Politics Blog


April 22, 2014

Live Tweeting the #jxnmayor Run-off

By Todd Stauffer

Live Tweeting the #jxnmayor Run-off. Who will be mayor in this special election for Jackson's next mayor?

April 22, 2014

Everyday People Everyday: Two #JxnMayor Theme Songs

By R.L. Nave

Go to any campaign event for either candidate, and you'll hear it.

Both Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber and Chokwe A. Lumumba claim to be the everyman who represents "everyday people." In fact, Yarber incorporates the phrase in his campaign literature and stump speeches. Lumumba has also adopted the mantra, to tie into his family's history of legal and civil-rights activism, especially for the poor.

Inevitably, you'll also hear something else: the familiar chorus of Sly & and the Family Stone's 1969 hit "Everyday People." At Yarber's events, the song plays as if it's on a timer. At Lumumba functions, the song appears in a slightly different form, as a sample in the 1992 song "People Everyday" from hip-hop group Arrested Development.

Both are great songs that celebrate diversity and question racial and ethnic prejudice. The songs also highlight generational differences in the candidates' bases.

The average Yarber voter, I suspect, is older, and maybe of the Motown generation For them, songs like "Everyday People" comprised part of the soundtrack of their youth, a time when the nation was amid cultural upheaval.

The Family Stone sings:

There is a long hair/ That doesn't like the short hair/ For being such a rich one/ That will not help the poor one/ Different strokes/ For different folks

"People Everyday," a Lumumba favorite, on the other hand, is emblematic of the conscious Afrocentricity that permeated hip-hop in the early and mid-90s. For a lot of people, Lumumba's father, the late mayor, embodied a lot of that spirit. I'd guess that the prototypical Lumumba enthusiast is younger, a Generation X-er or millennial, who was drawn to his father's revolutionary political philosophies that rejected bourgeois complacency.

"People Everyday" speaks to this; Arrested Development group member Speech rhymes in the song:

So they came to test Speech cause of my hair-do/ And the loud bright colors that I wear [Boo!]/ I was a target cause I'm a fashion misfit/ And the outfit that I'm wearing brothers dissin' it

It's now been a generation since Arrested Development came on the scene (use the phrase today and people assume you're referring to the cult mockumentary). And they came on the scene a generation after Sly and the Family Stone.

Interestingly, Lumumba and Yarber—31 and 36, respectively—and their candidacies embody the same kind of generational blending, between "old head" and "thundercat," as "Everyday People" and "People Everyday."

Tonight, after the ballots are cast and counted, one the songs and the campaign it represents will be more resonant than the other.

April 22, 2014

Post-Runoff Election Parties

By HaleyFerretti

Candidates will be hosting post-election parties after the runoff election today.

April 18, 2014

Will Lumumba Get a Boost from Women?

By R.L. Nave

For the second time in two days, Chokwe A. Lumumba received a show of support for his stated commitment to women's issues.

Yesterday, attorney Regina Quinn, who competed in the April 8 special election, endorsed Lumumba's candidacy. She said she met with Lumumba and his rival, Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber, and felt that Lumumba had a deeper understanding of challenges women face. Gender-based pay inequity, she said, hurts families and, ultimately, the economy. Lumumba has proposed giving female city workers equal pay for equal work.

Lumumba said he would look to Ms. Quinn as an advisor and said he wanted women to have the same opportunities for city jobs, including top appointments.

Today, another group of women also announced their support of Lumumba.

"You can't possibly (support) a people's platform if you're not ready to run on a women's platform," he said today.

He credited his late mother, Nubia, with helping shape his attitudes toward women.

"If you knew my mother, you would know where my fire truly comes from," he said.


April 18, 2014 | 1 comment

You Can't Make It Up: Gov. Phil Bryant to Deliver Ole Miss Commencement

By Donna Ladd

Seriously, Mississippi, you can't quit you.

Ole Miss today confirmed rumors we've been hearing—that Gov. Phil Bryant, who is under fire in the state and nationally for signing SB 2681, is going to be the commencement speaker at the University of Mississippi, which is still trying to recover from the latest bigoted incident on campus.

I'm, frankly, astounded at the timing. I know many people at Ole Miss are working to move the university past its past, but how in the world does this choice help? Who makes these decisions?

Here's the verbatim release:

OXFORD, Miss. – Gov. Phil Bryant is set to visit the University of Mississippi on May 10 to deliver the main address at the university's 161st Commencement.

