Monday, February 28, 2011

Animal Cruelty Bill Finally Passes

SB 2821 passed the House 119-3 this afternoon. Aside from a few questions on dogs getting into garbage or chasing wildlife, there was little debate on the measure. Reps. Greg Ward and Brandon Jones handled the bill well on the floor, and Rep. Jeff Smith praised Chairman Ward on finally bringing a bill out. The version we voted on was a measure approved by both Farm Bureau and the Humane Society, two organizations that had historically been at odds over the issue.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Proposed Fee Increases to Fund Pay Hikes for Judges/DAs

General docket fee on Supreme Court filings-
would increase from $100 to $200 (this would still be the lowest in the Southeast)

New civil case filing fee in chancery court- $40
New civil case filing fee in circuit court- $40

Traffic violations-
assessment for DA/assistant DAs would increase from $1.50 to $10.

Implied consent law violations-
assessment for DA/assistant DAs would increase from $1.50 to $10.

Game and fish law violations-
assessment for DA/assistant DAs would increase from $1.50 to $10.

Other misdemeanors-
assessment for DA/assistant DAs would increase from $1.50 to $10.

Other felonies-
assessment for DA/assistant DAs would increase from $1.50 to $10.

New assessment for judicial salaries- $75

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Plans for 2011

My Plans for 2011

Four years ago, we began a journey that saw us dream big things for ourselves, our city and our state. We dared to think the political process could be done differently, and the people of Hattiesburg agreed. Serving as your state representative has been an honor. I'll never be able to properly thank all of you-friends, neighbors, church and community- for your support of me and our cause.

I think back to the 2007 campaign and how things have changed since then. As a district, we've seen continued population growth, the announcement of several new economic development projects and a renewed emphasis on our city neighborhoods. For me personally, the last four years brought the purchase of a home, a change in career, and perhaps my biggest overachievement- marrying Kate.

As I've attempted to confront our state's challenges, I'll admit the task has been overwhelming at times. However, my desire remains- to better the quality of life for people; and to provide decent and honest representation for this district.

When I took the oath, I set out to prove politics could be done differently. I've always sought to be known as the guy who worked hard, legislated fairly and pulled people towards common ground. As a Republican, I believe that less government works best- but I also believe our political discourse should remain civil. Sometimes that worked well; other times it did not.

I've also tried to communicate with an honesty and a candor that folks might not be familiar with. Above all, I've pushed an agenda that is fiscally responsible and pro-Hattiesburg, seeking to protect our employers, quality of life and values. And despite a difficult economy, our city has done well. But the job is not done. We continue to face the challenges of keeping homeowners and jobs in our city neighborhoods, bettering our public school system and protecting our health care community. And I intend to keep meeting these challenges head on.

Today, I'm announcing that I intend to seek reelection for state representative for District 102.

I believe our city's best days are ahead. But to be the premier city of Mississippi, we must protect and nurture the resources that make us Hattiesburg- our universities, our health care community, our industries and our strength and independence as a community.

I do not know what challenges the 2011 election will hold. But we intend to win the way we won the first time- by staying positive, working harder and casting a clear vision of what this district can and should be. While we won't hold an event until later or officially start campaigning until after the 2011 session is complete, I want to make my intentions clearly known.

To win, we'll need your help. We'll need your vote, your voice and, not to be cliche, but your prayers. Every bit of your support goes a long way. We can and we will continue to take hold of tomorrow's promise.

And I invite you to join us again in making it happen.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Casey Eure, Columbus Day, HEADWAE and other Thursday Ramblings

With inclement weather beginning to bear down on most of Mississippi, the House and Senate elected to adjourn Thursday shortly after swearing in newly-elected Rep. Casey Eure (R-Biloxi). After a two-hour drive to Hattiesburg (kept at a breakneck 45 mph), I'm finally home and actually have a chance to blog between "fetch" throws to my dog.

As for Casey, he'll have to wait until Monday to cast his first official vote in the Mississippi Legislature (unless you count the voice vote to adjourn, which would be a less than climactic opening vote for the history books). In case you weren't around last November, Rep. Eure's predecessor, Rep. Steven Palazzo won a seat in Congress, creating the vacancy. Eure ran first in the first election and won the seat in the runoff on Tuesday.

We didn't move very far down the calendar today. The House leadership brought back up their funds transfer bill that failed yesterday. Apparently, the original bill had a code section in there dealing with a fee, which made it a 3/5 vote that they couldn't quite pull off. So they brought it back up for reconsideration, passed an amendment to delete that section of the bill, which meant the bill only needed a simple majority, and thus it passed. However, we still maintain that it takes more money from the reserves than needed (and more than the House budget negotiators agreed to when the Joint Legislative Budget Committee made its recommendation in December). Either way, the budget will be worked out in conference- but it would go smoother if both sides just went ahead and were realistic on what's feasible this year.

(By the way, the dog has now grown tired of me and is sleeping soundly).

We also designated Columbus Day as an official state holiday, which I did not support. The rationale was that state employees hadn't seen raises in several years, and this was a goodwill gesture. However, Rep. Joe Warren (D-Mount Olive) threw out the figure of $12 million for employee costs per day in committee when it was passed on Tuesday. While this won't change how much the state is dolling out, we are losing productivity. Added to the bill via amendments were "recognition days" (days we recognize but don't make official holidays) African American Day (last day of February) and Women's Day (August 26). Also, Confederate Memorial Day was made a dual holiday by also recognizing at as Civil Rights Memorial Day.

One of the highlights of the day was the HEADWAE luncheon (HEADWAE stands for a very long acronym that I can't remember but denotes appreciation to people involved in higher education in the state). Each college and university, public and private, recognized one outstanding student and one outstanding faculty member. Southern Miss recognized Miss Suzanna Ellzey, a biochemistry major from Hattiesburg and Tri-Delt. Suzanna's a great person from a great family and represented us well. The faculty honoree was Dr. Steven Yuen.

Finally, the official numbers from the U.S. Census arrived for Mississippi today. That means a redistricting plan could be right around the corner.

So I'm off to begin working on the weekly newsletter. If you want daily updates on the happenings of the Mississippi Legislature, you can follow me on Twitter at @toby_barker.