- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

April 21

Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on Initiative 42:

We have not been sold on Initiative 42, the proposed constitutional amendment designed to require the Mississippi Legislature to better fund the state’s public schools.

The intent of the proposal is worthy, but the means are problematic. If approved, Initiative 42 would set a bad precedent in which any special interest that feels it has been chronically shorted at budget time could seek a constitutional amendment to compel lawmakers to award it more money. There are a number of entities that could justifiably line up right now behind public schools - Medicaid, highways, community colleges and universities, mental health, just to name a few.

The better way for public education proponents to change the behavior of the Legislature is to change its makeup. Get enough legislative and gubernatorial candidates elected who support full funding of public education, and it will happen, without risking the unintended consequences a constitutional amendment might bring.

All that said, however, the Republican opponents of Initiative 42 are being disingenuous when they warn about what might happen if a single Hinds County chancery judge is allowed to dictate to the Legislature how much money it has to appropriate to public education.

Although it’s true that Hinds County Chancery Court would be the place where a complaint would be filed if the Legislature failed to live up to the initiative’s mandate, from a practical point of view, that would only be the first step. Any decision made in chancery court would almost certainly be appealed, with the state Supreme Court being the final arbiter.

The decision before voters in November really boils down to this: Do you want to compel the Legislature, through the force of a constitutional amendment, to appropriate more money to public schools?

Everything else - the rhetoric about the potential activism by Hinds County judges, the alternative amendment GOP lawmakers have added to the November ballot - is solely intended to confuse and mislead.




April 17

Daily Leader, Brookhaven, Mississippi, on state scholars:

Lincoln County students who have completed the Mississippi Scholars program will be honored this weekend at an awards ceremony and reception.

And while that’s special enough, the real reward is the scholarship money that each student in the program will receive.

The Mississippi Scholars program is able to provide scholarships because of the generous donations of private individuals and community colleges and universities. They see the value in encouraging students to excel in the classroom and in their communities, and donate accordingly.

The program’s requirements are academically rigorous, but the community service and attendance requirements are just as vital to the success of students. The program requires that students complete 40 hours of community service during four years of high school. While that’s just 10 hours of service a year, it forces students to be aware of service opportunities in the communities. Those 40 hours also teach students to give back, something that’s sadly lacking in many high school students.

The attendance requirement is also important - students must have 95 percent attendance throughout high school. While that may seem silly to some, we know that simply showing up for class is sometimes half the battle of succeeding in college. The same goes for a job. Establishing a habit of showing up will prepare students for life after high school.

The program has more benefits than we can list here, but at its core it simply incentivizes the kind of academic and civic engagement that we seek for all students. Students who complete the program are better prepared for college or a technical school. Some likely wouldn’t go to either without the help of the Mississippi Scholars program.

A better-educated population benefits all of us in Lincoln County, and we are grateful for the work of those who make the program a success. We are also grateful for the many individuals who donate to this worthy cause. Your contributions make Lincoln County a better place.




April 21

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on BP’s Gulf oil spill disaster:

Five years ago this week Mississippians and millions of other people in the states of the Gulf South began watching as flames soared and oil gushed from broken pipes deep underneath the Deepwater Horizon production platform operated and leased by BP, the giant energy company.

Eleven people were killed by the explosion, and in months following the oil gushing from the well’s infrastructure spilled 4.25 million barrels (200 million gallons over 87 days) into the Gulf of Mexico. It became the biggest marine oil spill in American history.

Billions have been spent on cleaning up the gulf, the shoreline and every other place touched by the raw, toxic oil, but even a $14 billion cleanup effort was unable to prevent long-term environmental damage.

In all, 16,000 miles of coastline was affected from Texas to Florida.

Virtually everything that could be adversely affected by the oil spill sustained damage or harm in some form. Tourism suffered, because prospective vacationers afraid of the possibility of oil washing onshore stayed away in droves. The shrimp harvest dropped by as much as 90 percent. The already reduced tuna population’s spawning grounds were deeply polluted.

BP has been held responsible for close to $40 billion in fines with an additional $16 billion due under provisions of the Clean Water Act.

Mississippi specifically, although not as close to the platform as parts of Louisiana, has significant registrations and claims: 37,423 completed claims and 32,329 registrations in progress.

In addition, a second BP oil spill settlement covers individuals with medical claims related to the Gulf disaster, and provides periodic medical consultations for the next 21 years.

Innovative laws to help people who lost their jobs because of the spill have been passed in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Most of the claims and registrations and probably a large majority of the damage will have been acknowledged in the Gulf counties or in a tier of counties above the adjacent counties, but the whole state of Mississippi is in the claim-eligible zone.

So far, almost $5 billion has been paid in the damage process.

June 8 is the final deadline to file any claim forms for claims other than Seafood Compensation Program.

Mississippi, once again, has been generously dealt with by a private-sector entity responsible for damage and by the federal government’s determination to help make recovery possible.



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