PERRY/Are you a 'Tater Tot'?
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 1:00 AM
Fairgoers enjoyed a tame political year in this "off year" election cycle (municipal elections were earlier this summer) at the 2013 Neshoba County Fair.
But as always, the Fair provided an opportunity for elected officials to visit with Mississippians and address them and the media.
Gov. Phil Bryant provided an update on economic development projects, announced his focus in the 2014 legislative session would be public safety issues and said, "We believe we have a divine responsibility...to protect your civil liberties and the rights of the unborn."
Bryant had a few choice words for efforts by gun opponents to attempt to repeal HB2 (which defined concealed weapons in state law). He told the crowd with a satisfied grin, "Go ahead, make my day. I'll veto that quicker than a shot out of a Winchester."
The chances of such legislation passing the Republican controlled House or Senate anyway is zero.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves introduced his daughters, which he affectionately called "Tater Tots" and noted that some critics have been calling his Senate leadership team "Tater Tots" which he finds offensive because, "my daughters are a helluva lot cuter than [Sen.] Terry Brown."
Reeves discussed education reform, the Second Amendment, controlling spending and other conservative issues and said if you agree, you, too, might be a "Tater Tot."
Perhaps next year he will have plush tater tot toys to hand out to the kids.
Attorney General Jim Hood jumped into the partisan spirit early in his speech blaming "the Bush-Cheney depression" for hurting Mississippi's small towns and criticizing Republican passed legislation like the Class Action Fairness Act for impeding his work.
Hood blamed the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives for gridlock and said legislation there is "bought and paid for." Hood noted in his nine years in office he has collected $700 million from suing companies with $58 million just this year.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced after a year of treatment, his wife's cancer is in remission. He discussed his review of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and said new legislation was enacted requiring a student to attend 60 percent of a day to be counted in the funding formula.
Pickering said his office recovered more than $10 million in taxpayer dollars last year (a record year) bringing his total recovered while Auditor to $19 million. He said 50 public officials are currently under indictment for misusing public funds.
Treasurer Lynn Fitch said Mississippi rates last in financial literacy and she will ask the legislature to require personal finance curriculum in high school.
Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshall Mike Chaney discussed a program available at the Fair to get free smoke detectors for cabins.
He said his office has provided 50,000 smoke alarms to Mississippians over the last five years.
Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde Smith said poultry and dairy farmers had a good year in 2012.
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said he is asked when Republicans are going to run out of steam at the Capitol: "We ain't slowing down."
Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey detailed efforts to improve energy efficiency, increase cell phone coverage, punish telemarketers who violate the "No Call List" and review the Kemper County coal plant.
Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall warned the state's infrastructure was threatened by lack of maintenance funding and continued his call for a change in the gas tax formula.
State Rep. Scott Bounds discussed four bills which help Mississippi sportsman: electrical upgrades to state parks; combination of hunting and fishing licenses reducing costs from $17 to $8 and allowed for $3 million in federal funds; simplify deer hunting season rules on private land; and allowing for crossbows during archery season.
State Sen. Giles Ward noted Second Amendment rights were a focal point of his first campaign and warned gun opponents are engaged in a "political attack agenda."
Ward said when he pledged to be the voice in Jackson standing up for the Second Amendment, "Sitting down and shutting up isn't what I had in mind."
Both Neshoba circuit court judges said they will run for re-election.
Judge Vernon Cotton discussed the impact of drug addiction on communities and Judge Marcus Gordon called on the Legislature to have "enough strength, [be] bold enough, to stand up for law and order" and address sentencing and criminal release reforms.
Cowbells rang through the Pavilion when Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum addressed the crowd. Additional special guests included Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones and East Central Community College President Billy Stewart. Other political speakers included District Attorney Mark Duncan and Chancery Judge Joey Kilgore. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann did not speak this year.
The Fair is much more than politics, but if politics is your thing, make plans to attend next year when speeches resume July 30 and 31.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.