Saturday, January 30, 2010

NMC ponders: "Are (the AG and DAs) going to be able to tell Barbour where to stick his cuts?"

In a comment to his post on yesterday's stunning order from the Mississippi Supreme Court, NMC brings up a very intriguing point.  Contrary to what we were all taught about separation of powers when we were in junior high, prosecutors in Mississippi fall under the judicial branch of our state government.  Typically, prosecutors are members of executive branch, as it is their function to see to it that people are punished for breaking the law, and the executive in a tripartite system is responsible for "enforcing the laws."

But not under Mississippi's 120 year old Constitution.

The three branches of our state government are established in Article 1, Section 1:
The powers of the government of the State of Mississippi shall be divided into three distinct departments, and each of them confided to a separate magistracy, to-wit: those which are legislative to one, those which are judicial to another, and those which are executive to another.  
The offices in each of those branches are not created until later in the document, however.  Article 4, entitled "Legislative Department," creates the Mississippi Legislature.  Article 5, dubbed "Executive," gives us a Governor and Lt. Governor.  And Article 6, labeled "Judiciary," gives us a Supreme Court, circuit and chancery courts, an Attorney General and district attorneys.

Why does this matter?  Well, Governor Barbour has ordered cuts to District Attorneys across the State, just as he did with the Supreme Court.  The cuts he has ordered are so severe that virtually all felony prosecutors in the entire state will be furloughed for the entire months of May and June.  If the Supreme Court meant what it said in yesterday's order, then the AG and DAs should be immune from cuts as well.  We'll see how this all plays out.

(As an aside, one might could argue that Barbour, if he failed to fund prosecutors for May and June, would be in violation of not only the separation of powers doctrine, but Article 5, Section 123, which says, "The Governor shall see that the laws are faithfully executed."  Of course, that very Section will be what the Governor relies upon in his brief supporting the constitutionality of the cuts to prosecutors.  What a mess.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

A list of potentially safe funds that's even more broad...

According to Section 27-104-13, which the MSSC cited today, only agencies which receive monies from the general fund and "state-source special funds" may be cut by the executive branch.  The language of subsection 3 of 27-104-13 makes it clear what is NOT a "state-source special fund":
(3) For the purpose of this section, the term “state-source special funds” means any special funds in any agency derived from any source, but shall not include the following special funds: special funds derived from federal sources, from local or regional political subdivisions, from agricultural commodity assessments, or from donations; special funds held in a fiduciary capacity for the benefit of specific persons or classes of persons; self-generated special funds of the state institutions of higher learning or the state community or junior colleges; special funds of Mississippi Industries for the Blind, the State Port at Gulfport, Yellow Creek Inland Port, Pat Harrison Waterway District, Pearl River Basin Development District, Pearl River Valley Water Management District, Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District, Yellow Creek Watershed Authority, or Coast Coliseum Commission; special funds of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks derived from the issuance of hunting or fishing licenses; and special funds generated by agencies whose primary function includes the establishment of standards and the issuance of licenses for the practice of a profession within the State of Mississippi.

To my knowledge, Barbour has not attempted to make cuts to the agencies funded by non-state-source special funds.  This has been quite the educational afternoon, at least for me.

State entities that are possibly immune to cuts

Here's a list of funds filled (whether in whole or in part) by assessments on implied consent law violations.

From Section 99-19-73:

