- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Jan. 25

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss., on state agencies could benefit from Wiggins‘ bold approach

State Sen. Brice Wiggins‘ bold and comprehensive proposal to straighten out the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources should be used as a standard for the state’s more than 200 other agencies, boards, commissions and departments.

“I think everybody realizes there are issues at DMR from the previous regime and we have to get it straight for the future,” said Wiggins, R-Pascagoula. “We don’t need to be micromanaging agencies, but we certainly need to exercise our oversight authority.”

Wiggins is sponsoring Senate Bill 2579, designed to keep the DMR intact, allow timely agency reorganization and improve accountability.

Wiggins, who already has the support of other Coast Republican legislators, should be supported by the entire delegation from South Mississippi as his bill moves through the legislative process.

Some of his recommendations are specific to the DMR. But others could and should be applied to all aspects of state government. Specifically:

An independent annual audit paid for from that agency’s own budget.

Higher standards for those who serve as overseers of the state’s agencies and departments.

One of Wiggins‘ objectives is to ensure the DMR remains an independent agency, rather than being absorbed into the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. That is also a worthwhile goal.

But whether on its own or as part of a larger department, the DMR needs the type of overhaul and oversight contained in Wiggins‘ legislation.

There are other parts of state government that would benefit from just as close an examination and Wiggins has set the standard for such analysis.

Again, this is a bold attempt to bring greater accountability, efficiency and transparency to a state agency that performs important work all along the Coast. We commend Wiggins for his work on this legislation and strongly endorse it.




Jan. 28

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Miss., on General Atomics expands with more technology jobs:

General Atomics, a prized industrial investor in south Lee County, announced Monday morning with the fanfare of a gubernatorial visit that it will add 80 jobs and a $12 million investment at its campus in the Tupelo-Lee Industrial Park South.

The company, with an international high technology profile and headquartered in San Diego, will add capacitors to its production lines, in the process increasing employment to about 150 people with jobs that pay an average of about $47,900.

The plant manufactures electro-magnetic launch and arresting systems for aircraft carriers, considered a major advance over long-used steam-propelled systems.

The plant is part of the Electromagnetic Systems Group, which is relocating the production components of several well-established product lines from the former GA Electronic Systems, Inc., which recently merged with EMS, a statement from the company said.

The relocated product lines provide equipment and services to the defense, nuclear, oil and energy storage industries. They will locate in the vacant Heritage Bag building; the 87,650-square-foot facility joins GA’s existing campus, which since first opening in 2005 has expanded to 367,000 square feet.

The Mississippi Development Authority provided $1 million in assistance for the expansion, a not an unusual amount for an industry with a strong, successful record. The Tupelo-based Community Development Foundation provided assistance for renovations, which is more or less standard operating procedure.

General Atomics is an advanced technology company with more than a half century of experience of work in its portfolio. It is known for successfully producing new and innovative systems for proven military and defense technologies and other advanced science needs.

Throughout its corporate history, GA has been recognized for its ability to meet major multidisciplinary technical challenges.

There was a time arguably when Northeast Mississippi had a difficult time attracting high technology industries like GA, but intense workforce development and emphasis on education attainment in high school, community colleges and universities has changed the dynamic of what our region can offer and the investors who show interest.




Jan. 27

The Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth on legalized pot runs into banking law:

Time magazine reported last week on one of the many problems with Colorado’s new law legalizing marijuana.

Even though the U.S. Department of Justice has said it won’t enforce federal anti-drug laws in states that loosen pot restrictions, a law that makes it illegal for banks to transact business with firms connected to Schedule 1 drugs, which include marijuana, remains fair game for regulators.

That means marijuana shops can’t deposit money from their cash registers or accept credit cards, forcing them to rely heavily on cash transactions. That comes at a high risk: Thieves, who are perhaps more attuned to the marijuana industry than other fields of commerce anyway, target the suppliers for robberies.

Time recounted a story, corroborated by court documents, about a medical marijuana dispensary owner in California who was tortured and driven to a desert, where his kidnappers believed he had stashed large sums of money. When they couldn’t find the dough, they allegedly burned him with a blowtorch, cut off his most private part and doused him with bleach (somehow, he survived).

To avoid robbery or abduction, other owners of marijuana shops are devising ingenious schemes for handling cash.

According to Time, they lease secret warehouses to store money, install false walls and bolt safes to floors in their homes, hire armed guards, stagger delivery schedules and employ decoy drivers. Some reach illegal deals with banks to deposit money through shell companies. Most all of them pay employees in cash, increasing the risk of income tax evasion.

The situation highlights two truths: the ingenuity of business people to find a way to succeed despite onerous regulations, and the hypocrisy of the Obama administration’s refusal to prosecute marijuana laws. It’s the executive branch’s duty to enforce the laws passed by Congress, not pick and choose which laws it likes and dislikes.

Pro-marijuana lobbyists argue if they are recognized as legitimate businesses in regard to the sale of pot, notwithstanding what federal law says, why shouldn’t they be afforded the same leniency when it comes to banking? Expect that argument to continue to grow as more states allow some form of legalized marijuana - and for the federal government to struggle to find a way to defend its position.

It would be much stronger if it had done the right thing in the first place: Follow the law of the land.

That’s not too much to ask of the Department of Justice.



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