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Mississippi editorial roundup

June 19, 2019

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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June 18

The Greenwood Commonwealth on the need for checks and balances in Mississippi government:

Despite the criticism of the Electoral College that arises every time there is a close presidential election, it has a legitimate purpose: to keep huge population centers from dictating who holds the White House.

Mississippi’s two-pronged system for electing governors and other statewide officials, though, has no similarly defensible rationale.

Unlike the Electoral College, which gives voters in small states a little more say in electing a president than they would otherwise have in a purely popular vote contest, Mississippi’s system has nothing to do with empowering voters.

Since it has rarely come into play, most voters in this state don’t even realize that a candidate for governor must win not only the majority of the votes statewide but also the majority of the votes in a majority of House districts. That second requirement, unlike the federal Electoral College, does not balance the clout between urban areas and rural ones, since all state House districts have roughly the same population.

So what is its purpose?

Most likely twofold: to make the executive branch weaker than the legislative branch and to make it harder for minority candidates to win a statewide office.

Both of those motivations were driving forces in the writing of the state’s 1890 Constitution, in which this double electoral test was enshrined into law. It would be reasonable to conclude they were also at play in the adoption of this particular provision.

Mississippi’s electoral system, the only one like it in the country, is being challenged in federal court by a group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Even if you don’t agree with Holder that the system is racially discriminatory, it’s hard to refute that it’s discriminatory to the party that’s not in power.

Republicans currently enjoy a supermajority in the state House. If this year’s governor’s race is so close that it has to be decided by that chamber, the Democratic candidate might lose, even with a razor-thin advantage in the popular vote.

The party in power has demonstrated before that it will put partisanship ahead of fair play in legislative electoral contests. It should not have this option when it comes to deciding statewide elections.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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June 18

The Dispatch on the need to expand Pre-K programs in the state:

LeDerick Horne does not have to draw from reports, studies or other data in his role as an advocate for those with learning disabilities.

The noted poet, author and motivational speaker can draw from his own experience.

Horne was the keynote speaker Monday at Mississippi State University’s Innovative Institute luncheon at The Mill at MSU.

As a child, he would have made an unlikely candidate to represent those with learning disabilities, although he would have been a pretty good example of the issue.

Horne struggled from the beginning of his education, having to repeat both the first and second grades before he was officially diagnosed with a learning disability as a third-grader.

Horne found it difficult to read, write or do math and while the help he received allowed him to move through the school system and graduate high school, the burden of his disability was something he kept concealed.

Although he learned to “act normal” he always felt as though he was leading a double life, carefully concealing the struggles he faced. He suffered from depression in high school, but emerged from it determined to earn a college degree, which he ultimately did, almost through force of will.

The sad truth is that Horne may be more the exception than the rule, which is what has inspired him to advocate for kids with learning disabilities.

Too often, when young children struggle with school, there is a strong temptation to attribute those struggles to outside influences — bad attitude, poor home environment, even teachers.

But as it is with Horne, the causes are often due to learning disabilities, which are sometimes difficult to detect.

No such ambiguity exists for children with physical disabilities. No one would suggest that a child in a wheelchair cannot walk because they lack motivation or character or proper instruction.

But children with learning disabilities are often misunderstood and left undiagnosed or improperly diagnosed.

When that happens, children often suffer in other ways, too — low self-esteem, shame, frustration, anger — that results in higher drop-out rates, drug use and criminal activity.

It’s never going to be easy for people with such disabilities. But it can be manageable and understood, which goes a long way in removing the stigma and shame of their struggles.

Again, we go back to Pre-K education and its importance. The earlier a child is evaluated, diagnosed and accommodated, the less traumatic — and more productive — their educational journey will be. ...

Right now, Mississippi’s Pre-K program is big enough to serve just 5 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds.

For scores of children with undiagnosed learning disabilities, that means a painful entry into education, one that often does not have a happy ending.

So we beat the drum again for Pre-K education.

We must find a way to provide it to every child.

Online: https://www.cdispatch.com

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June 12

Daily Journal on Mississippi legislature’s new act to limit telemarketing calls:

You will be hard pressed to find individuals who are not annoyed by the continual flow of phone calls from telemarketers. And as much of a harassment as it can be to receive calls soliciting sales of cruise lines, home security systems or time shares, it becomes much worse when the motivation of the caller is malevolent.

State officials are trying to provide more relief from telephone scammers with recent changes to the state’s Telephone Solicitation Act, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Taylor Vance.

During a joint press conference on Monday between Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, Southern District Public Service Commissioner Sam Britton and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the officials announced changes that will remove existing exemptions for charities.

Currently, charitable organizations are required to register with the Secretary of State’s Office, but many are exempt from the solicitation requirements and are allowed to request donations by phone and by text. The problem is many dubious charities were taking advantage of this provision and were making a significant number of cold-calls, trying to scam people and steal money.

“When we looked into these complaints and began to work and investigate, what we found was there was a paid telemarketing firm almost consistently that was being paid to make these calls,” Presley said. “This (law) will enable us to work with the Secretary of State’s office and to put a stop to much of this activity which sometimes, quite frankly, can border on being criminal activity.”

Mississippians are known for their generosity, as the most charitable state in the nation. It is despicable that anyone would try to prey on that by soliciting funds for a false charitable organization. But such is the world we live in.

The new law was first introduced in the Mississippi Legislature by state Sen. Sally Doty, was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant and will go into effect on July 1. It will require organizations paying telephone solicitors to comply with the Telephone Solicitation Act. They will be required to register with the Public Service Commissioner’s office and purchase the state’s “no call” list.

Telemarketers and other individuals who violate the law will be fined $10,000 for each offense committed. Presley emphasized that legitimate charities that don’t hire outside firms to call donors will still be exempt from the law.

We believe the change is a good one that will shield Mississippians from calls that are annoying at best and malicious at worst. We also think that by making it more difficult for dubious charities to operate, the changes will screen out scammers, thus increasing the credibility of legitimate, respectable charities working hard to serve fellow Mississippians and make our state a better place to live. We salute the officials who worked to improve the law.

Online: https://www.djournal.com

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