In a 4-3 vote today the Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas' admissions policy that takes into account the race or ethnicity of applicants who aren't automatically admitted under the school's "10 Percent" rule. (The top percentage of all Texas high school graduates are automatically qualified for admittance; it's not always 10 percent, but that's that's the name it's given.)
The case was brought by Abigail Fischer a white woman who claimed that, although she wasn't in the top 10 percent of her college class, she was denied admissions because she is white. She has since graduated from Louisiana State University.
Southern Dem Heads, Including Mississippi's, to Bernie Sanders: Stop Mischaracterizing Southern VotersBy Donna Ladd
Today, several southern Democratic Party heads, including Rickey Cole of Mississippi, signed a letter asking Bernie Sanders to stop characterizing southern voters as people who "distort reality":
The letter, posted on Politico, started in part:
We commend you on running a spirited campaign that has energized and mobilized a new generation of voters, but we are concerned about the way you and your campaign have characterized the South.
As you may recall in 2006, the Democratic National Committee chaired by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean took two historic steps towards diversity and inclusion. First, the DNC modified its Presidential Primary process and added South Carolina and Nevada (states with sizable minority populations) to join the historic early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Governor Dean stated at the time that he “strongly believed in the importance of broadening participation in the nomination process to better reflect the rich racial, regional and economic diversity of the Democratic Party.” Second, Governor Dean initiated a 50-state strategy to strengthen the Democratic Party and amplify Democratic voices in all states and not just states traditionally dominated by Democrats.
The greatest asset we have as a party is our diversity—a diversity of cultures, religions, ethnicities, experiences, and backgrounds.
Yet over the course of this Democratic primary, you and your surrogates have sought to minimize Secretary Hillary Clinton’s victories throughout the South as a symptom of a region that, as you put it, “distorts reality.” You argue that the South is “the most conservative part” of America; implying states that traditionally vote Republican in a general election are not worth contesting in a Democratic Primary.
Southern Democrats already have to deal with Republicans refusing to expand Medicaid, deteriorating infrastructure, and the lack of adequate funding for our public schools. We need our national Democratic leaders to invest in our races and causes—to amplify our voices, not diminish them. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has spent her entire career trying to help people all across the South. She saw a region full of families and children of every color, and instead of diminishing them, she worked to build them up. She is committed to a long-term strategy of rebuilding our state Democratic parties, to assist candidates up and down the ballot, and to serve as a voice for the voiceless. She has not dismissed the importance of states that you have won, because she realizes s that to be President of the United States you have to be a champion for all of the states. To be leader of the Party, you have to be with Democrats in all states as well. That includes the ones you won and yes, even the ones you lose.
Organizers today cancelled the 37th Annual Mississippi Picnic in Central Park, saying it would not happen this year due to passage of House Bill 1523. The picnic was planned for Saturday, June 11, Noon to 5:00 pm in Central Park at 5th Avenue and 72nd Street. The theme of the 2016 picnic was to be “Nothing but the Blues,” as a tribute to B. B. King.
The New York Mississippi Society organizes the picnic, which has been a huge promotional and networking opportunity that draws together Mississippi natives living in New York City and tourism and other business officials who travel there for the picnic.
A woman who answered the phone at the number posted on the website promoting the picnic earlier today said that an update would be posted on the website soon.
Mississippi Development Authority spokesman Jeff Rent said today, via email, that the State and MDA were not consulted in advance of the decision, which came from the organizers based in New York. "The New York Mississippi Society has made the decision to cancel the Mississippi Picnic in Central Park. We are disappointed in not only their decision, but also their lack of discussion with Mississippi partners before cancelling the event," Rent wrote.
Two years ago, famed Oxford chef and restaurateur John Currence and Ole Miss students brought a pro-LGBT message to Central Park after Gov. Bryant signed the earlier, but less odious religious-freedom act.
A petition had urged New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and others to stop the picnic in Central park after the passage of House Bill 1523.
