- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Jan. 11

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss., on audits would show where money goes:

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has put state agencies on notice that he wants more information about how they spend tax dollars.

We are convinced the best way of obtaining that information would be to require annual audits of every aspect of state government.

State Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, is trying to do just that. He is working with State Auditor Stacey Pickering on requiring a yearly audit for all state agencies.

The investigation into the state Department of Marine Resources underscores the need for such regular audits. The DMR investigation, which has resulted in state and federal indictments, also revealed that the DMR hadn’t been audited in years.

Pickering has said his office can’t afford to audit every agency every year. But that would not be an excuse if each state agency paid for its own audit.

“Right now, cities, counties, school boards, school districts, all that, they pay for their own audits,” Bennett said. “At first blush, I’d tell you that’s the way it should be, but I’m open to look at it.”

We commend Bennett and hope he sticks to his original plan to have state agencies include the cost of an audit in their annual budgets. It is the surest way to ensure accountability.




Jan. 10

The Commercial Dispatch, Columbus, Miss., on education:

As any third-grader should know, there are 50 states in the United States. When it comes to education, Mississippi ranks 51st.

You can’t get any lower than that.

If ever there were a wake-up call for Mississippians, this should be it.

In its report released Thursday, Education Weekly places Mississippi at the very bottom in education, below the other 49 states and the District of Columbia, which has long been considered the educational equivalent of the abyss.

That Mississippi lags behind in education is nothing new, of course, but the news that our state has sank to a depth that can no longer be plumbed should serve as a sobering reminder that the time for quick fixes has past.

As it has just in just about every annual session, the Legislature will devote some attention to improving our schools. There will be big talk, followed by small actions. There will be grand pronouncement of ambitious goals, but few resources set aside to achieve those goals.

Again, we will hear the call for the Legislature to set aside the funds required by state law as implemented by the Mississippi Adequate Education Program of 1997. Under that plan, Mississippi public schools would be funded through a formula established by the Legislature. Since its inception, our schools have met MAEP standards just twice.

Funding continues to lag, with estimates showing that our schools have been underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars since MAEP was written into law.

What is missing, we believe, is that Mississippi’s commitment to education is always viewed too narrowly. Changes will not come overnight. In fact, if the Legislature heaped money on our schools in this session, we would likely see no discernible positive result in next year’s test scores. And that, of course, would prompt some to say the money was wasted.

But if Mississippi is ever to reverse the trend in education in a meaningful way, we must take a long view. We must invest heavily in education and not waver in our commitment, even when results are not immediately apparent.

It’s time to put up or shut up.




Jan. 13

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Miss., on state should provide clarity on officer aid:

Tupelo’s and the surrounding area’s outpouring in response to the death of Tupelo police Sgt. Gale Stauffer and the wounding of officer Joseph Maher has been heartfelt.

So, too, has been the community’s rallying on behalf of the family of Union County Deputy Clinton Frazier, who also died in the line of duty recently.

Multiple fundraising events for the families of these men have already taken place and accounts set up to support them. These reflect the deep appreciation Northeast Mississippians have for the public servants who lay their lives on the line every day for the rest of us and who, on occasion, make the ultimate sacrifice.

But one unsettling element that has come out of the recent tragedies has been a lack of clarity of what’s permitted in helping law enforcement officers and their families in the wake of death or debilitation.

In a moving and magnanimous gesture, Tupelo police colleagues and other city employees stepped forward to offer the donation of their own accumulated leave time to ensure that Maher would get his full pay as he recovers from his Dec. 23 shooting at the hands of a bank robber who killed Stauffer. Worker’s compensation payments will not exceed two-thirds of Maher’s salary during the recovery period.

Other assistance is available from a special fund in the attorney general’s office, but Mayor Jason Shelton and the City Council initially believed the donation of leave time was necessary because state law placed constraints on “gifts” to officers, even those wounded in the line of duty.

State Rep. Steve Holland and others got involved with city officials and by the end of last week were convinced that the city either already had or would get the authority to do whatever it sees fit in compensating Maher and the family of Stauffer.

While the desire of police and other city employees to donate leave time for Maher is generous and inspiring, it shouldn’t have to be done that way. There ought to be a clear way for the city to make up the difference to ensure that Maher gets full pay while he recovers without others having to give up their time. That’s only right and just, given what Maher has been through.

The same holds true for any payments the city might choose to make to the Stauffer family.

Whether that requires a change in state law, or simply an authoritative clarification of current law, it needs to happen so that the city can act.



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