- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

March 31

Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on limiting secrecy for public hospital boards:

A bill that removes much of the special treatment for Mississippi’s publicly owned hospitals cleared another hurdle last week.

A conference committee of three House members and three Senate members agreed on a single version of Senate Bill 2407. If the full House and full Senate concur, the bill will go to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature.

Until now, the law has allowed public hospital boards to meet in secret and to keep many financial records from the view of their owners, the taxpayers. This, of course, led to the ill-fated decision by trustees of Singing River Health System, which operates two hospitals in Jackson County, to hide the fact that it had stopped contributing to its employee pension plan and to mislead those enrolled in the plan about its financial condition.

The legislative conference committee has submitted a bill that would require hospitals to behave more like other public bodies, although still allowing generous exemptions that would allow them to privately discuss and shield documents pertaining to the recruitment and employment of physicians, the purchase or sale of medical practices and “strategic business decisions,” such as starting a new service or planning capital improvements.

In one major change, if the bill becomes law, public hospitals will have to include an “accountability and transparency” section on their websites. It would have to include information on the hospital’s financial reports, audits, budgets and other information that involves the spending of and accounting for public money.

On the whole, this bill is an improvement from the closed records and closed doors that public hospitals have been able to operate behind for decades. The extra scrutiny should prompt trustees and administrators to take greater care with the responsibility they are given.




March 28

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on administering Mississippi’s public universities:

Whatever the fate of Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones, it should not lead to the establishment of separate boards of trustees for Mississippi’s eight public universities.

For more than 70 years, those eight public universities have been under the supervision of one group of overseers: the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, usually referred to as the College Board or the IHL. The 12 members of the College Board are selected by the governor and serve staggered terms. They are responsible for hiring nine executives: a commissioner of higher education to implement their policies and a president for each of the universities.

Opposition to the IHL’s treatment of Jones prompted Gray Tollison, a Republican state senator from Oxford, to introduce a bill which would take away some of the IHL’s responsibilities and hand them over to a separate board of trustees for each of the eight universities.

Though Tollison said the IHL would retain much of its oversight duties and control university funding, it would no longer select each university’s president.

Talk about serving two masters.

Tollison doubts his proposal could be approved during these final days of the 2015 legislative session. But he wants to build momentum for the 2016 session.

We hope his idea goes nowhere, because it would create a direct route to perpetual turmoil.

Mississippi’s eight public universities are competitive enough without creating another group of advocates for each individual campus.

A slogan on the IHL website says: “Advancing our state together.”

Going from one board of trustees to nine with conflicting agendas would shatter any such togetherness and advance acrimony rather than academics.




April 1

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on the state’s population growth:

Patterns of steady population growth driven by universal economic opportunity are hard to find in Mississippi’s history because the majority of the state’s almost 200 years involved either slavery or strict, unequal racial segregation.

So, when innovative methods in the era of equal opportunity produce positive results they are worth noting.

Pontotoc, Union and Lee, the counties of the PUL Alliance, home of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, have shown encouraging population expansion for the past four years, a parallel track with construction and full production of the assembly plant at Blue Springs.

An adjoining county, Lafayette, has used another set of assets - education and nationally recognized quality of life - to become the overall leader in growth in the Northeast Mississippi region and the percentage increase leader statewide.

U.S. Census Bureau estimates for populations show Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties have grown steadily in the last four years, and Lafayette County shows the highest percentage growth in the state.

Lee County had a 2.8 percent population increase from 2010 to 2014, the 12th largest growth among the 82 counties.

A total of 82,910 residents were counted in 2010 compared to 85,245 in 2014, an increase of 2,336. That’s up from the 2000 Lee County census of 75,755.

Pontotoc and Union counties also showed continued growth:

. The population in Pontotoc increased by 993 residents - 29,957 to 30,950 - from 2010, 3.3 percent and the 10th largest.

. In Union County, the population increased by 963 residents - 27,134 in 2010 to 28,097 in 2014, a 3.5 percent gain, ninth highest.

Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties formed the PUL Alliance, the first of its kind in Mississippi, to support development of the industrial megasite where Toyota eventually located. The plant was announced in 2007.

Lafayette County, home to Oxford and the University of Mississippi, showed the highest growth in the state with an 11.8 percent increase, 5,571 residents in four years, increasing from 47,359 residents in 2010 to 52,930 in 2014. The actual number of additional residents was fifth highest in the state, as Rod Guajardo reported Tuesday.

Oxford has been intentional about growth in the long term, and it shows.

Mississippi, to illustrate the larger point, lost population in four consecutive censuses in the 20th century, with growth measured in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010, but the population is not soaring.

Growth follows opportunity - in good jobs and a good life.



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