- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Feb. 1

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss., on ensuring the survival of flood insurance:

All but abandoned by the private sector, most property owners have no choice but to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Program.

For decades, NFIP premiums have been a bargain. But that is no excuse to suddenly make them unaffordable.

Provisions of the Biggert-Waters Act passed by Congress in 2012 permit NFIP annual premiums to quickly jump from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.

While premiums probably should be adjusted to ensure the solvency of the NFIP and lessen its dependency on taxpayers, the adjustments ought to be made in a reasonable manner.

To accomplish that, the U.S. Senate last week voted 67-32 to delay those increases. We commend Mississippi’s Thad Cochran for helping craft the legislation and Roger Wicker for supporting it.

The matter now goes to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., has been trying to secure approval. “I remain committed to ensuring that flood insurance is both affordable and available for those who need it,” said Palazzo, “and I continue to work closely with House leadership to bring further flood insurance reform measures to a vote on the House floor.”

Reform is needed if NFIP is to become and remain viable.

But policyholders should not be the only ones asked to help the program become actuarially sound.

A study of the NFIP was released last year by Greater New Orleans Inc., a nonprofit, regional economic development alliance serving Southeast Louisiana.

It found that since the late 1960s, NFIP had collected $44.72 billion in premiums and paid out $44.71 billion in claims — prior to Hurricane Sandy’s $8 billion in estimated losses.

But in addition to claims, the NFIP spent nearly $20 billion on operating expenses and commissions for insurance agents, according to the GNO study.

That is a hefty amount of overhead that both ratepayers and taxpayers have had to finance.

So in addition to a re-evaluation of premiums, Congress should also call on FEMA to examine its operating costs.




Jan. 31

Hattiesburg (Miss.) American on officials being praised for swift action during the hazardous winter storm:

Working together and planning ahead were two of the reasons the Pine Belt fared well during the hazardous winter storm that virtually shut down parts of the South last week.

The Pine Belt saw a large amount of icy precipitation followed by temperatures in the teens, which led to frozen, icy roads - a worst-case scenario of “historic significance” as Southern District Transportation Commissioner Tom King called it.

“If you do not have to go out tomorrow, we advise you to stay home,” King said at a press conference Monday to warn the public of the strong possibility of hazardous conditions.

Also as soon as emergency management officials learned a potentially hazardous mix of snow and sleet amounting to an overall accumulation of 1 to 3 inches was expected, public and private officials jumped into action.

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree declared a state of emergency for Hattiesburg on Monday, and - like other officials - urged residents to stay off the roads.

City and county work crews began dispersing salt to lay out on bridges and roads.

In addition, Mississippi Department of Transportation crews began “pre-treating” bridges and overpasses throughout South Mississippi on Monday afternoon, using a salt-brine solution intended to clear them of ice.

Around 300 MDOT workers and 35 de-icing machines were available to work in shifts to tackle the icy roads.

Power company officials pulled together their employees to be on duty around-the-clock in case of outages.

Fairly early on Monday, area K-12 schools decided to close Tuesday, followed soon after by colleges and universities, and government offices.

These officials, work crews, public safety officers - and even residents themselves - should be commended for making this storm of “historic significance” have very little impact to human safety and well-being.




Feb. 2

Natchez (Miss.) Democrat on state seal change solves fake problem:

In a bold, populist move, Mississippi senators voted Friday to add “In God We Trust” to the official state seal.

We’re joking about the move being “bold,” however, since the great majority of Mississippians identify themselves with a religion - most Christianity. Only a handful, 7 out of 100, said they had no religious faith.

Adding the slogan to the state seal seems perfectly OK to us. In fact, until the story of Senate Bill 2681 broke, we sort of assumed the slogan was already there. Who reads the fine print of seals much anyway?

Almost certainly the anti-Christian community will come out and cry foul, claiming the separation of church and state isn’t being followed and that their rights are being violated somehow by the new slogan.

Most of that is hogwash, however.

The interesting thing is that the same bill, titled the “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” does have one noticeable act of government unnecessarily at work.

Part of the bill includes language that prohibits the government from being a “burden” in the way of a person’s right to practice religion.

Unless Mississippi’s good senators plan a second secession soon, we’re fairly certain that Mississippi is still a proud member of the United States.

As members of the United States all Mississippi citizens should enjoy complete religious freedom by way of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - which trumps anything the good senators seek to pass in Jackson.

While the bill may make us all feel good, the reality is, it’s a bill seeking out a problem where one doesn’t exist.



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