writes.
Vladimir Putin thought he could seize the capital of Ukraine in three days. Yet after two months of bloody fighting, Ukrainian troops have staved off defeat. Russia has lost over 15,000 troops and is now regrouping for a major offensive in eastern Ukraine. In their wake, they have left a devastating trail of murder, torture, and shattered lives. Evidence of war crimes against civilians has shocked the world, and cities like Mariupol, once vibrant, are now leveled, with men, women, and children buried under rubble. Putin’s atrocities are among the worst since World War II.
Ukrainian troops have fought heroically. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, they have destroyed roughly 1,000 Russian tanks, 4,000 ground vehicles, and more than 300 manned aircraft according to Ukrainian reports. Russia has lost potentially a quarter of its initial invasion force, its elite paratroopers have been mostly wiped out, and the pride of its navy fleet, the Moskva, is no more, having been sunk by Ukrainian missiles. In addition, Putin has lost nine generals and has placed his war effort under new command. Yet the Russians still hold the advantage in numbers and artillery, making the outcome of this war uncertain.
In his recent Easter address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showed the strength of heart that has sustained his people throughout the war. He vowed that no “wickedness” would ever destroy Ukraine and offered a prayer for endurance: “Let us not lose our longing for freedom. Let us not lose our zeal for a righteous fight.” Such resolve has rallied the entire free world to Ukraine’s cause.

U.S. Prepares More Aid for Ukraine
With the war entering a second phase, members of Congress are preparing a new military aid package for Ukraine. Congress had already approved $6.5 billion in defense aid in March, which will soon run out. President Biden is now seeking a $33 billion aid package. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am working to ensure this bill provides much-needed helicopters and drones, as well as the anti-tank and anti-air missiles that have been so decisive in repelling the Russians.
Despite these funding efforts, it is still taking too long to get weapons into Ukrainian hands. As I had requested, President Biden recently appointed Terry Wolff, a retired general, to coordinate the delivery of aid, which should help speed up the process. Even so, the Administration has resisted Ukraine’s request for certain assets like MiG fighter jets. President Zelenskyy recently met with Biden officials and renewed his request for these jets, as well as tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, and missiles.

Putin Must Lose This War
President Reagan once called the Soviet Union “the focus of evil in the modern world.” After two months of unprovoked brutality, it is obvious that the Kremlin remains one of the chief forces for evil in our world. For all his recent failures, President Biden did the right thing in calling Putin’s war what it is: an attempt at “genocide” and an effort to “wipe out the idea of being Ukrainian.” Yet with this moral clarity comes a solemn obligation to help the Ukrainian people achieve victory.
Russia is now preparing more bloodshed and a long-term occupation in eastern Ukraine. We need to give Ukraine the tools they need to defeat Russia even if it takes months or years. Like West Germany during the Cold War, Ukraine has become the front line in the contest between freedom and despotism. They will need our help for the long haul.
###
Submitted by Senator Roger Wicker […]

Health

Secretary of State Watson takes issue with Governor Reeves’ veto of campaign finance enforcement change

SB 2306 had unanimous support in both the Mississippi House and Senate. 
On April 21, 2022, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves vetoed Senate Bill 2306, which sought to transfer the authority of the Mississippi Ethics Commission to assess a civil penalty against any candidate or political committee for failure to file a report to the Secretary of State.
Authored by State Senator Jeff Tate, Senate Bill 2306 would have also deleted the provisions that provide for a hearing for a candidate or political committee before the State Board of Election Commissioners. The bill allowed for an appeal procedure for those candidates who are assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary of State.
In the past, the authority to assess campaign finance civil penalties has rested with the Secretary of State’s Office. In 2017, the Mississippi Legislature transferred the penalty assessment authority to the Ethics Commission.

Secretary of State Michael Watson said that while this was done with the best intentions, the transfer of authority has created more problems than solutions.
Beginning in 2017, the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office has documented hundreds of candidates and elected officials who failed to comply with campaign finance laws, resulting in more than $100,000 of unpaid fees.
“Given the lack of compliance from candidates, coupled with the disjointed nature of the entire assessment and collection process, we, and others, specifically the Ethics Commission, believed Senate Bill 2306 would serve as a remedy. The legislation would have shifted the penalty assessment authority back to our office,” Secretary Watson said. 

