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.

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