Mississippi's 64th governor, Bryant was sworn in on Jan. 10, 2012. Before becoming the state's chief executive, he was lieutenant governor from 2008 to 2011. He also served as state auditor and represented his legislative district in the Mississippi House of Representatives for five years.

The Moorhead native speaks to graduating students, their families and other guests at 9 a.m. in the Grove. This year's graduating class includes about 2,650 spring candidates for undergraduate and graduate degrees, plus some 1,000 August 2013 graduates.

"Over the years, we have had leaders from many fields come to campus for our commencement addresses, and Gov. Bryant has provided valuable leadership to our state in both the legislative and executive branches for nearly 25 years," Chancellor Dan Jones said. "By championing education and business reforms, he has helped drive economic development and provide a brighter future for all Mississippians. We look forward to the insights and challenges he will offer our graduates."

Recipients of doctor of philosophy degrees are to be hooded by their major professors in a 7:30 p.m. ceremony May 9 in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College ceremony begins at 4 p.m. at the same location.

A shuttle service for handicapped and elderly visitors is available Saturday before the main ceremony. Shuttles will pick up people needing assistance from various locations and take them to the seating area. (Wheelchairs, if needed, must be provided by families.) The headquarters for the shuttle service will be at the Department of Parking and Transportation tent, at the intersection of University Avenue and All American Drive. To request assistance, call 662-915-7235.

In case of rain, the ceremony will be moved to Tad Smith Coliseum. If the weather is threatening, a decision on moving the ceremony indoors will be made by 8 a.m. and announced through media outlets, text messaging and the Ole Miss website.

Following the main ceremony, individual schools and the College of Liberal Arts hold ceremonies at various times and locations to present baccalaureate, master's, doctor of pharmacy and juris doctor degrees and awards. The schedule is as follows:

  • College of Liberal Arts master's degrees – 11 a.m., Fulton Chapel

  • Patterson School of Accountancy – 11 a.m., ...

April 8, 2014

Live Tweeting the #jxnmayor Returns

By Todd Stauffer

We'll use Storify to follow tweets, Facebook, Touts and other updates throughout the night, including time coverage from the return parties.

April 7, 2014

Lumumba Explains Approach to LGBT Rights, Human Rights Commission

By Donna Ladd

Mayoral candidate Chokwe Antar Lumumba posted this statement on his website about his plans on a City Human Rights Commission, which "review and monitor all city contracts and engagements" for discrimination, including for sexual orientation:

Establishing a Human Rights Commission has been part of the People's Platform since 2008, before the issue of equality became a hot topic in this special election. We have always advocated for human rights for human beings. This is nothing new to the People's Campaign. It's part of the principles that guide us. We will not seize the moment to politicize something that - in our opinion - is a basic human right. What we will do, however, is establish a City Human Rights Commission which would review and monitor all city contracts and engagements to ensure that vendors, contractors, and businesses involved in city work do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, national origin, nationality or class. The commission will also review and oversee each department, commission, authority, and agency of Jackson Municipal Government to ensure compliance with civil and human rights laws, rules, and regulations to protect all persons from any form of discrimination.


April 7, 2014

Harvey Johnson Accuses John Horhn of 'False Attack' on Him

By Donna Ladd

Former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. just responded to a Sen. John Horhn attack ad with this statement posted on his Facebook page. It is repasted here verbatim:

STATEMENT OF HARVEY JOHNSON CONCERNING FALSE AND MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENT OF JOHN HORHN Senator John Horhn mailed and passed out to voters a postcard falsely stating that I was responsible for increasing water bills by 100% while in office. The truth is this: During my last term as mayor the City imposed a modest water rate hike of 12 percent in 2011, the first increase in six years. After I left office last July, the Mayor and the City Council increased water rates by 29 percent and sewer rates by 108 percent. If I had been in office last year I would not have increased rates that dramatically at one time. Just two days before the mailer was dropped, Senator Horhn, at a mayoral forum conducted by the Working Together Jackson organization, pledged to refrain from attacks on his opponents. Clearly, he should have come clean at that event by admitting that his next order of business when he walked out the door would be to launch a false attack on me.

In a separate flyer, Horhn promotes himself as a "fit, strong and robust black man who's ready to take this city forward" and criticizes his various opponents. That one is posted below as well as the flyer mentioned above.




April 5, 2014 | 1 comment

Harvey Johnson Responds to JFP HUD Article and Councilman Melvin Priester Jr.