Watson said that if Governor Reeves had consulted with the Ethics Commission or his office before vetoing this legislation, he would have understood the need for revisions.
“I believe we should return the penalty assessment power back to an elected official accountable to the public on Election Day, not an administrative body. I commend Senator Jeff Tate, the Ethics Commission, and leadership in both chambers for working diligently on this legislation and hope it will be revisited in the next session,” Watson stated.
You can read the full text of S.B. 2306 below.
Senate Bill 2036 by yallpolitics on Scribd […]

Health

Governor signs bill requiring Dept. of Human Services investigators to report fraud to State Auditor

SB 2338 was signed by Governor Reeves last week.
Last week, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves approved Senate Bill 2338. It requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) Fraud Investigation Unit to report to the State Auditor any suspected civil or criminal violations relating to program fraud, embezzlement, or related crimes.
State Auditor Shad White announced the signing of this bill a day after Nancy and Zach New plead guilty to charges of wire fraud, fraud against the government, and charges of bribery of a public official in Mississippi’s welfare fraud case, the state’s largest ever public embezzlement case.
The legislation states:
In order to carry out the responsibilities of the Fraud Investigation Unit, the investigators may request and receive assistance from all state and local agencies, boards, commissions, and bureaus, including, without limitation, the Department of Revenue, the Department of Public Safety, and all public and private agencies maintaining data banks, criminal or other records that would enable the investigators to make verification of fraud or abuse in violation state or federal statutes.

All records and information shall be confidential and shall be available only to the Fraud Investigation Unit, district or county attorneys, the State Auditor, the Attorney General, and courts having jurisdiction in criminal proceedings. 
Auditor White said the Legislature and Governor Reeves knew this bill was a “common-sense idea.”
“I want to thank Gov. Reeves and legislative leadership, along with Senator Brice Wiggins and Representative Angela Cockerham, who handled the bill. Their hard work ensures that the State Auditor’s office can continue to stop misuse of taxpayers’ money, as we did in the case of the News,” White said.

State Senator Brice Wiggins was one of the lawmakers who played a key role in getting the legislation passed.
“Fighting corruption has always been the name of the game for me. Authoring this bill was appreciated,” Senator Wiggins said.

Fighting corruption has always been the name of the game for me. Authoring this bill was appreciated. TY @tatereeves for signing. https://t.co/kxso8e0YuQ
— Brice Wiggins for Congress (@bricewigginsMS) April 28, 2022

The legislation will take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2022.
You can view the full text of S.B. 2338 below.
Senate Bill 2338 by yallpolitics on Scribd […]

Health

Atmos Energy, Habitat for Humanity host Zero Net Energy home groundbreaking ceremony

The Brown family will purchase the home with a 30-year, zero-interest mortgage. 
On Thursday, Atmos Energy and Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area (HFHMCA) held a groundbreaking ceremony for a Zero Net Energy (ZNE) home. This is the first ZNE home to be built in Mississippi.
“We believe in making a difference in our communities, and we are proud to partner with Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area to build an energy efficient home with affordable utility bills,” said John Duease, Atmos Energy vice president of marketing. “Affordable energy is critical to affordable housing, and this project demonstrates our commitment to fueling safe and thriving communities across Mississippi.”
A ZNE home demonstrates significantly reduced green house gas emissions by producing as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. The home will feature:

Rooftop solar panels
A Home Energy Report Score (HERS) Rating = 0
High-efficiency Energy Star natural gas appliances
Top-rated insulation and windows
Other advanced weatherization features

“The future homeowner, Shacora Brown, dreamed of owning a home for years,” said Merrill McKewen, Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area executive director. “She and her 5-year-old child currently live in an apartment with plumbing issues which have led to leaks and mildew. The current situation has become unbearable and this ZNE home is an answered prayer – it will be safe, decent, and affordable with a 30-year, zero-interest mortgage.”
At the groundbreaking for a Zero Net Energy home, Bobby Morgan with Atmos Energy talked with Y’all Politics about the project.
Morgan talked about how this project will befit the homeowner, the community, and ultimately the environment.

“This is a corporate-wide initiative. We operate in 8 states, 8 jurisdictions, and we’ve committed to having a ZNE home in each state that we operate in,” Morgan said. “This is the first very one, we hope this is the first of more to come in months, years, and decades ahead.”