The website states:
Faster than a New York minute, we can tell you one thing, Mississippi should not be proud, nor does it deserve to celebrate their State in this park if they don't share New York’s values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect.
The official website for the picnic lists their mission as "To preserve the culture and heritage of the state of Mississippi." The "heritage" of Mississippi has no business being on full display in the cathedral of parks in New York City. Mississippi has routinely been on the wrong side of history and once again in 2016, the state passes legislation that puts members of the LGBTQ community at risk. At an event of this nature, Mississippi wants to claim the literary great in native son Tennessee Williams, a gay man, who if alive today could now be legally denied a meal in an Oxford restaurant because the owner didn't approve of his sexual orientation.
The front page of the website promoting the picnic changed dramatically in the last half hour, from the top image here to the bottom one:
UPDATE: The Copiah County Courier has a copy of a press statement from the picnic organizers posted. Here is is verbatim:
Annual New York - Mississippi Picnic Cancelled Event was scheduled for June 11 in Central Park
We, the founders ...
Rep. Joel Bomgar started the very successful company that still bears his name, although he no longer owns it. The CEO of Bomgar has now come out against House Bill 1523—a bill that the Republican representative supported. Here is Matt Dircks' full statement, verbatim:
Bomgar Corporation was founded in Mississippi 13 years ago, and we are extremely proud of the unwavering commitment to living Bomgar’s core values from our employees who work in our Ridgeland, Mississippi, office as well as our offices around the globe. That’s why I feel it’s important to state that Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ legislation, House Bill 1523, is inconsistent with the values and principles that are at the core of Bomgar’s culture.
At Bomgar, we strongly believe every individual has dignity and worth and the right to be treated equally. As Bomgar’s CEO, I’m personally disappointed in any legislation that does not provide equal treatment and rights for all, regardless of color, sex, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Bomgar embraces diversity, and the principles of equality and integrity are at the heart of everything we seek to accomplish and stand for as a company.
Bomgar opposes discrimination, and we respect, support, and welcome all current and future Bomgar employees and customers.
This morning, the Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association announced plans to create the Everyone's Welcome Here Campaign in response to HB 1523.
Here is a press release, verbatim, from the association:
The Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association has announced its plans to create the EVERYONE’S WELCOME HERE campaign.
Mike Cashion, the Executive Director of the MHRA states, “When HB 1523 was signed, Mississippi was thrust into the national spotlight. Regardless of its intent, this legislation has created a level of controversy and public perception that affects the image of our state and the hospitality community. And while we may not be able to manage the image and brand of the entire state, we can affect the image of our restaurants, hotels and other hospitality businesses. When our industry is challenged, we as an organization will take prudent steps to protect and promote the restaurant and hospitality industry"
The "EVERYONE’S WELCOME HERE" Campaign is a voluntary, no cost program for members of the hospitality and tourism industries.
The MHRA will design, print and distribute door decals to restaurant or hospitality related business that would like to convey the message that "EVERYONE’S WELCOME HERE." The MHRA will create a web presence that will list a master directory of participating restaurants and businesses. The Association and its members will use social media to support the campaign and convey a message of inclusivity.
Cashion adds, “Our industry serves a diverse customer base and we want to make sure all customers are appreciated and welcomed. We have a very clear and strong message to convey. Mississippi's restaurant industry is open for everyone's business.”
The official launch date is scheduled for late April.
If you would like to participate in the program or would like more information contact the MHRA office at 601.608.0221 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association is a non-profit association composed of over 1400 food service operators, lodging properties, casinos, suppliers, manufacturers, and other professionals who realize the importance of working together for the good of our industry. Mississippi’s 4300 restaurants contribute significantly to the economy. Over 80,000 people are employed in the industry. Restaurant sales will exceed $3.2 billion this year and contribute over $228 million in State taxes.
The Human Rights Commission has releases a statement that includes an open letter to Governor Phil Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn, calling on them to repeal HB 1523.
