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Mississippi editorial roundup

May 24, 2017

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


May 21

The McComb Enterprise-Journal on education funding:

Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove made a good case for the Mississippi Supreme Court to mandate full funding of the adequate education formula. But it does not seem good enough for the justices to agree.

Musgrove, who as lieutenant governor played a key role in getting the Mississippi Adequate Education Act passed into law, went to court on behalf of 21 school districts who wanted $236 million the state underfunded them from 2010-15.

But the stakes are much higher than $236 million. If the Supreme Court ruled that the state owed those districts the money, it follows that other districts would expect their extra money, too. This would be a $1.4 billion mandate.

Musgrove told the Supreme Court that the 1997 MAEP law requires full funding of the formula — something lawmakers have done only twice in 20 years. He further noted that the Mississippi Constitution says the state “shall” provide for the establishment and maintenance of free public schools.

The justices asked questions that went right to the flaws in this argument. One noted that the Constitution’s requirement for a free public school system is based on “such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe.” This language would seem to override any full-funding mandate in the MAEP law.

Another justice asked whether it’s proper for the Supreme Court to get involved in the allocation of state spending — a task that is clearly the responsibility of the legislative branch, and an argument that ought to be the main reason the Supreme Court rules against Musgrove.

It’s worth noting that the state’s defense, made by an assistant attorney general, was no more compelling than Musgrove’s. The assistant AG said the MAEP law is an aspirational goal, but each Legislature can ignore the formula if it chooses. He did make a better point when he said the education formula does not reduce the Legislature’s discretion to a rubber stamp.

In the big picture, education has fared pretty well with the Legislature during a very trying decade for the Mississippi economy. In the last few years, education spending has actually increased by small amounts.

Perhaps these increases only have allowed schools to keep up with inflation, but it’s a lot better than many other agencies have fared. Last week’s announcement of 75 layoffs at the state Forestry Commission is just one example.

It’s also worth noting that the state already spends 39 percent of its general fund on education. This is at a time when there are plenty of competing and expensive needs, such as Medicaid, highway repairs and mental health.

No one should fault Musgrove’s clients, the school districts, for trying to get the money they believe they are due. But the Legislature repeatedly has weighed the competing interests and chosen not to fully fund the education formula.

Musgrove did not make the required compelling case that the Legislature’s decision is in violation of the law. It will be a true surprise if the Supreme Court agrees with him.

Online: http://www.enterprise-journal.com/


May 21

The Sun Herald of Biloxi on municipal election campaigns:

It should come as no surprise that after a contentious, nasty presidential campaign, nastiness has permeated our city elections.

That should stop.

Anonymous and questionable allegations will not make our cities better places to live.

An open and honest discussion of the issues will.

Unfortunately, in the just-completed primaries, there was too much of the former and too little of the latter.

Now we head into the general election June 6, when in some instances, the two major parties will face off.

It’s time for the leadership of those parties, Republican and Democratic, to step up, and get this election back on track and out of the ditch.

We’ve talked to many of the candidates. There are plenty of intelligent, well-spoken people in these races.

They should keep the focus on the issues and tell voters what they can do to make our cities better.

Constant carping and character assassination demeans our political system, which these days is hardly held in high esteem.

It’s no wonder the best and brightest among us often shy from public life. Who needs the kind of grief that’s often heaped upon our local officials?

The job is tough enough. The demands on a person’s time are great. We shouldn’t be giving people another reason not to get involved.

Voters should demand clean campaigns populated with problem-solvers, not mudslingers. Supporters of the candidates should spend their energy building their candidate up, not tearing the opposition down.

Social media, and the degree of anonymity it offers, makes leveling spurious allegations far too easy. That’s the real source of fake news.

We can’t stop that. But you, the voters, can. Every time a dubious post is shared or commented on is just more gasoline on the fire. Don’t do it.

And candidates should show they are leaders by leading positive, issue-oriented campaigns.

Online: http://www.sunherald.com/


May 22

The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson on why Rep. Karl Oliver should resign:

It is time for Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona, to resign. He has embarrassed himself, the House of Representatives and the state of Mississippi twice in just more than a year’s time. The most recent time was especially egregious, to the point that it alone is reason enough for him step down for the good of the House and the state.

Over the weekend, Oliver posted on Facebook about the city of New Orleans’ decision to remove four statues honoring Confederate war heroes. He wrote:

“The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, ‘leadership’ of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.”

Oliver’s use of “lynched” — in all caps, no less — is clearly the issue, and it is a problem on at least two different levels. For one, Oliver is calling for the murder of people based on their beliefs. You can argue that Oliver was just joking, but this really is not an appropriate thing about which one should joke — especially not a state elected official.

The second problem — the most obvious and, one could argue, the most disturbing — is that Oliver used the word “lynched” in relation to the Confederacy and civil rights. This word has a particular and well-known connotation in this regard. It is commonly used to denote the horrific, unjustified hanging of blacks by whites in a time when black people were citizens of the South in name only.

Alan Lange, writing at YallPolitics.com, put it best:

“There are really only two scenarios here. Either Karl Oliver meant to cause pain with his statement or he didn’t. If he did, then everyone knows what they’re up against. If he didn’t, then he probably has questionable competency to go to the Capitol and punch a button on policy issues. In relative terms, that’s saying something.”

In other words, Oliver used obviously racist, inflammatory language on purpose because he is, in fact, racist, or he used obviously racist, inflammatory language without realizing that it is racist and inflammatory and is therefore too dumb to adequately serve as a state lawmaker.

Either way, Oliver has proven himself unworthy of being a state leader. He is already just barely a marginal figure in the House. Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, stripped Oliver of what little power he had by removing the Winona lawmaker as vice chairman of the Forestry Committee.

Furthermore, Gov. Phil Bryant and Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef have both decried Oliver’s comments.

And all of this comes just 14 months after he told a state citizen, “I could care less” when she emailed him with concerns about tax cuts and lagging state revenue. Oliver told the woman, who is originally from Illinois, “I would, however, recommend that there are a rather large number of like minded citizens in Illinois that would love to see you return.”

In short, Oliver has made himself a pariah among leaders of both parties. He has drawn negative national attention to Mississippi, this week reinforcing a stereotype of our people that we must fight every day. As long as he is in office, it is unlikely the people of his district will ever have any kind of influence in the Capitol.

Yes, Oliver removed the post and even apologized this time, which is more than he did last year. “This isn’t news. Twist it any way you want,” he told The Clarion-Ledger in reference to his email retort. And while his use of “I could care less” instead of the correct “I couldn’t care less” — not to mention the fact that it was New Orleans city leaders and not Louisiana state leaders, as Oliver said, who decided to remove the monuments — might give some insight into why Oliver would have used “lynched,” but it certainly is not definitive.

Regardless, an apology is not enough. Oliver is a distraction. He should resign for the good of his constituents, his party, the House of Representatives and the state. And if he doesn’t, which he likely won’t, then may we offer yet another idea from Lange, who said state GOP leaders and the state party itself should recruit and support a candidate against him in the 2019 primary.

“That should be the price he pays — to have folks get rid of him at the ballot box and have the Party be active in that process,” Lange wrote.

We wholeheartedly agree.

Online: http://www.clarionledger.com/

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