By Donna Ladd

Johnson sent this statement this morning, in response to this recent JFP article. It's pasted here verbatim:

STATEMENT OF HARVEY JOHNSON REGARDING JACKSON FREE PRESS ARTICLE Having read the article in the Jackson Free Press, “Repayment of HUD Funds Emerges as Election Issue, ” I was struck by the poor attempt at political hay being made by our new councilman from Ward 2 on a matter that he should be fighting to resolve in favor of the citizens rather than quickly agreeing to write an astronomical check to a federal agency over a questionable dispute.

As a former mayor and an advisor to Mississippi towns for 40 years, I have on many occasions had disagreements with HUD about their interpretations of CDBG regulations. I have worked in and with the CDBG program since its inception in 1975, and I am therefore thoroughly familiar with the program’s objectives.

When it comes to HUD and other federal agencies, I have found that the best approach when there are questions of interpretation or disputes of facts is to vigorously negotiate and take advantage of the administrative appeal process, even if it means meeting with the HUD Secretary or the White House, to achieve a satisfactory resolution. I have gotten federal officials to change their positions entirely or greatly reduce the amounts of money in dispute.

The letter from the city to HUD referenced in the news article appears to be the culmination of a negotiation process lasting only three months, which is an extremely short period of time to resolve a dispute with HUD involving that many issues. In my mind, conceding so early and for such a large dollar amount reflects a lack of experience and understanding in dealing with HUD programs by the person or persons who, rather than stand up to the HUD bureaucracy, chose the easy path to turn over local taxpayer money , while blaming the whole thing on the guy out of office. Such an approach is a bad precedent for the city. We certainly don’t want some bureaucrat thinking he can shake us from our lunch money, just because he thinks he can.

My decision in connection with this matter would have been to refrain from throwing in the towel so quickly by casually writing a check from the city’s general fund made payable to HUD. During my previous administration the city was not intimidated by federal bureaucrats acting contrary to the best interest of our local citizens. I will bring that same determination to my next administration.

As far as I can tell, the Council has not yet voted on making payment to HUD. I encourage the Council to hold up doing so until the new mayor is sworn in this month, who hopefully will be someone with the knowledge and experience and leadership traits that will protect our taxpayers from bureaucratic overreach.

April 4, 2014

Mayoral Money Race Order Unchanged After Priester, Johnson File Updates

By Donna Ladd

Melvin Priester Jr. filed a 48-hour report today showing that he has raised $6,150 more in mayoral contributions. That brings his total to $110,785 by our math to Lumumba's $138,801. Horhn is in third with $104,593

Harvey Johnson Jr. has raised $7,000 more in campaign dollars this week according to his 48-hour report, bringing his total to $67,355.

(For the record, both of these reports and some earlier ones are near-illegible, which is disconcerting coming from serious candidates for mayor. Priester, for one, spent a lot of his JFP interview talking about getting details right. Why not start during the campaign?!?)

To summarize, As of 5 p.m. today, this is where the money stands based on reports legally required to be filed:

  1. Chokwe Lumumba: $138,801
  2. Melvin Priester Jr.: $110,785
  3. John Horhn: $104,593
  4. Tony Yarber: $95,716
  5. Harvey Johnson Jr: $67,355
  6. Margaret Barrett-Simon: $54,680
  7. Regina Quinn: $38,968

Read our original April 2 report about initial April 1 filings and where cash-on-hand stood then.

View all campaign finance reports in the JFP Document Morgue.

April 3, 2014 | 1 comment

Chokwe A. Lumumba #JxnMayor Endorsements

By R.L. Nave

The Chokwe Antar Lumumba camp issued a list of endorsements (below). For clarification, Lumumba's press release incorrectly attributed a quotation from the JFP's recent endorsement of Lumumba to photographer Trip Burns.

Jackson, MS, April 3, 2014– This afternoon government officials, business leaders, and community supporters will gather at Smith Robertson Park on High Street at 4:30 p.m. to announce their endorsement of Atty. Chokwe Antar Lumumba for mayor.

Among those set to attend today’s announcement is: Councilwoman LaRita Stokes, Hinds County Supervisor, Kenneth Stokes, Rep. Jim Evans, Atty. John Reeves, business owner, Charlotte Reeves, Atty. Isaac Byrd, Atty. Dennis Sweet III, Atty. Dennis Sweet IV and Grace Sweet, and business owner, Harvey Freelon.