Central District Public Service Commissioner @brentgbailey speaks at the groundbreaking of the Zero Net Energy home funded by @atmosenergy and built by Habitat. State Treasurer @DavidMcRaeMS was also in attendance. pic.twitter.com/4XmDF5btHX
— Yall Politics (@MSyallpolitics) April 28, 2022

State Treasurer David McRae participated in the groundbreaking. He commended the partnership that made the project possible.
“It is an honor to welcome Shacora and her daughter to the undeniable joy of home ownership,” said Mississippi State Treasurer David McRae. “There is a certain pride, a certain sense of freedom and security, that comes with a home you know to be all your own. What’s more, because of the incredible partnership between Habitat for Humanity and Atmos Energy, this is a Zero Net Energy home, forever reducing the Brown family’s energy bill.”
Central District Public Service Commissioner Brent Bailey also spoke at the ceremony. Bailey said he is excited from the aspect of the technologies incorporated in this project and what that means to better energy security.
“Not only will this Zero Net Energy home provide a safe, healthy place for the Brown family, it also demonstrates the wide array of energy efficiency and distributed generation technologies available to home builders and home buyers today,” Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brent Bailey said.  “It’s great to see Habitat for Humanity and Atmos Energy using their partnership to help pave the way to developing more Zero Net Energy homes as a solution to reducing the energy cost burden that faces many low-income households in the south-central region of the U.S.” […]

Health

CORDER: Governor’s vetoes should remind lawmakers of why Municipal Option Sales Tax is a smart idea

Instead of allowing local citizens to decide the fate of local projects, lawmakers are content to put all state taxpayers on the hook via earmarks.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced today that he was issuing line-item vetoes in a budget bill related to earmarks for, among other things, municipal buildings and special local projects that should be in the wheelhouse of local governments.
“Some of these line-item vetoes stem from my opinion that the state should not be the one responsible for funding city and county office buildings,” Governor Reeves said. “They are responsible for caring for their own offices and there’s no reason to selectively fund certain municipalities.”
Governor Reeves went further, stating that “it’s important to be responsible with the money because it doesn’t belong to politicians – it is yours.”

One of those line-items that was vetoed would have sent the City of Pascagoula, my hometown and the city where I once served as an elected Councilman and worked in the city administration, $1 million for city office renovations. As an active and engaged supporter of my city, it may surprise some to know that I agree with the Governor’s stance on this.
There is no doubt that the City of Pascagoula and other municipalities like it could use these funds to make capital improvements in their office buildings or to enhance areas under the purview of their city or town, but the wisdom in asking the state taxpayers to fund such undertakings is rightly questioned and vetoed by Governor Reeves.
In fact, such requests should not have been entertained by lawmakers in the first place and would not have been had other options been established for these cities to pursue outside of their normal property tax collections and state sales tax diversions.

Herein lies a much larger issue that must be addressed – the Legislature’s unwillingness to allow its political subdivisions (cities and towns) to more broadly govern themselves, giving the power to local residents to decide whether a specified local project rises to the level of having the people in that community vote to tax themselves for a certain period of time to fund said project.
Instead, lawmakers are content to have the entire taxpayer base of the state of Mississippi be on the hook for such special local projects through earmarks like the ones Governor Reeves vetoed today.
Mississippi cities and towns have been asking for authority from the Legislature to allow a municipal or local option sales tax for decades through a program that does not require special, politically sensitive legislation, but lawmakers have thus far squashed these efforts year after year.
Municipal or local option sales taxes are a means by which voters determine how their tax dollars should be used by their local government, whether it be for infrastructure improvements like roads, water and sewer, or bridges, or for higher profile investments such as a new city hall or a sports complex. Local mayors and city councilmen would have to make their case to the people and the people would determine whether or not they wanted their dollars spent for a certain project.
Nearly 40 states allow for local governments to request approval from voters to fund capital improvement projects through a temporary sales tax increase following ratification at the ballot box. The Mississippi Municipal League has advocated for these project specific sales tax increases that roll off the books once the work is completed for over 30 years and have not been able to get the Legislature to allow it uniformly in the Magnolia State.
Currently, if a city or town wants a local option for their voters to consider, that city or town has to first request an exception from the Legislature to allow that question to be placed before local voters and to what level, typically an increase in the sales tax of 1% to 3%. There has long been an unwritten rule among lawmakers that a municipality could have multiple local option increases considered but the combined amount should not exceed 5%.

