- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Jan. 16

The Greenwood Commonwealth on the state’s education system:

A group of Mississippi parents and teachers who are lobbying for predictable and equitable education funding may not get their way with the Legislature, but they win the award for the best name: Fed Up With 50th.

That, of course, refers to Mississippi’s ranking at the bottom of so many of the country’s economic and social measurements. The state actually has moved up a couple of places in some areas, but Fed Up’s point is welltaken.

The question is what to do about it. A Fed Up With 50th press release last week said that when it comes to education funding, the Republican majority in the Legislature is moving through the process of changing Mississippi’s education funding formula too rapidly.

A public hearing was scheduled for today in Jackson, in which a proposal from the EdBuild consulting group was to be unveiled as a possible replacement for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

There’s little doubt that the existing education funding formula will be changed, most probably this year, to lower the definition of “adequate” to better fit the state’s recent budgets.

Since the state has fully funded education under the existing formula only twice in the three decades since it took effect, maybe it’s time to adopt something the Legislature will actually follow.

The risk for Republicans is that excessive tinkering with school money runs the risk of alienating voters.

What if, for example, the Legislature sets up a new formula that steers a little more money to prosperous districts and a little less to others?

Rural school districts with smaller tax bases - there are plenty of them in the Delta - deserve more assistance from Jackson than do wealthier districts. Smalltown students ought to have a fair chance to succeed, and if a community’s tax base can’t provide the necessary resources for that, then the state ought to help out. Inequities like this are what led to the creation of MAEP in the 1980s.

Republican leaders say they do not intend to reduce public education funding, and they have mostly kept their word. Last week, Gov. Phil Bryant cut another $51 million from the state’s current budget because revenue remains slightly less than estimated. The main budget for K12 schools was one of the few areas that avoided a 1.5 percent cut from the governor.

It’s unlikely any significant changes to the funding formula will be suitable to education advocates and groups such as Fed Up With 50th. But right now, the will of the majority seeks change. Mississippi Republicans are determined to shrink government spending, and until the voters change their mind, that’s going to be the trend in Jackson.

Legislators may not cut education spending, but they’re not going to increase it by a large amount, either.

Fed Up With 50th is on more solid ground when its press release observes that passing a new education funding formula two or three months after it’s unveiled will not provide ample time for public review. There is no need to rush such an important bill through this year’s Legislature.

That may happen, though, putting more pressure on the Legislature to get it right and to be fair.

Online:

http://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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Jan. 13

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on the importance of local elections:

Local election season is beginning to ramp up throughout Northeast Mississippi as qualifying for municipal seats begins and candidates start throwing their hats in the ring for public office.

While most Americans might be tired of hearing about elections after the contentious presidential race last year, local elections are of significant importance to our communities and deserve careful attention by all residents.

This is your opportunity to support candidates you believe will help represent our communities on the municipal level or even toss your name into the mix and make the decision to embark on a journey of public service.

Serving your local community in an elected position is a great way to leave a lasting legacy and push for beneficial change for future generations of residents.

As the qualifying period kicked off for this year’s municipal elections, some races have already started to heat up.

In Tupelo, incumbent mayor Jason Shelton will face Candice Knowles in the May 2 Democratic primary. Just north in Saltillo, incumbent Rex Smith will face fellow Republican Richard Herring in the primary.

In other parts of the region, some races will be gathering significant attention as incumbent candidates have announced they will not seek re-election to office.

After 16 years of serving in the city government of Oxford, Mayor Pat Patterson announced in December he will not be running for re-election this year.

Patterson spent eight years serving on the Oxford Board of Aldermen before running for mayor, a position he will have served for eight years by the time he steps down in 2017.

Patterson told members of the board that while he enjoyed his time serving the city, he felt it was time for someone else to take the helm.

Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman announced in November he won’t seek a third term as the city’s mayor.

Wiseman was elected in 2009 when he was 28 and said he felt like his administration has accomplished many of the goals he set before taking office.

Fulton Mayor Lynette Weatherford confirmed last week that she won’t seek a second term as mayor of the city. Weatherford has been employed by the city for more than 25 years.

For more than two decades, she served as Fulton’s assistant city clerk, hired by the late Jack Creely, who was mayor at the time.

Weatherford said she didn’t make the decision to leave office without careful consideration and will miss working for the city and its people.

We thank all of these public servants for devoting so much time and energy to helping build better communities in Northeast Mississippi.

We hope the meaningful work these elected officials have done will inspire others to consider running for public office.

Potential candidates still have plenty of time to make up their minds and get on the ballot.

The deadline to qualify is 5 p.m. March 3.

The Republican and Democratic primaries will take place May 2. The general election is slated for June 6.

Online:

http://djournal.com/

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Jan. 12

The Oxford Eagle on making the presentation of auto insurance mandatory for vehicle tag renewals:

The Mississippi Legislature is considering making presentation of auto insurance mandatory for vehicle tag renewals, and that’s a good thing.

Already, all drivers in Mississippi are required by state law to have auto liability insurance or post a bond to cover them on such. That insures that if a driver is at fault in an accident with you they have coverage to repair damage.

But Mississippi does not at the moment have any reasonable means of enforcing that law.

So the state House of Representatives has approved a bill that would require county tax collectors to check and make sure that Mississippians have required auto insurance before renewing their vehicle tags.

A new statewide computer system expected to come this summer would help county tax collectors enforce this new law, if it gets through the Senate.

It faced little opposition in the House and seems completely logical since state law already requires drivers to have liability insurance. This next step would just help insure that the law is enforced.

Insurance is expensive, no doubt. But so is repair when accident fault lies with another who does not have insurance. It seems fair to all Mississippians that proof of insurance be required to renew a vehicle tag.

Online:

http://www.oxfordeagle.com/

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