U.S. Rep Bennie Thompson: HB 1523 Backers Paint Mississippi as 'Backwards, Insensitive and Discriminatory'By Donna Ladd
The responses to Gov. Phil Bryant's signing of HB 1523 today are coming fast and furious, but this one by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson really stands out. Here it is, verbatim:
“Last week, the Mississippi Legislature agreed on a version of House Bill No. 1523, the so-called “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” and, today, Governor Phil Bryant – in an act that could have long lasting negative impacts on the state – chose not to resist the forces in this state that paint Mississippi as backwards, insensitive and discriminatory but instead sided with those forces and signed the bill into law. The bill will allow circuit clerks to deny marriage licenses, prevent certain individuals from having access to adoption, stop citizens from having access to medical treatment and will go as far as to regulate clothing choices for kids in school, and generally, provide for government-regulated discrimination.”
“The effect of signing this bill could be far-reaching and gravely damaging to our state. Industries that are considering bringing jobs to our state and talented individuals considering bringing their skills to our state could decide to turn their backs on Mississippi just as the Governor and State Legislature have turned their backs on our own citizens and neighbors. Much needed federal funding for things like transportation, infrastructure, and agriculture might be jeopardized now that this ill-advised and, indeed, discriminatory bill has been signed into law in Mississippi.”
“We have seen these types of ‘religious freedom’ bills in other states and we have seen the negative impact that they have had on industry and tourism in those states. I am deeply concerned that the same negative economic impacts will now befall Mississippi. For example, the NCAA has already placed the state of Mississippi under a postseason ban because the state still flies a flag bearing the emblem of the confederacy. Now, the state has upped the ante and adopted a bill that has the potential of legalizing discrimination. Who knows what penalties and consequences this law will bring from the NCAA and any of a number of other governing bodies with interests in the state?”
“Today, by signing this discriminatory bill, Governor Phil Bryant turned the clock back to a time when discrimination was codified through Jim Crow laws and poll taxes instead of looking forward to a more inclusive and tolerant future. This is no religious freedom bill but rather a bill that gives freedom to those who discriminate.”
See jfp.ms/lgbt for ongoing coverage of HB 1523 and the fight for LGBT rights in Mississippi.
The Human Rights Campaign this evening announced in a release that the Mississippi Manufacturers Association—a frequent contributor to conservative candidates and supporter of "pro-business" legislation in Mississippi—is calling on Governor Phil Bryant to veto HB 1523, which has passed both houses and awaits the Governor's response.
The New York Times is reporting that new religious "conscience" law allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people, and perhaps others, could block federal funding for the states, such as Mississippi, that are considering such laws:
The Obama administration is considering whether North Carolina’s new law on gay and transgender rights makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways and housing, officials said Friday.
Cutting off any federal money — or even simply threatening to do so — would put major new pressure on North Carolina to repeal the law, which eliminated local protections for gay and transgender people and restricted which bathrooms transgender people can use. A loss of federal money could send the state into a budget crisis and jeopardize services that are central to daily life.
The Times reported that several federal agencies are reviewing the funds their agencies provide to the states that are adopting discriminatory laws:
Anthony Foxx, the secretary of transportation, first raised the prospect of a review of federal funding in public remarks on Tuesday in North Carolina. The Department of Transportation provides roughly $1 billion a year to North Carolina. The New York Times then asked other federal agencies whether they were conducting similar reviews.
A Department of Education spokeswoman, Dorie Nolt, said on Friday that her agency was also reviewing the North Carolina law “to determine any potential impact on the state’s federal education funding.” She added, “We will not hesitate to act if students’ civil rights are being violated.”
The agency said it provided $4.3 billion to North Carolina last year for kindergarten through 12th grade as well as colleges.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development said it was doing a similar evaluation. “We’re reviewing the effects of the law on HUD funding allocated for North Carolina,” said Cameron French, a department spokesman.
