Former Grenada County Deputy Clerk pleads guilty to grand larceny

A demand letter of $16,894.49 was served to Vicky Blaylock.
State Auditor Shad White announced former Grenada County Deputy Chancery Clerk Vicky Blaylock has pleaded guilty to grand larceny.
Blaylock stole over $34,000 from the county land redemption account by removing cash payments and altering computer records to conceal her crime.

Auditor White said this is another example of one person holding too much control over the spending of a government office.

“If you work in a county or city government, please make sure you divide duties to make it harder for someone to get away with a crime like this,” White said. “And if you’re stealing, know that we are watching.”
As part of the court proceedings, Blaylock paid $26,148.15 as restitution for her crime.
“The plea was recorded in Judge Loper’s courtroom, and his sentencing order has been filed with the Grenada County Circuit Clerk’s Office,” the State Auditor’s office said in a release. “Blaylock’s employment for Grenada County is covered by a surety bond, which is designed to protect taxpayers when public money is misspent.”

“She will remain liable for the outstanding demand amount,” the State Auditor’s office continued. […]


Homestead Furniture creating 117 jobs in New Albany, Mississippi

The company is investing over $2 million in their expanded operations.
Motion upholstered furniture manufacturer Homestead Furniture is locating manufacturing operations in New Albany, the Mississippi Development Authority announced on Wednesday.
The project is a $2.016 million investment and will create 117 jobs.
“These 117 new jobs are a great addition to New Albany and Union County. They will help to expand the North Mississippi economy and drive further growth. Mississippi’s economy is thriving and now is the ideal time to invest in and grow a business in our great state,” said Governor Tate Reeves.

Anticipating an increase in demand, Homestead Furniture aims to build a stronger market for motion upholstered furniture with its new Northeast Mississippi operations.
“We couldn’t be happier to be located in Union County. The support we’ve received from the state of Mississippi, Three Rivers Planning and Development District and Union County has been tremendous. We, along with our retail partners, think the time is right for a change in our industry,” said Harry Lipscomb, CEO of Homestead Furniture.
The Mississippi Development Authority is providing assistance for building improvements and Accelerate Mississippi will provide long-term training support.

“MDA is proud to support the Homestead Furniture team as they bring 117 new jobs to Northeast Mississippi,” said MDA Deputy Executive Director Laura Hipp. “Our quality-trained workforce and supportive business climate that Homestead discovered in Mississippi are key ingredients needed to succeed in today’s global marketplace.”
The city of New Albany and Union County will provide qualifying property tax exemptions.
Homestead Furniture plans to fill the 117 new jobs in New Albany by the end of 2023. […]


Mississippi tax collections for November outpace estimates but fall short of prior year

The state collected $13 million less than the same month last year, yet still remains $347.4 million above fiscal year-to-date estimates.
While Mississippi state revenue collections outpaced legislative estimates for the month of November in the current Fiscal Year 2023, there are signs that the economy is cooling.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee reported on Wednesday that the total revenue collections for the month of November FY 2023 are $23,580,341 or 4.76% above the sine die revenue estimate.
Fiscal year-to-date revenue collections through November 2022 are $347,353,944 or 12.91% above the sine die revenue estimate.

Fiscal year-to-date total revenue collection through November 2022 is $277,948,770 or 10.07% above the prior year’s collections.
The FY 2023 Sine Die Revenue Estimate is $6,987,400,000.

However, the November FY 2023 General Fund collections were $13,081,704 or 2.46% below November FY 2022 actual collections.

In addition, individual income tax collections for the month of November were below the prior year by $14.9 million, and corporate income tax collections for the month of November were below the prior year by $9.7 million.
Even still, sales tax collections for the month of November outpaced the prior year by $7.3 million.
The U.S. economy continues to be plagued by a nearly 40-year high inflationary period driving up the cost of goods and services and making personal incomes not stretch as far as purchasing power is restricted and rates are increased by the Federal Reserve in an attempt to stave off a deepening recession.
Over the past 10 years, Mississippi has seen an unprecedented increase in its state revenues, largely fueled by sales and individual income tax collections.

Lawmakers met earlier this week to adopt the FY 2024 state revenue estimate of $7.5 billion, outlining plans for state support funding that included maintaining the 2% set-aside in the General Fund, strengthening the state’s financial reserves, and building a budget using only recurring funds while increasing state support for many budget lines.
READ MORE: Joint Legislative Budget Committee sets FY 2024 revenue estimate at $7.5 billion, outlines state funding
Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn hope to find support in the 2023 legislative session to fully eliminate the personal income tax in Mississippi after having to compromise on a reduction in the income tax last session as opposition in the State Senate advised caution. […]


Hyde-Smith sets sights on addressing veterinary shortages with new Farm Bill

Senator Hyde-Smith says the nation’s food security and economic security are put at risk without sufficient veterinary oversight. 
Mississippi U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith used the Senate Agriculture Committee meeting this week as an opportunity to start the conversation around the growing shortage of large animal veterinarians in rural areas. Her push was to find solutions to end the issue and comes in preparation of the 2023 Farm Bill.
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The hearing, “Farm Bill 2023:  Research Programs,” highlighted the need for a new Farm Bill that includes better incentives to recruit more veterinarians to work in underserved areas.
The overall hearing addressed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research, extension, and education programs, and included testimony from Alcorn State University President Dr. Felecia M. Nave.

