- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


March 31

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on the end of the 2017 state legislative session:

Despite a number of issues still unresolved, the 2017 legislative session came to a close this week following months of work by legislators and state leaders.

The session ended Wednesday with an almost understood notion that legislators would return before the new fiscal year begins July 1 for a special session of some kind. What issues will be taken up in that session have yet to be determined.

The likely topics that elected officials will tackle include the passing of budgets to fund the office of Attorney General, the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the state Aid Road Program, which provides state funds to counties to help with the upkeep of their major roads.

The $22.9 million budget for Attorney General Jim Hood’s office died on Monday night when problems with language in the bill making mandates on his office could not be fixed before a key deadline, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison.

The other two bills, the $1.2 billion budget for MDOT and the $175 million budget for state Aid, were killed by House members. Speaker Philip Gunn said the Senate would not consider any of their proposals to spend more money on transportation to address growing maintenance problems.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said he would be open to discussing a possible solution regarding improvements to the state’s transportation system, but also said he would like to see a concentrated effort to make sure the agency is being efficient with its existing funds.

Our state’s crumbling infrastructure needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, so we hope state leaders come together to find a way to fund that vital work.

Another issue that was not resolved during the 2017 session was the proposed rewrite of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program that provides state funds to local school districts. Both Gunn and Reeves made that a priority before the session began, but never filed legislation to accomplish that goal.

State leaders say work continues on the rewrite, but there hasn’t been any indication whether or not that topic would be included in a special session.

The lack of progress on this particular item could likely be seen as a victory for many public education advocates, who felt that state leaders were rushing the process of rewriting such a significant item and doing so with little transparency and input from community stakeholders.

We hope state leaders use this as an opportunity to take a step back from the current rewrite process to determine what exactly a new formula should look like for Mississippi and share that with educators, parents and residents early on for feedback.

One bright spot from this legislative session came with the passing of legislation that prohibits politicians from using campaign finance funds on personal expenses. Our state’s campaign finance laws have long needed revamping, so we’re pleased legislators pushed through meaningful reform this year.

While this legislative session is over, state leaders should prepare to come back to Jackson ready to tackle other important issues if and when a special session is called.




April 4

The Commercial Dispatch on Mississippi’s agricultural industry:

It’s gambling season in Mississippi, the time of year piles of money are buried in the soil, and we wait to see what happens in six months.

April is planting season in our state as farmers play their hunches - what to plant, how much to plant. The knowns are far fewer than the unknowns. Weather and markets can be fickle. It’s a risky business. It’s always been a risky business. It is the nature of the industry. But, talk to a farmer and he’ll tell you he wouldn’t be doing anything else.

Farming has always been Mississippi’s leading industry.

According to the group Farm Families of Mississippi, 26,000 Mississippians - about 17 percent of the state’s workforce - are employed either directly or indirectly in the industry.

While chicken/egg and livestock production account for about half of the state’s agricultural income, row crops such as soybeans, cotton, corn and rice are vital to the state’s economy.

For those row-crop farmers, the time for decision is at hand. Over the next six weeks, the bulk of the state’s row crops will be planted.

Right now, the smart money seems to point to cotton and soybeans, where current prices are promising. Corn prices are off at the moment and it is expected that most Mississippi farmers will reduce their corn acreage.

Of course, it’s more complicated than just looking at market prices. The real question is not so much what the prices are today, but what they’ll be in the fall, when those crops are harvested. It’s almost impossible to predict.

Because agriculture is a global industry, the local farmer is not only impacted by the range of weather situations that can affect his crop, but the same conditions half a world away.

A drought on the other side of the world can mean a scarcity that drives up prices. A bumper crop on the other side of the globe can flood the market with those products, driving prices down.

It’s a gamble every year - a major investment in money, time, worry and work. If everything falls into place, the farmer can expect to make a reasonable profit come fall.

But there’s no guarantee, of course. Most Mississippi farmers are small farmers - the average farm in the state is 264 acres - so these aren’t big corporations with multi-million-dollar assets to hedge against a bad year. The typical Mississippi farmer is risking far more.

So, as the planting season begins, we salute the farmer, whose work is always a precarious enterprise.

Farming requires a lot of sweat and toil and expertise.

It also requires the nerves of a gambler.

In April, the farmers place their bets, then work and wait.

They have our respect, admiration and good wishes.




April 2

The Sun Herald on seat belt safety:

It pains us to keep having this discussion but once again we need to talk.

About seat belts.

And why so many of us aren’t wearing them.

There is some good news. We are doing better. More than 80 percent of us regularly use seat belts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s the other 17 percent or so that bother us.

In Mississippi, two out of every three people killed in a highway crash weren’t wearing seat belts, the Mississippi Department of Transportation says.

And it’s our young people who are most likely to be killed.

The national rate for motor-vehicle deaths among people 21 to 34 years old is 10.8 per 100,000 population. In Mississippi, the rate for that age group is 24.6 per 100,000.

There is no excuse. It’s a matter of personal responsibility. You are responsible for your children. It is your duty as a parent to teach them how to navigate life as safely as possible.

Teach them to buckle up whenever they get in a car.

Make it fun. Make it an adventure.

Make it a habit.

Most of us have been reaching for those seat belts for years. It’s as natural as putting the key in the ignition. It’s that easy.

Now, to the adults who refuse to take this most basic of safety steps, shame on you for setting such a poor example for children. You’re putting your life at risk every time you fail to buckle up.

If you don’t buckle up, you are more likely to suffer a serious injury.

And no, you aren’t likely to drown in a submerged vehicle if you buckle up.

You are more likely to be ejected from the vehicle and be dead before it ever reaches the water if you don’t.

It’s time to end these senseless deaths.

Buckle up.



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