The backers of Mississippi's HB 1523 vigorously claim that the bill isn't discrimination, but a protection of religious "conscience," even as the language of the bill belies that claim. In Mississippi, HB 1523 could go to Gov. Bryant as early as Monday for signature.
Read full coverage of the long fight for LGBT rights at jfp.ms/lgbt.
This weekend, I've seen a lot of excuses for Donald Trump's bigotry and xenophobia from his supporters, who don't seem to have many reasons for supporting him other than they are sick and tired of the way things are now. One gentleman showed up on my Facebook page to defend supporting Trump, saying it's not about bigotry and calling me "intolerant toward those holding different opinions" because I was willing to call out Trump's blatant bigotry.
I looked at his Facebook page, and he had reposted a letter to the RNC supposedly explaining why Trump supporters are fed up. The gist of it was about getting rid of "rabid, messy, mean raccoons":
You’ve been on vacation for two weeks, you come home, and your basement is infested with raccoons. Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons have overtaken your basement. You want them gone immediately…You call the city and four different exterminators, but nobody could handle the job. There is this one guy however, who guarantees you he will get rid of them, so you hire him. You don’t care if the guy smells, you don’t care if the guy swears, you don’t care how many times he’s been married, you don’t care if he was friends with liberals, you don’t care if he has plumber’s crack…you simply want those raccoons gone! You want your problem fixed! He’s the guy. He’s the best. Period. Here’s why we want Trump: Yes he’s a bit of an ass, yes he’s an egomaniac, but we don’t care. The country is a mess because politicians have become too self-serving. The Republican Party is two-faced & gutless. Illegal aliens have been allowed to invade our nation. We want it all fixed! We don’t care that Trump is crude, we don’t care that he insults people, we don’t care that he had been friendly with Hillary, we don’t care that he has changed positions, we don’t care that he’s been married three times, we don’t care that he fights with Megan Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell, we don’t care that he doesn’t know the name of some Muslim terrorist.
When I asked the gentleman on my Facebook page (whom I don't know) who he thought the "raccoons" are, he said he "assumed" that the piece he was reposting meant "illegal immigrants"—perhaps not knowing that he is speaking of human beings that Trump has said the most horrible things about, especially the darkish ones south of the U.S. border. He also added: "Not agreeing on issues or politicians or political parties is one thing but when either side turns to vile hate towards others that don't agree with them then that is bigotry."
I'm seeing this argument all the time now from Trump supporters: It is just as "racist" — ??? — to point out someone's bigotry as it is to be the bigot, at least according to their twisted rationalization. In addition to being incredibly absurd logic, this is a straight-up defense of ...
Super Tuesday is here, with 865 pledged delegates up for grabs for the Democratic candidates and 595 available to the Republican candidates. Here's a visual guide to the states in play and the delegate counts.
Here's the Presidential Primary tracker, updated as results come in:
Rolling into the South Carolina primary this weekend, here's a visual look at some of the polling data.
While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is favored by a significant margin (59-40), it is interesting to see the older candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, with stronger support among the youngest voters.
Sanders polls at 63% among 18-29 voters and 55% of 30-44 voters, according to the YouGov/CBS News poll.
Clinton swings back with 69% of the over-45 vote among Democratic primary votes.
Mississippi Solar LLC, a solar panel installation company, sent an "urgent alert" today to media and followers regarding House Bill 1139 and Senate Bill 2089 in the Mississippi legislature, which they say would gut the power of the Mississippi Public Service Commission, reverse recent moves toward net metering and widely deregulate the companies that offer electric power in Mississippi.
