Summary of recent Mississippi newspaper editorials


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Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

June 15

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo) on voter identification:

Had the Republican U.S. Senate race not turned into a cliffhanger, a story that would have gotten more attention in the wake of the June 3 primary was the state's initial foray into voter ID.

For the first time, Mississippi voters had to present a government-issued photo identification as they checked in at the polls. For an issue that had been so contentious in Mississippi for so long, the debut of voter ID was pretty routine.

Nearly 400,000 Mississippians voted. Only 513 of them, according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, showed up without an ID in the 79 of 82 counties from which he had a report. All of the 513 voters cast an affidavit ballot. Of those, 177 came back within the deadline to show an ID at their local circuit clerk's office and have their vote counted.

Hosemann deserves a good share of the credit for the generally smooth implementation of the law passed by the Legislature after the voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2011 requiring it. His office aggressively publicized its coming and made a good-faith effort to assist those Mississippians who didn't have an ID in getting one. And certainly local circuit clerks and poll workers did their part as well.

Opponents of voter ID had suggested for the nearly two decades that the issue languished in the Legislature that having to present a photo ID would, at a minimum, discourage voter participation and potentially be a form of intimidation to some who remembered the days when black Mississippians were systematically denied the right to vote. While proponents of the law never demonstrated that fraud of the sort that voter ID would prevent was widespread, neither was the argument against it convincing.

In this day and age, people of all ages are routinely required to present photo identification for an assortment of purposes. The universal right to vote in Mississippi was bought with the blood not only of soldiers who died on foreign soil defending the nation's freedoms but of the civil rights martyrs who died right here in Mississippi so that everyone could exercise this fundamental right of citizenship. Reasonable measures designed to protect the sanctity of the ballot box honor those sacrifices.

Mississippi's voter ID law is reasonable and shouldn't be seen as an undue burden. Its first run on an election day in the state helped make that clear.

Online: http://www.journal.com

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June 11

The Vicksburg Post on education funding:

There's an old expression that says you get what you pay for. In Vicksburg and Warren County we are definitely getting what we pay for in regards to education.

It's all too easy to lament our standings compared to other school districts. We whine and claim that if we had the median income of those other districts then we could have the results they are seeing.

The Vicksburg Warren School District has operated at near the same millage rate for the last 25 years. While that has been fantastic for taxpayers, it has not been good for the future of our community. Property values have risen and that has in effect increased the budget for the district, but that increase has been offset with inflation. The children of our community have lagged behind similar sized communities and districts because of this.

Predictions at the beginning of the school year showed the district running a nearly $7 million deficit, with revenue estimated at about $55 million and expenditures at $62 million. That deficit for the year has been reduced to about $1 million through attrition and other cuts.

The board recently heard a presentation from Warren Greenlee, an attorney with the Young Law Group in Jackson that specializes in public and bond finance law.

Greenlee noted that a millage increase of 1.34 mills, would raise an additional $1 million yearly for the school district. That increase would wipe out the district's deficit.

The district is currently legally able to increase the rate by 0.34 mills as part of its 2010 General Obligation Bond without requesting a public hearing. Yet, our school board has not done so ... Public school districts in Mississippi may request up to 55 mills annually for operating expenses. That limit does not apply to taxes levied for capital improvements, such as building renovations and construction.

The question remains to be asked, why wouldn't our school board increase that millage rate to 55 mills? Is it more important to get re-elected or to provide the best education we can to the children of our community?

The VWSD is a D-rated district and quite frankly that is what we are paying for.

Online: http://www.vicksburgpost.com

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June 14

The Sun Herald (Gulfport) on insurance after Katrina:

Private companies are easing back into the coast insurance market and writing wind coverage polices after a long post-Katrina hiatus ... as state Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says 16 new companies are now offering wind coverage on the coast.

"It's been slow," Chaney said, "but we're making progress."

Companies use various factors to determine if they will insure a property against wind damage. Those factors can include the quality of construction, the proximity to a body of water and if the policyholder has other types of coverage — life or auto, for example — with the insurer.

There is certainly ample opportunity in South Mississippi for the private sector.

Joe Shumaker, manager of the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association, says the wind pool still has more than 44,000 policies covering $6.9 billion worth of property.

The three coastal counties account for most of that: $3.49 billion in Harrison County, $2.28 billion in Jackson County and $1.02 billion in Hancock County. Just under a third of that property is south of the CSX railroad tracks while 40 percent is between the tracks and Interstate 10.

So there is still a long way to go to empty the wind pool — a government-backed insurer of last resort — of policyholders.

But some progress is noticeable. Since its post-Katrina peak, the wind pool has some 1,500 fewer policies and approximately $400 million less property to insure.

Online: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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