- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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May 8

The Oxford Eagle on state recognizing May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month:

Motorcyclists have a certain amount of danger they must juggle while sharing the open road with everything from massive semis and heavy dump trucks to a smaller, quieter Prius.

Those riding motorcycles love the feel of the open road, but also know they must be constantly alert to what’s going on around them because when they crash or are hit by a vehicle, it could almost instantly be fatal.

To help remind regular drivers of this, the Mississippi Department of Transportation has recognized May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

In 2014, 4,586 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes representing 14 percent of total highway fatalities. While that was a decrease from the year prior, further efforts of awareness and commitment to safety are required to reach the ultimate goal of zero deaths on Mississippi highways.

Now that the weather is warmer, breezier and motorcycles are more plentiful on the roads, use MDOT’s gentle reminder to keep them in mind while you’re getting from point A to point B, and always give yourself a much larger time to brake and a greater distance between your vehicle and a motorcycle.

Online:

http://www.oxfordeagle.com

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May 10

The Greenwood Commonwealth on study of Mississippi’s tax system:

Mississippi’s legislative leadership is reportedly going to announce later this month an in-depth study of the state’s tax system.

It’s a little late, thought, given that this same leadership - Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves with the assistance of House Speaker Philip Gunn - pushed through a $415 million tax cut at the end of this year’s legislative session without any study to speak of. Nor did the Republicans give any serious consideration as to how reducing the taxes would worsen the state’s budget bind that has produced two rounds of cuts so far this year and reductions to next year’s allocations.

It’s also ironic that a study this same leadership sought last year - one provided by the Mississippi Economic Council to give lawmakers’ cover to raise taxes to repair or replace the state’s crumbling roads and bridges - got tossed in the ditch.

If, though, Republicans truly are going to study the state’s tax structure, let’s see them do it thoroughly and objectively.

They can start by looking at the hundreds of millions of dollars they have given away in tax breaks to tiremakers, carmakers and other manufacturers and retail developers in recent years. Let’s see the real numbers - not the cooked ones that come from the Mississippi Development Authority - to show how this preferential treatment for a small group of corporate entities, some of them politically well-connected, can be cost-justified.

They also can study what has been well-established as a longstanding inequity in the tax structure that puts the heaviest burden on those least able to afford it. It doesn’t take much analysis to conclude that Mississippi’s income tax is low - made even lower by this year’s decision to eliminate the 3 percent tax bracket - while the general sale tax is high at 7 percent. As a result, persons who spend the largest percentage of their income on taxable goods and services - the poor and working class - shoulder a disproportionate share of the state’s overall tax burden.

An honest and comprehensive look at the tax code can not deny its presently regressive nature. That face has been documented for decades. Yet, Mississippi has done almost nothing to address it. For years, there have been suggestions to help the less wealthy in this state by lowering or eliminating the tax on groceries, as most states do. Instead, the tax breaks have gone mostly to those who need the help the least - the well-to-do and major corporations.

We shouldn’t dismiss the study before it’s done, but those organizing it don’t have the best record when it comes to looking at the issue fairly.

Online:

http://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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May 10

The Sun Herald on Mississippi’s foster care system:

There wasn’t much to cheer about in the past legislative session but we can commend lawmakers and Gov. Phil Bryant for trying to fix the state’s broken foster-care system.

The state will spend an additional $34 million on foster care starting July 1. It took a lawsuit and the threat of a federal court takeover to wake the state up, but we’re pleased plaintiffs are willing to give the state time to see if its plan will work.

That suit, known as Olivia Y, alleged the foster-care system violated the constitutional rights of children by failing to protect those in state custody and by failing to provide them with necessary services. The state since 2004 has been unable to correct those problems to the satisfaction of plaintiff attorneys and the court.

Now, the state has reached a turning point.

David Chandler stepped down from the state Supreme Court to lead the newly created Division of Child Protection Services, and we’re encouraged by what he has done.

First of all, he’s cleaned house.

“Everyone who has been brought to my attention, who is not productive and hardworking, is no longer here,” Chandler told a Jackson television station.

And he has an ambitious plan to train more than 200 additional social workers in July when the extra money to hire them is available. He said he’s already working with the state’s colleges and universities to recruit dedicated employees.

And he plans to raise salaries.

But, Chandler told the Associated Press, this is not a job the division can accomplish on its own. He needs help from churches and other community organizations.

“This isn’t a department problem,” he said. “It’s a community problem.”

Yes, it is.

Online:

http://www.sunherald.com

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