Currently, the Mississippi Alliance of State Workers of America, Local 3570, AFL-CIO, local newspaper, Jackson Free Press, and Central Mississippi Building and Construction Trade Council have officially announce their support of Mr. Lumumba and believe in his mission of furthering what he calls, “The People’s Platform.” Jackson Free Press journalist, Trip Burns, explains their sentiment for endorsing Mr. Lumumba saying, “While only 31 years old, he exudes a discipline and quiet determination that people many years his senior haven’t mastered. His articulation of a framework for a, “unity, debate, unity” style of governance is something we appreciated.” AFL-CIO union president, Brenda Scott, adds, “We find that he [Lumumba] possesses a genuine desire, like his father the Honorable Chokwe Lumumba, to continue the vision of bringing new economic ideas to the city anchored in green job creation, living wages, and strong worker protections.”

April 3, 2014

Tony Yarber #JxnMayor Endorsements

By R.L. Nave

We got this list of endorsements the other day from the Tony Yarber camp. It's verbatim, but we think they meant April 1 in the first line:

On March 1, 2014 at 10:30 am at the Yarber for Mayor campaign headquarters (932 N. State Street) approximately 10 pastors endorsed Councilman Tony Yarber for mayor of the city of Jackson, MS. Rev. Jesse Sutton, the so-called “Dean” of pastors in the state and pastor of New McRaven Hill MB Church, made very profound comments about Yarber, stating, “I do not need a script for Tony. I have known him all of his life.”

Below is a listing of pastoral endorsements for Tony Yarber:

Pastor Baron Banks Pine View Presbyterian Church

Pastor Jimmie Burse Pastor, Holy Ghost Baptist Church Moderator of COMBDA

Pastor R.E. Cook Greater New Jerusalem

Pastor John C. Evans Cathedral A.M.E. Zion Church

Pastor Thomas Jenkins New Dimensions

Pastor Jay Johnson Abounding Grace

Pastor Julius Laird Wayside Church of Deliverance

Pastor M.V. May Rehoboth Church

Pastor Willie Macula New Hope MB Church

Pastor Charles Polk St. Luther MB Church

Pastor Ernest Slaughter New Canney Creek MB Church

Pastor Bobby Stapleton Rehoboth International Ministries

Pastor Arty Stuckey Restoration Baptist Church

Pastor Arthur Sutton Progressive MB Church

Pastor Frank Sutton Fairfield Baptist Church

Pastor Jesse Sutton New McRaven Hill Baptist Church

Pastor Clyde Tate Antioch Baptist Church

Pastor Willie Tobias Progressive Morning Star Baptist Church

Pastor Marek Walker Cherry Grove MB Church

Bishop Isaiah Williams Potter’s House Church

April 3, 2014

MIss. Baptist Convention Lauds Gov. Phil Bryant's Signing of SB2681, 'Religious Freedom' Bill

By Donna Ladd

The following statement just came in, verbatim, from the The Christian Action Commission of the Mississippi Baptist Convention:

CAC’s Jimmy Porter Attends Signing of the MS Religious Freedom Restoration Bill

Jackson, MS., April 3, 2014–Jimmy Porter, Executive Director of the MS Baptist Christian Action Commission, attended Gov. Phil Bryant’s signing SB2681, the MS Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

On Tuesday, SB 2681 was approved by the state House (79-43) and Senate (37-14). Mississippi is now one of 19 states that have passed a RFRA since 1996. This law is based on the federal law introduced by now U.S. Senator (then U.S. Representative) Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and former U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). The federal version passed 97-3 in the U.S. Senate, unanimously by voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Dr. Jimmy Porter released the following statement:

“The MS Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an affirmation of MS Baptist’s 1991 resolution that the free exercise clause of the First Amendment 'require government to demonstrate a compelling state interest before it is permitted to burden our religious freedom.' In 1993 the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed by Pres. Clinton establishing religious protections from the federal government. The bill signed by Gov. Bryant will provide the same religious protections at the state level that have been available at the federal level.”

“The Mississippi Baptist Christian Action Commission does not accept the prevailing idea that a person’s expression of religious faith ought to be confined to the four walls of a church. People of faith ought to be free to express their religious convictions in public with out the fear and trepidation that the government could violate their religious rights. Mississippians share this ideal and this is why we take serious our freedom of religion from governmental tyranny.”

“The freedom to express a person’s religious faith in Mississippi is under intense attack, and one need only look at the extreme opposition to this bill protecting religious liberty as evidence for the need of it.”

