Horses turn the curve in harness races on the Fairgrounds. The Morris Therrell Memorial Invitational Race and The Jim Dance Memorial Race will be today’s feature races of the week. Action gets underway at 1:30 p.m.
By BRIAN PERRY
Cowbell clanging woke up the audience at the Pavilion Thursday morning as Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum joined elected officials in speaking to Fair goers.
Keenum spoke of MSU's commitment to service and recognized Neshoba County as one of the university's top ten alumni counties.
Dr. Billy Stewart, President of East Central Community College, was another special guest at this year's political speeches. Stewart said he modeled his speech on a woman's skirt, "Long enough to cover the essentials but short enough to keep it interesting."
He said Rep. C. Scott Bounds gave him advice.
"He told me speaking at the Neshoba County fair is like being a corpse at a funeral," Stewart said. "Everyone expects you to be there but no one expects you to say anything."
Governor Phil Bryant took aim against those opposing gun rights in his speech. Saying he heard some legislators wanted to repeal HB2 (which clarified "concealed" in Mississippi's weapon laws), 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."
Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd has ordered an injunction on HB2 which is being appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Bryant said his office would be filing an amicus brief with the Court, "I'm not a lawyer," Bryant said, "but I think that means a friendly court brief."
Bryant addressed what he called "transformational change" in Mississippi's educational system due to the legislature's passage of charter school legislation and measures to require all Mississippi students to be able to read by the end of the third grade.
He said prayer is an important part of student's lives and legislation passed last session made it clear, "You will not be punished for expressing your religious freedoms in public schools." Additionally, Bryant said the Bill Gates Foundation was providing the state a $300,000 grant to help with the national certified master teacher program.
Bryant responded to Attorney General Jim Hood's comments yesterday in which Hood called the economy the "Bush-Cheney depression." Bryant said he guesses high gas prices must be Ronald Reagan's fault and we can blame the current IRS scandal on Richard Nixon.
Bryant said the focus of the 2014 legislative session would be public safety.
"I live in downtown Jackson in public housing," the governor said, "I hear about crime."
He said if the economy grows and people and their property are safe, he will have done his job as governor. "We believe we have a divine responsibility...to protect your civil liberties and the rights of the unborn," Bryant said.
Prior to Bryant, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn discussed the legislature's achievements in education reform, stopping expansion of Medicaid, controlling spending and protecting gun rights. He said he is asked when Republicans are going to run out of steam at the Capitol and he said, "We ain't slowing down."
Several statewide elected officials spoke before Gunn. 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 his office made 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.
District Attorney Mark Duncan and Chancery Judge Joey Kilgore kicked off the speaking Thursday morning.