“I want to talk about rural veterinary medicine.  In Mississippi we have a tremendous shortage, and across the country, that threatens the long-term viability of our livestock industries.  We have counties in Mississippi that don’t even have a large animal veterinarian, and that’s really what we’re hearing across the entire country,” Hyde-Smith told Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics.
Hyde-Smith added that the nation’s food security and economic security are put at risk without sufficient veterinary oversight.
The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has administered a Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program which Hyde-Smith said is diminished by the federal taxes on awards intended to help recruit veterinarians to serve in rural communities. She added that without this tax the issue of the shortages could be better addressed by relieving some of the financial pressures on rural practices.

“There are still critical veterinary shortages across rural America.  One reason for this is that these awards from NIFA are subject to a federal withholding tax, meaning that 37 percent of the dollars appropriated to this program go right back to the Treasury, instead of toward the educational debt of rural veterinarians,” said Hyde-Smith, a cosponsor of the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (S.2215).
Jacobs-Young, who mentioned recent visits to Mississippi State University and Alcorn State University, concurred with Hyde-Smith on the need for more large animal veterinarians and agreed to work with the Senator on the issue.  The Under Secretary noted that incentives should also be used to diversify the pool of students in large animal medicine, many of whom are also needed to work in USDA agencies.
“So, the incentives are great.  Programs like the NIFA-led program are great,” Jacobs-Young said.  “We’ve also recognized an imperative to diversify our veterinary programs.  I toured and talked with some of the students at President Nave’s university at Alcorn.  The students are interested in animal science and veterinary science.  How do we encourage them and bridge a way for them to go into vet programs?” […]


SALTER: Missouri’s new attorney general learned courtroom ropes from a Mississippi grandfather

Studio portrait of Sid Salter.
(photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)
Submission by Sid Salter
Somewhere from a place high on God’s mountain, lifetime Neshoba County resident Hugh “Boots” Harpole is smiling and bragging about his grandson Andrew Bailey, the newly-minted attorney general of the State of Missouri.
“Boots,” whose love and mastery of horses (especially the trotters and pacers like those involved in the harness racing enjoyed annually at the Neshoba County Fair) provided his nickname, was the longtime district attorney’s investigator for Mississippi’s Eighth Circuit Court Judicial District of Leake, Neshoba, Newton and Scott counties in east central Mississippi.
Harpole and his wife, Frankie, made a good life in Philadelphia. They raised two beautiful and talented daughters – Lorraine and Jessica. Now long retired, Mrs. Harpole is a beloved former elementary school educator and artist. “Boots” died in 2013 at age 88.

I always respected “Boots” and appreciated his kindness to me when I covered my first criminal trials for The Neshoba Democrat some 40 years ago. As fate would have it, that first trial was a murder case in which a husband was accused of the crime-of-passion slaying of his wife.
Recognizing a rookie newspaper reporter in unfamiliar surroundings, Mr. Harpole told me: “This in some ways is like church. Stand up and sit down when everyone else does, stay awake, and pay attention.”
It was good advice. Until Mr. Harpole retired from the state trial court’s judicial system, he was in the courtroom for almost every criminal case I covered in Neshoba and Scott counties. He served the taxpayers well.

One of “Boots” and Frankie Harpole’s grandsons is now the beneficiary of his grandfather’s influence from those long days back in the Neshoba County Courthouse. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Nov. 23 appointed Andrew Bailey as the new Attorney General of the State of Missouri.
Bailey, 41, is the son of Jessica Harpole Bailey and her husband, Ty, of Gluckstadt. “Andrew’s love of the law started when he was a child through my father,” Jessica Bailey told The Neshoba Democrat last week. “He (“Boots”) would take Andrew and his brother Simon to the courthouse while he was an investigator for the District Attorney in Neshoba County, and that’s where Andrew learned to love the legal system.”
The resume for Bailey is solid. He is a decorated military veteran (including two Bronze Stars and a Combat Action Badge during Operation Iraqi Freedom), a former county prosecutor, a former General Counsel for the Missouri Dept. of Corrections, and before his AG appointment was serving as Gov. Parson’s General Counsel.
Bailey and his wife, also named Jessica, have four children between the ages of six months and 10, including three foster children. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri and the University of Missouri School of Law.
Notably, the last two individuals who served Missouri as attorney general have found themselves representing that state in the U.S. Senate. Bailey is succeeding Republican U.S. Sen.-elect Eric Schmitt, who likewise succeeded Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley. Parson’s appointment of Bailey invited some media speculations in Missouri about his future.
Missouri media, connecting the dots with Schmitt and Hawley, wondered aloud whether Bailey would follow a similar path to higher office. But in the Bailey introduction press conference, he made clear that he would be seeking election as attorney general.