The Mississippi Baptist Convention has more than 695,000 members in over 2,100 churches in the State of Mississippi. The MS Baptist Christian Action Commission is an agency of the Mississippi Baptist Convention established to address moral, social, and ethical issues.

April 3, 2014

Who voted for Mississippi SB2681, the 'Religious Freedom' Bill?

By Donna Ladd

Mississippi State Senate 2014 Regular Session YEAS AND NAYS. The yeas and nays being taken, the Report of Conference Committee on S. B. No. 2681 was adopted:

Yeas--Brown, Browning, Burton, Chassaniol, Clarke, Collins, Doty, Fillingane, Gandy, Gollott, Hale, Harkins, Hill, Hopson, Horhn, Hudson, Jackson G. (15th), Jolly, Kirby, Lee, Longwitz, Massey, McDaniel, Montgomery, Moran, Parker, Parks, Polk, Smith, Sojourner, Stone, Tindell, Tollison, Ward, Watson, Wiggins, Wilemon. Total--37.

Nays--Blount, Bryan, Butler A. (36th), Butler K. (38th), Dawkins, Frazier, Jackson R. (11th), Jackson S. (32nd), Jones, Jordan, Norwood, Simmons D. T. (12th), Simmons W. (13th), Turner. Total--14. Absent and those not voting--Carmichael. Total--1.

April 2, 2014

Rally Against SB2681 Noon Thursday at Mississippi Capitol; Prayer Vigil at 5:30 p.m.

By Donna Ladd

Opponents of SB2681, the so-called "Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act," which many fear is permission for anti-gay "Jim Crow" laws, will gather at the Mississippi Capitol for a rally on Thursday (April 3). Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, will speak on the Capitol steps at 12:30 p.m.

Simmons, who is black, has become a favorite of SB2681 supporters, due to his fight against the bill. He said on the floor of the Mississippi Senate on April 1 before the bill passed: "If you have never been discriminated against, you don't know how that feels. If you have never been discriminated against, you don't know how to feel discrimination. I urge you to vote against this bill because it legalizes discrimination."

A prayer vigil against the bill is scheduled at the Capitol at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

April 2, 2014

Did Myrlie Evers endorse Sen. John Horhn for mayor?

By Donna Ladd

The John Horhn for mayor campaign sent footage of civil-rights hero Myrlie Evers last week for a paid ad on the JFP website of Mrs. Evers saying nice things about his "forward" leadership. The quote that has run on the JFP website in the ad for about the last week is "John's Horhn's motto is the way forward. Forward looking, forward acting, forward leadership. And that's exactly what we need today."

Today, we were a bit surprised to see a story by Jerry Mitchell in The Clarion-Ledger indicating that she is not endorsing a candidate and is telling people "to vote for a candidate of their choice."

The footage clearly indicated that Evers was backing Horhn and perhaps using scripted language: His campaign slogan, after all, is "The Way Forward."

We called the campaign today to ask if Mrs. Evers had backtracked on her endorsement of the senator. LaureNicole Taylor of the Horhn campaign respond: "No backtracking. She never said she is supporting John," she told reporter Haley Ferretti.

Still confused, I then asked to speak with her, and Taylor told me that Evers "can't officially endorse one particular candidate," but that she does support John Horhn.

Taylor, who sent the original footage to our advertising department for the ad, told me today that it should be taken down. I relayed that message to our advertising team.

Clear now?

April 2, 2014

Group Wants Public-Education Funding on 2015 Ballot

By Donna Ladd

More over, Personhood supporters. Public-education backers are working to put funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program on next year's ballot—being that the Legislature simply refuses to fully fund it.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal is reporting that Jackson attorney Luther Munford has filed the initiative language on behalf of a group called Better Schools, Better Jobs:

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program is the formula passed in 1997 that determines how much funding each school district should receive. It has been traditionally underfunded, however, including a shortfall of more than $1.3 billion during the last six years. This year’s appropriation is more than $250 million below what the formula requires.

The state’s constitution leaves little recourse if legislators don’t fund MAEP, Munford said. The initiative would change that.

It would require Mississippi to use money from economic growth to fill the void. Its language says at least 25 percent of new growth of general fund revenue would go into MAEP over a period of years until it was fully funded. It does not require a new tax.

March 27, 2014

Union Endorsing Chokwe Antar Lumumba

By Todd Stauffer

In a fax sent to media this afternoon, union president Brenda Scott announced that the Mississippi Alliance of State Workers, Communications Workers of America, Local 3570, AFL-CIO (that's all one union) will endorse Chokwe Antar Lumumba in his bid for his father's seat.