Yet, the politics on those votes in the Legislature becomes trickier every session. Typically, the chairmen of the Local and Private Committees will not pass these bills out to the floor unless all members of a local delegation agree. Add in the fact that some Republicans view it as passing on a tax increase, which it is not, and some Democrats are wrongfully waiting to use it against their Republican colleagues as campaign fodder in the next election cycle, and the dynamics are skewed in favor of the Legislature retaining the power over giving the people a voice and input they rightly deserve.
Make no mistake – a lawmaker voting to give the people the right to vote to raise their own taxes or to vote against doing so is perhaps the most conservative thing that could be done as it rightly gives the power to the people – the voters – at the closest level of government.
Governor Reeves’ vetoes today should remind lawmakers why having a workable, common-sense municipal or local option sales tax program is a smart idea, politically and practically speaking, that is long past overdue in Mississippi.
After all, as Reeves said, it is the taxpayers’ money. Why the Legislature will not loosen their grip on this practice while pushing through pork projects in earmarks should concern us all. […]

Health

Reeves makes line-item vetoes to final bill of the 2022 Legislative Session

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File – Copyright 2020. The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
The Governor says the vetoed spending is not the responsibility of state taxpayers.
Governor Tate Reeves has chosen to partially veto the final bill of the 2022 Legislative session. HB 1353, a budget bill, made several different appropriations to special projects. Reeves indicated he did not agree with all of the expenditures which resulted in the partial veto.
“Government should be in the business of attempting to steward taxpayer money responsibly to projects of great importance,” said Reeves regarding the vetoes.
Line-Item Vetoes:

$1 million to build a parking lot at the Jackson Convention Center.
$1 million to the Scenic River Development for their golf course.
$250,000 to Briarwood Pool.
$2 million for the City of Jackson Planetarium.
$500,000 to the City of Greenville for green space next to the Federal Courthouse.
$13.25 million for, among other things, a golf park and trail at LeFleur’s Bluff.
$1 million to the City of Pascagoula to assist with renovations of city offices.
$50,000 to Arise and Shine, Inc. in Copiah County.
$200,000 to Summit Community Development Foundation for costs associated with the Stand Pipe project.
$7.5 million in earmarks that would be distributed to private companies through the Mississippi Development Authority without the normal financial/economic impact analysis.

In a Facebook post, Governor Reeves explained his veto decisions.

“We vetoed $14 million in golf course spending. I’ve been trying for a long time to get the state out of the golf course business. One of these projects was for a golf course that we already gave to another entity. The other was to revive a closed golf course in Jackson that is surrounded by three other publicly accessible golf courses within five miles. It’s just not a good investment when we have so many other critical needs,” said Reeves.
He said the $2 million set to go the planetarium falls in line with the Jackson City Council’s similar decision not to invest more money there.
“Jackson needs investment in safety. We need more police, not planetarium spending that has already proven to be wasteful. When we get that fully funded, we can consider luxury items,” said Reeves.

He went on to add that some spending in the bill is simply not the responsibility of the state taxpayers. This included line items dedicated to a privately-owned pool, green space around a federal courthouse, city office upgrades, and a parking lot for a convention center.
“I want to make sure you know why we make these decisions! It always makes people, even my friends, angry when we can’t spend on everything they want. But it’s important to be responsible with the money because it doesn’t belong to politicians—it is yours,” said Reeves. […]

Health

President Biden appears set to cancel significant amount of federal student loan debt

Mississippi Governor Reeves calls it “fundamentally unfair and unwise.”
During the 2020 election, President Joe Biden (D) repeatedly said he was open to forgiving $10,000 per borrower in federal student loan debt.
With his polling in the dumps and the midterms approaching, reports this week now indicate that Biden may be willing to exceed that number, giving hope to Democrats who support the full forgiveness of the debts in their entirety.
The news prompted Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves to opine on the prospective federal debt cancellation by the President, writing on his Facebook page that the move would be “fundamentally unfair and unwise.” Reeves said those Mississippians without college degrees or who have paid their own way should not be forced to pay the debts for others.

“Mississippians without college degrees (or who paid off their debt) should not be forced to pay for the student loans of others,” Reeves wrote, going on to ask, “Why should people who chose not to go to college or chose to settle their own loans be punished for the benefit of those who made different decisions?”
Governor Reeves then noted the predatory nature of the student loan industry while firmly opposed to the idea of federal cancellation.
“The student loan machine is predatory. It should be held accountable,” Reeves opined. “But this is a fundamentally unfair and unwise way for the Biden administration to do it.”

The Biden Administration has continued the pause on student loan repayments began at the beginning of the pandemic, extending the latest restart date in May to September 2022.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said President Biden will decide on canceling student debt before the current extension of the pause expires or he may extend it further. […]