In making the appointment, Gov. Parson said Bailey “is the right candidate to lead Missourians as our next Attorney General” and that his designee “understands the need to do better, to be better, and with Andrew, better will not only be possible but achieved.”
Missouri State Senate Pro Tempore Caleb Rowden was circumspect in his assessment of Bailey, telling the Kansas City Star: “I think it’s a bit unfair to Andrew to compare him to anyone, you know. I hope he takes office and makes it what it’s supposed to be, which is, you know, really looking out for the people of the state as the chief law enforcement officer.”
Something along the mold of the way Bailey’s grandfather “Boots” Harpole did it back in Mississippi trial courts. […]


Thompson first says January 6th Committee will make criminal referrals but then walks it back

The Mississippi 2nd District Congressman Chairs Speaker Pelosi’s select House committee on the matter.
Mississippi’s 2nd District Congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning that the U.S. House committee appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot would be making criminal referrals as their work winds down and this Congress comes to a close.  Thompson chairs the House committee.
CBS News first reported Thompson’s comments.
“Yes,” Thompson told reporters when questioned on the criminal referrals, later adding, “We have made decisions on criminal referrals.”

Congressman Thompson did not reveal the list of names the House committee was considering for such criminal referrals, including whether or not it would include former President Donald Trump, but Thompson did note that those would be separate from the committee’s final report that is to be sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
However, just hours later, Thompson and the committee’s spokesperson walked those fairly definitive statements back, instead categorizing the situation as the committee having reached a “general agreement” to forward some criminal referrals to the DOJ.
“We’re not there yet,” Thompson said, as reported by The Hill, adding that the earlier “gaggle [with reporters] was wrong.”

“The Committee has determined that referrals to outside entities should be considered as a final part of its work. The committee will make decisions about specifics in the days ahead,” a committee spokesperson said in a statement.
The House committee is expected to meet Tuesday afternoon. Thompson told reporters that he believes the criminal referrals will be part of their deliberations.
The Pelosi appointed January 6th Committee has been rushing to finalize their work ahead of the end of the year as Republicans will be in the majority in the House when the next Congress is seated in January 2023, effectively ending the special committee enacted by the outgoing Democrat Speaker of the House. […]


Joint Legislative Budget Committee sets FY 2024 revenue estimate at $7.5 billion, outlines state funding

The 2024 Revenue Estimate is $536.4 million, or 7.7% higher than the 2023 Sine Die Estimate. 
Last month, the Mississippi Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) put forth the Fiscal Year 2024 revenue estimate of $7,523,800,000, significantly higher than the FY 2023 Sine Die Revenue Estimate.
The 2024 Revenue Estimate is $536.4 million, or 7.7% higher than the 2023 Sine Die Estimate of $6,987,400,000.
READ MORE: Mississippi Joint Legislative Budget Committee adopts FY 2024 revenue estimate of $7.5 billion.
The FY 2024 revenue estimate was publicly adopted during a JLBC meeting.

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“I think our committee is recommending a conservative budget,” Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said.

The FY 2024 Legislative Budget Recommendation goals include maintaining the 2% set-aside in the General Fund, strengthening the state’s financial reserves, and building a budget using only recurring funds while increasing state support for many budget lines.
It was also noted that the state’s reserve balances sit near $3.9 billion.

The total state support budget recommendation for FY 2024 is $6,989,435,095, which utilizes $55.7 million more in General Funds than were appropriated in FY 2023. 
In FY 2024, some state agencies will see increased funding. Those include:

State Agencies will receive health insurance increase of roughly $32 million.
Child Protection Services will receive $12.3 million for Foster Home and Adoption Payments.
Department of Public Safety will receive $2.4 million for a forensics lab.
The Department of Revenue will receive $1.4 million for Homestead Exemption Reimbursement.

FY 2024 state support reductions include deleting funding of 2,011 vacant positions, reducing funding for travel and contractual services, and eliminating funds for one-time expenditures.
The 10 largest budgets lines receiving state support are: 

MS Adequate Education Program – $2.64 billion
Medicaid – $902.1 million 
Debt Service – $433.9 million 
IHL (General Support) – $415.2 million
Corrections – $363.3 million
Community College – $269.1 million
Mental Health – $241.1 million
General Education – $215.2 million
IHL (University Medical Center) – $190.5 million
Department of Public Safety – $137.9 million

The total available amount of unallocated funds is $3.926 billion.
View the full report below: 

Fy24 Jlbc Rec by yallpolitics on Scribd […]