"Among his other qualities," the release says, "we find that he possesses a genuine desire, like his late father the Honorable Chokwe Lumumba, to continue the vision of bringing new economic ideas to the city anchored in green job creation, living wages, and strong worker protections."

The official endorsement is scheduled for the steps of City Hall in Jackson on Friday, March 18, at 3:00 p.m.

March 26, 2014

Moak on the Closing of Harrah's Tunica Casino

By R.L. Nave

House Minority Leader Bobby Moak released the following statement on the announcement that Harrah's will close its Tunica casino:

Jackson, MS- Today Harrah’s announced they are closing their casino in the Tunica market. This is a loss of Thirteen-Hundred (1300) Mississippi jobs, not to mention a tremendous blow to the credibility and future viability of our Mississippi gaming market. Casinos are a legal business in our state. They account for over twenty-five thousand direct jobs and, in particular, are the main reason Tunica was able to remove itself as one of the poorest counties in the nation.

Leadership in our state has refused to afford this vital industry the tax incentives and credits it offers to existing businesses or even those used to lure in new industries. We are now paying the price for this with the loss of jobs and tax revenues to local governments and the state. Contrary to popular belief, casinos are not immune to both economic downturns and the dramatic impact of the growth of out-of-state gaming operations in neighboring states such as Arkansas. We are no longer the only game in town. Regional gaming competition is not a phenomena that ends in Tunica, either. It is one of the most dangerous threats to the Mississippi gaming markets and lurks around the corner in states like Alabama, Florida and beyond.

No taxpayer funds are expended when a new casino enters our Mississippi market and creating, on average, 1,500 good-paying jobs. In return for their investment, Mississippi does not treat this industry as others within our borders. Mississippi offers no credit for hotel renovations or infrastructure, no credit for restaurant construction/improvements and does not even allow front line employee training, as other businesses are allowed to do, at the community college level - even though they pay taxes to support the community college system.

There is lacking a vision by Mississippi leadership to look at other jurisdictions and implement sound business investment incentives to take care of the casino industry that now resides in our state and foster growth and reinvestment by existing operators. With the closure of Harrah’s Tunica, we are seeing what happens when we exclude this industry from our overall state business investment model.

This industry must be allowed the opportunity to develop assets that not only help their bottom line, but state coffers as well. It has been almost 3 years since the federal government opened the door to internet gaming at the state level. Mississippi has refused to even consider allowing this to be developed in our state. While I am not asserting that internet gaming is the silver bullet that will allow gaming in Mississippi to regain its foothold, there is no doubt that it is but one tool of many that could be effectively employed to increase the attractiveness of this market to gaming-centric tourists. Harrah’s is a leader in the internet gaming effort in the halls of Congress and states around the nation. We have continually shut the ...

March 25, 2014

ACLU Responds to Drug-Testing-the-Poor Bill Signing

By R.L. Nave

Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, made the following statement about Gov. Phil Bryant's signature of HB 49, which would require drug testing for some people receiving federal-state assistance:

Today is a sad day as Governor Bryant signed into law HB 49, thereby subjecting Mississippi's most vulnerable to unnecessary and costly drug testing.

Most recipients of TANF are children. The Mississippi Department of Human Services website states “monthly TANF benefits are made for eligible children and their needy caretaker relatives who do not have enough income or resources to meet their everyday needs.” We should not subject the most vulnerable among us to the false assumption that they (or their caregivers) are drug users. It’s unfair and untrue. The small amount of public assistance goes to provide limited funds to cover basic necessities such as food and shelter for families.

Such a law would cost the state of Mississippi considerably more to implement than it would save. A comprehensive report put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2011 reviewed the estimated costs of implementing various proposed welfare drug testing programs in twelve different states. Not a single one of the legislative cost estimates showed net savings to the state as a result of a proposed drug testing program.

Governor Bryant has stated that he is concerned that “single mothers are not abusing drugs or other substances and try[ing] to maintain a family”. He goes on to justify why “single mothers” are singled out by saying “when someone is taking tax dollars I think we have the right to determine whether or not that individual is abusing a substance”. Almost all of us receive government assistance in one form or another, yet we don’t treat preschoolers, veterans, seniors, or the disabled, to name but a few, as suspected drug users and force them to prove their innocence. We don’t ask anyone else to sacrifice their Fourth Amendment Rights to receive government benefits, public benefit recipients should be treated no differently.


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