In one section of the House bill, the authority of the PSC to oversee rates set by these corporations (which have a monopoly granted by the states) appears to be completely overturned, as well as the ability of the PSC to regulate consumer benefits such as net metering and smart-grid investment:
A corporation * shall have the power to fix, adjust, charge, collect and pay reasonable rates for electric energy and other facilities, supplies, equipment, products, commodities, goods and services furnished by, offered by or furnished to the corporation. All rates of a corporation formed or operating under the provisions of this article shall be established by the corporation's board and shall not be regulated by the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
The commission also shall not regulate nor attempt to regulate corporations formed or operating under this article with respect to the subject matters of standards established by the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, including, but not limited to, those established at 16 USC Section 2621(d), and including, but not limited to, the following matters: cost of service; declining block, time-of-day, seasonal, and interruptible rates; load management techniques; integrated resource planning; conservation and demand management; energy efficiency; wholesale power purchases; net metering; fuel sources; fossil fuel generation efficiency; time-based metering and communications; interconnection for distributed generation; and smart grid investments and information.
The House bill was introduced by Republican Charles "Jim" Beckett, chair of the Public Utilities committee, whose 2015 campaign filings show nearly all of his campaign contributions were from corporations or PACs, many of which are subject to oversight from the PSC.
Rep. Beckett accepted $2000 from Entergy's PAC (and another $1000 in 2014), $1000 from Mississippi Power's PAC, $500 from the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi's PAC (pre-election in August); he also accepted money from Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, Cable PAC MCTA, Verizon and Comcast Corp., AT&T PAC, Chevron, North American Coal PAC, Atmos Energy Corp PAC and others.
Beckett began the year with $73,447 in the bank (including repaying a $10,000 loan on the same day he received it February of 2015, according to campaign filings) and ended it with $75,518, thanks in part to a post-victory $2500 donation from Electric Power Associations of Mississippi in December.
Seems they're already big fans.
[Note: The above was corrected; I originally thought the $10,000 repaid in February was loaned in the previous year. If you know of some clever political accounting reason to loan yourself money the same day you repay it, clue me in.]
Here's the text of Mississippi Solar LLC's ...
Mayor Tony Yarber of Jackson endorsed Hillary Clinton today, citing her awareness of the problems plaguing underserved cities.
The website BoomFantasy.com, which up until now has focused on sports, is launching a "live fantasy" game to coincide with the GOP debate planned for Saturday, February 6, 2016.
For sporting events, the website focuses on in-game predictions such as "What will be the result of Payton Manning's next throw?"
For the debate, questions will hinge more on typical talking points and drinking-game style observations, such as: "Who will Donald Trump go after next? Which will be mentioned first: Ted Cruz's Canadian citizenship or his questionable Iowa tactics?"
Saturday's Republican debate, which begins at 8 pm ET, will be the first ever non-sports event for the Stanford startup, according to a press release.
"Watching Trump and Cruz combat each other seems like more of a sporting event than the Nets-76ers game on Saturday evening," said Stephen A. Murphy, co-founder and CEO of Boom Fantasy, in the release. "Our live fantasy format adds fun and excitement to all types of events, not just athletic contests."
After Saturday's foray into politics, Boom Fantasy returns to football on Sunday, when the Broncos face the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Boom Fantasy games can be played for real prize money in 12 U.S. states - California, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Residents of all states can participate in free-to-play tournaments, according to the company.
Boom Fantasy can be played at www.boomfantasy.com, and is available in the App Store and on Android.
Sen. Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, is touching up a bill that proposes to change the Jackson airport commission structure. Harkins told the Jackson Free Press he will likely file his bill on Monday or Tuesday next week, which will change who appoints and who qualifies to serve on the airport's governing body.
The current commission is made up of five members, all appointed by the Jackson mayor. Harkins' bill will require the commission to include members from Madison, Rankin and city of Jackson. Harkins is still working on the details, but he said it is important for some commissioners to have aviation and business experience.
Jackson-based legislators have vocalized their distaste for the proposed bill, as well as Jackson business leaders calling the bill an attempted "takeover." Harkins said the city of Jackson will not suffer financially from the plan.
The following is a verbatim press release from the Jackson airport:
Jackson, Miss. – At the Regular Meeting of the Board of Commissioners for the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority held earlier this month, the Board of voted to engage the services of W.T. Consultants.
