- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Feb. 5

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss., on piecemeal accountability requiring annual audits:

Legislation is moving through the state Senate that will “cut wasteful spending while ensuring taxpayers can see what their government is doing,” according to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

While these are, as Reeves calls them, “good-government bills,” they are not good enough.

They are steps in the right direction, but they fall far short of ensuring that taxpayers can really “see what their government is doing.”

According to a press release issued by Reeves: “Senate Bill 2579 reorganizes the Department of Marine Resources and requires an annual audit of the agency. The bill also creates a chief financial officer at the agency and a legislative oversight committee to review fiscal decisions of the Commission of Marine Resources.”

This is long overdue.

When it was revealed that the DMR had operated for a decade without undergoing a comprehensive financial audit, officials and taxpayers alike were stunned.

But instead of singling out the DMR, the Legislature should require that each and every agency of state government conduct an annual audit at its own expense.

Then taxpayers could actually “see what their government is doing.”

There is no excuse for the Legislature to timidly inch toward a full accounting of how tax money is spent year in and year out by every aspect of state government.

Every tax dollar spent by every public agency should be audited every year.

Forget the inches. It is time to go for the whole nine yards.




Feb. 9

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Miss., on farm bill wins full vote of state’s delegation:

Mississippi’s congressional delegation - one Democrat and five Republicans - all voted for passage of the new Farm Bill, a huge piece of legislation ensuring program direction and the federal government’s policy role with virtually every crop, plus federal nutrition assistance, where most of the money will be spent.

The House members from Mississippi were unanimously in favor of passage. Republicans Steven Palazzo, from the 4th District; Gregg Harper, from the 3rd District; Alan Nunnelee, from the 1st District, voted for the bill, as did Bennie Thompson, the Democrat representing the 2nd District. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker voted for the bill.

Cochran was one of four key conference committee negotiators. He is ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, of which he has been a member since 1979. The ranking member position is usually equated with a vice chairmanship from the minority party in the chamber.

In summary, here are key provisions signed into law. …

Nearly a third of all jobs in Mississippi are linked to agriculture and forestry, which generated more than $7.3 billion in 2013. With more than 42,000 farms and roughly 30 million acres of farm and forestland, Mississippi’s agriculture contributes to more than 20 percent of Mississippi’s total economy.

“Agriculture plays a major role in Mississippi - not only for putting food on the table but also in providing a livelihood for many families,” said Wicker, a Tupelo Republican.

The bill doesn’t fully please everyone, but the support for a broad range of programs, policies and what’s called investment of federal resources helped a coalition of political interests hold together for passage.

Honest compromise is increasingly rare in congressional policymaking, but the farm bill achieved that with strong bipartisan support.




Feb. 11

Natchez (Miss.) Democrat on view needed for public’s hospitals:

Mississippi’s Open Meetings Law is far from perfect, but by and large it provides a layer of public transparency with one gaping exception - public hospitals.

The law contains language that provides an all-encompassing exemption for publicly-owned hospitals.

A Senate bill passed out of committee recently seeks to change that exemption, providing the public with more insight on the operations of public hospitals.

The Mississippi Hospital Association is opposed to the effort and lobbying hard against the passage. Often in such cases, it’s important to clear away the lobbying efforts and fears of “what ifs” and deal with the facts.

First, let’s consider why the exemption exists in the first place.

Perhaps the original intent was to prevent anyone from walking into the hospital and demanding to see patient records.

That’s an argument based on false fears. Federal privacy laws have long forbidden providing access to patient information.

With that excuse sidelined, public hospital leaders often attempt to play the “competition” card.

Publicly-owned Natchez Regional Medical Center has argued for years that release of their financial information would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

This, too, seems to be a thin argument, however.

Public colleges and universities have long competed against private facilities in a similar manner. Are Ole Miss and Mississippi State at a disadvantage because Mississippi College can read what their respective boards decide? Hardly.

We’ve heard no good argument why hospital meetings and full financial records should be excluded from public view.

Could more openness have prevented Natchez Regional from being bankrupt for the second time in five years? We’ll never know, but having an informed public certainly couldn’t hurt.

Logic, not lobbying, should be followed, and this law should be passed



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