- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

March 23

Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on the $15-an-hour experiment:

The U.S. Supreme Court in the past has encouraged states to be crucibles of experimentation, to see how new ideas unfold in reality instead of in theory. In that spirit, the largest city in Washington state is about to embark on a test of labor and wages.

Seattle’s new minimum-wage law, which for the next few years requires large businesses and franchises to pay more than small, locally owned businesses, survived a hearing in federal court last week. The judge rejected arguments from franchise owners of large national chains that the law discriminates against them.

The hearing was only part of a lawsuit against the minimum-wage law. The full case is expected to be heard later this year, and it will be interesting to see if Seattle is allowed to set wage requirements based on the size of a business. …

There’s no doubt that being a franchise owner can be a lucrative business. But Seattle’s argument makes it sound as if the city’s small businesses are run by a bunch of incompetents who are unable to think of their own marketing or advertising ideas - or who do not have the sense to join a group that can help them, such as a chamber of commerce. Local politics is the only reason the minimum wage at small businesses is increasing less rapidly.

The judge said potential harm to the franchise owners does not outweigh “the concrete harm” to minimum-wage employees who aren’t making enough to make ends meet.

It’s a good thing the judge mentioned concrete harm, because if the past is any guide, that’s exactly what’s going to happen to some of the employees of Seattle’s franchises and other businesses affected by the rising wages.

Minimum-wage workers will indeed earn more per hour, but employers will reduce the work week by a couple of hours per person or get by with one or two fewer people per shift. They will figure out ways to keep their labor expenses manageable.

Few object to good workers getting a pay raise, and if Seattle leaders are intent on raising the minimum wage, so be it. But the court should oblige the city to treat all businesses fairly. If $11 an hour on April 1 is the right thing to do for McDonald’s workers, it is good enough for people at a mom-and-pop restaurant, too.




March 24

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on legislators’ commitment:

Even before this election-year session of the Legislature convened in January, Mississippians were told by some state officials to expect great strides in ensuring the public’s business would be conducted in a more accountable fashion.

But those great expectations are being dashed as legislators’ commitment to their constituents crumbles.

Not all of their constituents, of course.

Certainly not the constituents with money for campaign contributions. Or who can hire lobbyists to wine and dine Mississippi’s part-time lawmakers. Those well-connected constituents are enjoying the same sort of kowtowing by legislators they have become so accustomed to.

Take state contracts, for instance. The scandal that has rocked the state Department of Corrections was supposed to spur the Legislature to make significant changes in the way state contracts were awarded, especially contracts in which no bidding was required.

The state House of Representatives did just that. But the state Senate pulled some of the teeth out of HB825 before passage.

On Monday, members of the House accepted the Senate’s version as “better than nothing” and sent the legislation to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature.

Then there’s the effort to make publicly owned hospitals more accountable to the taxpayers who own them.

State Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula proposed legislation that would require all public hospitals to conduct their board of trustees meeting in public.

But the state House shrank Wiggins’ proposal down to apply only to the Singing River Health System in Jackson County.

That maneuver was outrageous and the fate of the legislation is now in the hands of a conference committee of House and Senate members, who face a Saturday deadline.

Indeed, the 90-day legislative session itself is scheduled to end April 5.

If that date passes with no comprehensive reform of the operation of public hospitals being passed, then those who opposed or abandoned this effort should not be given another opportunity to betray their constituents.

If lawmakers will not vote to safeguard the public and public revenue, then their constituents should not vote for them.

This tired old game of spreading the blame between the different chambers of the Legislature must no longer be permitted to dupe the public.

This session of the Legislature has been particularly irksome in the amount of political grandstanding it has featured, from a grandiose scheme to eliminate the personal income tax to a commitment to transparency and accountability that grows weaker as the session draws to a close.

It is the shameful art of giving lip service to good public policy while undermining every effort to actually do something good.

Only voters can put an end to it, and they will soon have another opportunity to do so.




March 25

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on the ICC’s academic vision:

Leaders with a vision for the changing role of education planned in 1941 to add two grades to Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, that era’s equivalent of a vocational-technical institution open countywide and beyond.

Those additional, innovative years were the beginnings of what would become Itawamba Junior College, and in 1987, Itawamba Community College.

That earliest move toward two more years of education would be postponed by the waging of World War II, but in 1948 and 1949 those two additional years were started on the IAHS Fulton campus with support from Lee, Itawamba and Monroe counties.

By 1965, innovation pressed again for changes, and IJC opened a vocational-technical campus in Tupelo, what is its sprawling campus on Eason Boulevard, and now has thousands of square feet at its Belden Center.

Its history of response to changing demands makes its new five-year plan for remaking its Eason Boulevard campus into another campus focused mainly on the academic side of community college is just another major phase in changing to become better.

The college soon will begin $14.6 million worth of construction to help transform the campus from its past vocational days to one that now mainly serves academic classes.

Included will be the construction of a new 62,000-square-foot academic building and the renovation of the technical education building.

“We believe the Tupelo campus will be where our population growth will be in the future,” ICC President Mike Eaton said in announcing the project during a faculty meeting. “. It is time we make a statement over here.”

The new ICC on Eason will join University of Mississippi’s branch, called the Advanced Education Center, a new health occupations academic and training center and bachelor’s degree nursing classes offered by Mississippi University for Women.

The new academic building will be constructed along Eason Boulevard, where several existing buildings will be demolished, all having reached the end of their usefulness.

The $14.6 million project will be financed about half by general funds the school will budget for the construction work, and ICC also has about $7 million in the bank from past state bonds.

Meanwhile, the college also will construct a new 22,000-square-foot band hall on its Fulton campus.

While some kinds of traditions remain important for college students, most enrollment is driven by affordability and convenience, especially for commuter schools like community colleges.

ICC has chosen a promising, innovative path for what’s ahead.



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