As the official lobbyist for the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, Worth Thomas, along with the W.T. Consultants team will monitor and track all state and municipal legislation impacting the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. Additionally, W.T. Consultants will coordinate communications with legislators and other officials concerning impacts to the economic development of the JMAA enterprise including the Jackson Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport and Hawkins Field Airport.
“We are most excited about the addition of Mr. Thomas to our legal team”, said Perry J. Miller, Chief Operating Officer for the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. “The gravity of his experience is an added value in assisting us to meet our legislative goals in support of our enterprise."
Established in 1996, W.T. Consultants has been engaged in lobbying and business consulting with congressional, state, municipal and other local entities. The firm has been in good standing with the State of Mississippi as a registered lobbyist and has established bi-partisan relationships with government and legislative officials including the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Mississippi Senate.
The Mississippi Public Service Commission's Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley issued the following statement about the approval of the state's first net-metering rule:
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI - (December 3, 2015) – Today, the Public Service Commission unanimously passed a groundbreaking rule allowing net metering in the state. Net metering is the process by which individual utility customers who use solar panels or other renewable energy generators can sell back their excess power to the power companies. The electricity the customers produce can be placed back on the electric grid to offset what they otherwise would pay on their power bill.
In early January of 2011, the PSC initiated a study of the costs and benefits of net metering. Today’s decision is the culmination of nearly 5 years of work by the Commission.
“Mississippians are self-sufficient. They like to fix their own cars and grow their own food. They should be able to make their own power, too,” Presley said.
The rule requires that customers who produce excess electricity be compensated at the cost the utility will not have to spend each month, plus 2.5 cents for unquantifiable benefits. To assist low income customers, the Commission orders that each utility file a report on the feasibility of community solar by summer, 2016. Further, the first 1,000 low income customers will receive an additional 2 cents/kWh as a way of offsetting some initial costs. The order further protects consumers by establishing a joint working group to address all concerns raised in the docket. The effectiveness of the rule will be evaluated in 5 years.
“Passing this rule is a big step toward creating a solar market in our state; a step that could one day benefit all ratepayers. No one can predict what the cost of electricity or gas will be tomorrow but I can tell you that the sunshine will be free,” Presley concluded.
From the office of the Mayor Tony Yarber:
Motorists are advised of road conditions on the east bound lane of Woodrow Wilson Drive, heading toward Interstate 55. There was a break on a 36-inch water line in the area. The City's team is assessing the condition of the site continuously to keep it safe for motorists. However, if possible, motorists may want to select an alternate route.
An emergency declaration was signed to expedite the process of securing a consultant for design and construction. That process can take up to several weeks, but we’re now finalizing an agreement with an engineering firm to begin design work.
The water main has been left active because it is serving critical facilities. At the same time, city engineers are working to design the repair, which is more involved because of the location, the materials for the pipe and the laying conditions. This project requires a custom built new pipe as the break occurred on a 36-inch water line constructed in the 1960s. The repair cannot be made in house. The pipe needs to be encased, requiring engineering design and a contractor.
The City's team is assessing the condition of the site continuously to keep it safe for motorists. As soon as the design is completed, the city will receive quotes to get a contractor mobilized to make the repairs.
Run-offs are old-school anyway, right?
The fate of District 79's representation in the House of Representatives will be decided on Friday by drawing straws, according to Mississippi election law. Rep. Bo Eaton, D-Taylorsville, has represented the district since 1996, but in this election he pulled in the exact same number of votes as his Republican challenger, Mark Tullos.
The two candidates tied with 4,589 votes each.
In a press release, Rep. Eaton said he will not challenge the result of Friday's straws. Technically, the loser on Friday has the right to challenge the vote and appeal to the House of Representatives, which would then decide who gets to take District 79's seat when they reconvene.
Eaton's press release said: "Whatever the outcome of the procedure, I will abide by the result and not challenge the election. I hope my opponent will agree to do the same thing."
The District 79 race straws will be drawn on Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the governor's office conference room in the Sillers Building when the governor and the secretary of state return from Israel.