- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Dec. 18

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on Wicker and Palazzo:

Though it bears the name of a senatorial predecessor, the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County may have no greater champion than current U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi.

Wicker is so determined to see any project begun at Stennis through to completion that he secured federal funding in 2010 to complete a $349 million rocket-testing project, even though NASA had announced the project was cancelled.

Wicker defends the unnecessary appropriation by saying “it was not in the best interests of taxpayers, in Mississippi or elsewhere, to allow the site to sit incomplete, abandoned and neglected, quickly falling into a state of disrepair.”

As for the $700,000 a year it will cost those same taxpayers to keep the test stand from “falling into a state of disrepair” now that it is erected, Wicker says a future president may have a use for the facility.

The current president, Wicker says, “has abandoned America’s manned space program” and “lacks the vision of his predecessors.”

U.S. Rep Steven Palazzo, R-4th District, is equally optimistic about the future. “While it is disappointing to have a project like this in mothball status,” he said, “I remain extremely hopeful that it will be of great use in the future and the decision to maintain this test stand will ultimately save us millions if not billions of dollars down the road.”

Without question, Stennis is one of the great economic assets of South Mississippi. And multimillion-dollar projects there are a boost to the region.

But spending tens of millions of dollars to complete an unnecessary project is not good stewardship of public money and damages, rather than enhancing, the status of Stennis.

Both Wicker and Palazzo like to tout their fiscal conservatism.

But this is a prime example of bringing home the pork, even when it serves no legitimate purpose. Unless, like Palazzo, you believe these millions will indeed one day save us billions.




Dec. 23

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on private contract reforms:

The indictment of former Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps on charges he accepted a million dollars or more in bribes involving no-bid contracts should energize efforts to reform and tighten state government contract laws with the private sector.

Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn, has waved the warning flag previously about no-bid contracts awarded on the say-so of department heads and other executive leaders, and the way allegedly Epps stole from the state in the private-sector business done by the Department of Corrections.

The House overwhelmingly approved Turner’s reform proposal in 2014, but the Senate failed to pass it.

Turner will try again in 2015, and we hope the House repeats its approval and the Senate acts more responsibly in protecting the people’s resources with stronger laws. As Turner noted, nothing can guarantee no criminal acts, but it’s obvious Mississippi has left some gaps open that need to be closed.

Gov. Phil Bryant supports Turner’s proposal generally, and he has appointed a special task force to investigate, assess and recommend changes to contract law in the 2015 session. The task force is bipartisan and high-powered, and is a voice should be heard with an open mind.

Turner is chairman of the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee in the House.

Currently the contracts are approved by the Personal Services Contract Review Board, which consists of the executive director of the state Personnel Board as the chairman and heads of various state agencies or their representatives. The board includes the commissioner of the Department of Corrections or that person’s appointee.

It’s been a scratch-your-back board made up of agency heads or their appointees, Turner said candidly. His version of the board would ban contracts with members of the board.

Under Turner’s legislation, the executive director of the Personnel Board would remain as chairman, but the other members of the Personal Services Contract Review Board would be appointees of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state. The members, from the private sector, could not have any contracts with the state, a key provision.

Turner said his legislation would put restrictions on the awarding of no-bid contracts, such as the ones Epps is accused of receiving kickbacks for steering toward Rankin County businessman and former legislator Cecil McCrory.

He said his goal is “to bring accountability and efficiency to the contract process. I think it will save the state money.”

We agree. Expedite passage and put tight controls in the process.



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