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'Tater Tots' fill seats at speeches
By BRIAN PERRY
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 11:30 AM
Raeley White, Will Adams, Mia Luke, Neely Duffey, Havens Smith and Tate Smith set up a stand on Sunset Strip and sold snowcones Wednesday morning. There were multiple flavors and even sweetened condensed milk for 50 cents extra.
Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves said if you believe in education reform, the Second Amendment, fighting Obamacare and a tight state budget, you might be a "Tater Tot."
He introduced his theme saying some people call his daughter "Tater Tots" - a play on his name - and have even begun referring to his Senate leadership team as "Tater Tots." He said he finds that offensive because, "my daughters are a hell of a lot cuter than [Senator] Terry Brown."
Playing off the Jeff Foxworthy line "you might be a redneck if...", Reeves carried the line throughout the speech and turned the "Tater Top" pejorative used toward him and his supporters instead as a descriptor for generally accepted conservative positions: "You just might be a Tater Tot, too, if you support fighting the status quo and pushing for better opportunities for our children," he said.
As an off-election year, the crowd was sparse Wednesday morning for speeches with most of the political hobnobbing going on around the edges of the Pavilion.
Municipal election were earlier this year and the lack of current campaigns dulled the usual attendance.
University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones spoke as a special guest of the Fair, but elected officials did create some news during their speeches.
Jim Hood goes partisan;
Pickering gives good news
Prior to Reeves, Attorney General Jim Hood - the sole statewide elected Democrat official - complained of federal legislation impeding state efforts at prosecutions of prostitution and online drugs. Hood, who has been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate were Senator Thad Cochran not to seek reelection in 2014, said driving in he noticed, "the Bush-Cheney depression, basically, has not been good for our small towns."
He blamed redistricting for creating a Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives creating grid lock where legislation is "bought and paid for."
He said the Class Action Fairness Act, passed by Republicans under President George W. Bush, hurts his attempts at lawsuits like the one he filed against Entergy currently in federal court.
Hood said in nine years as Attorney General he has collected $700 million from suing corporations with $58 million just this year.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering gave some good personal news. Last year at the Fair, his wife Whitney had just been diagnosed with cancer.
He said he was happy to announce that following treatment, her cancer is in remission and she was there with him and their children today. He urged the audience to take health care screenings seriously because more important than their work is the need for them to be around for their families.
Pickering discussed his review of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and said as a result of his findings, new legislation was enacted requiring a student to attend 60 percent of a day to be counted in the funding formula. Pickering announced his office recovered $19 million in taxpayer dollars last year (a record year) and said 50 public officials are currently under indictment for misusing public funds.
Representative C. Scott Bounds noted the legislature passed significant education reform, reauthorized Medicaid without Obamacare expansion and passed strong Second Amendment bills. But he discussed four bills which help Mississippi sportsman: electrical upgrades to state parks; combination of hunting and fishing licenses that reduced 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. He also said $400,000 in campground upgrades will be made at Neshoba Lake to increase its attractiveness as a fishing destination.
Senator Giles Ward said the last legislative session was the "most sportsman friendly legislative session in recent history." He noted Second Amendment rights were a focal point of his first campaign for the state Senate and remains so.
Addressing recent protests over the announcement of Talon Ordinance's new manufacturing plant in Mississippi, and a Hinds County court decision enjoining a law which clarified the definition of concealed weapons, Ward said, "this is a political agenda attack."
Ward said he had been criticized for making "open carry" an issue but 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." Ward told Fairgoers they have the right to openly carry weapons under the Mississippi Constitution.
Commissioners review transportation and
Central District Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey shared with the crowd work from the PSC including a new order for energy conservation believed to be an energy saver and job creator; the "Zap the Gap" program to extend cell phone coverage around the state; the "No Call List" which has fined violators $122,000 this year; and the review of the Kemper County coal facility under construction by Mississippi Power Company.
Posey praised Entergy Mississippi for their work at improving communication with customers through social media and technology innovations, work which earned them an award from J.P. Power & Associates.
Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall warned that new construction, like phase three of Highway 19 to Meridian, and statewide highway maintenance is being held up by lack of funding.
He said since the 18 cent per gallon gas tax was passed, road costs have increased 300 percent.
He urged increased funding for infrastructure and told the crowd that while some people have speculated he would not run for reelection because he is urging gas tax increases, he believes it is the right thing and he won't let that deter him from any reelection plans.
Hall said he is proud that a recent newspaper report said MDOT had become "boring, focused and productive," which he said is the highest praise a state agency can receive.
Judges to run
The morning speeches kicked off with Circuit Court Judges Vernon Cotten and Marcus Gordon. Cotten said he will announce his reelection campaign in January "to continue the fight against the ill fruits of illegal drugs." Cotten didn't detail the successes of his drug court as he has in previous years, but stressed the need to work with those facing drug addiction.
"Addiction is an illness, a sickness, it is a disease. Addicted people are not bad people, rather, they are gravely ill. Addiction hijacks a person's brain," Cotten said. He continued, "There is no solid evidence that addiction is curable; but it is treatable." He concluded by saying children are seven times less likely to become addicts if their father is present in their lives.
Gordon joked that Cotten spoke for 25 minutes but only was allocated 10 minutes. So Gordon said he would reserve his extra 15 minutes for next year when he runs for reelection. Last year, Gordon had sharp words of criticism for the Department of Corrections in regards to their release of prisoners. This year, he turned those words to lawmakers and said to see changes we need a "legislatures that has enough strength, bold enough, to stand up for law and order." He believes legislative reforms are needed to address the release of prisoners before their sentences are complete.
Thursday's speaking beings at 9:00am with District Attorney Mark Duncan, Chancery Judge Joey Kilgore, Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney and Treasurer Lynn Fitch. Dr. Billy Stewart, President of East Central Community College and Dr. Mark Keenum, President of Mississippi State University are special guest speakers. Political speaking at the Fair wraps up with Speaker of the House Philip Gunn at 10:20am followed by Governor Phil Bryant.
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