  • Crime Victims' Compensation Fund
  • State Court Education Fund
  • State Prosecutor Education Fund
  • Vulnerable Adults Training, Investigation and Prosecution Trust Fund
  • Child Support Prosecution Trust Fund
  • Driver Training Penalty Assessment Fund
  • Law Enforcement Officers Training Fund
  • Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund
  • Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program Fund
  • Federal-State Alcohol Program Fund
  • Mississippi Crime Laboratory Implied Consent Law Fund
  • Spinal Cord and Head Injury Trust Fund
  • Capital Defense Counsel Fund
  • Indigent Appeals Fund
  • Capital Post-Conviction Counsel Fund
  • Victims of Domestic Violence Fund
  • State General Fund
  • Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters Death Benefits Trust Fund
  • Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters Disability Benefits Trust Fund
  • State Prosecutor Compensation Fund for the purpose of providing additional compensation for legal assistants to district attorneys
  • Crisis Intervention Mental Health Fund
  • Drug Court Fund
  • Statewide Victims' Information and Notification System Fund
  • Public Defenders Education Fund
  • Domestic Violence Training Fund
  • Attorney General's Cyber-Crime Unit

What is an "agency" under Section 27-104-13? *ANSWERED*

Today's order from the MSSC says that Section 27-104-13 applies only to "agencies" and "the Mississippi Department of Transportation.  That begs the very serious question, which departments are considered "agencies?"

Here's the answer:

REPORT - Justice Randolph tells CLE participants that MSSC says Executive Branch has no authority to cut Judiciary budget *UPDATE x2*

According to CLE participants on the Coast, Justice Randolph announced that at 1 p.m. CST today, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued an order declaring that the Governor Barbour has no authority to cut the budget of the state's Judiciary.  No order is on the MSSC's website yet. This will have quite an impact on the ongoing budget battle in the Legislature.

UPDATE at 2:07 p.m. - I have a copy of the order on the way, and will post it as soon as I get it.

UPDATE at 2:16 p.m. - NMC's got the order up.  

Posts from me to be lighter than usual for the next few weeks

I'm wrapped up in trial prep and in trial until late February, so I won't be able to blog much at all.  I'm certain Jim will pick up the slack.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tiger's wife buys a house in Hattiesburg

From an extremely reliable source in Hattiesburg, Elin Woods has purchased a house in Canebrake.  Might that mean that the marriage is on the mend?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And now Deuce is gone

The Clarion-Ledger's having a busy news day.  After trumpeting our hometown hero's return to the Saints roster and indicating that he may actually be active if the Saints were to make the Super Bowl, an injury to Robert Meachem has led to Deuce stepping off of the roster.  Deuce will retire from football, citing bad knees:
“I was pretty well content and ready to retire before all this came up,” McAllister said. “I have to be real with myself. I don’t know that I could come back with my knees the way they are. I don’t know if I would need another surgery.”
Deuce will still be on the field Sunday for the NFC Championship Game, and will be an honorary captain.

Chip Pickering's assault charges dismissed

The Clarion-Ledger is reporting that the charges related to the brawl between former Rep. Chip Pickering and soccer coach Chris Hester have been dismissed.  Both parties agreed to the resolution, with Chip Pickering saying:
“I regret very much this episode,” Pickering said. “I was trying to protect my son and I believe he was trying to protect one of his players. 
"I think all of us — I know I have — have learned a lesson from this.”
The interesting part, though, is this:
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Hester’s attorney, Mac McCool, said his client has medical expenses related to the incident and lost time from his job.
That tends to conflict with what McCool says later in the story:
McCool said his client decided to drop the charge against Pickering because “we didn’t want to bring a bunch of 11- and 12-year-olds up here to testify in court.”
My best guess is this is the last we'll hear of this incident.  If anything goes forward on the lost wages and medical expenses, it will most likely be handled pre-suit, leaving us no paper trail to follow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The New Republic: What Happens to Health Care Reform if GOP Takes Kennedy's Senate Seat

Jonathan Cohn, one of the best thinkers on health care reform on the liberal-progressive side, has an interesting post on about the possible options for the Obama Administration if, as may happen, Scott Brown beats Martha Coakley in Tuesday's special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

Among other things, Cohn says:

That’s why a (slightly) preferred option, at least among those who I interviewed, was to have the House simply approve the Senate bill, as it was written.

Such a move could be quick; unless I’m mistaken, the House could hold such a vote this week. It would also be perfectly legitimate: When a chamber votes to pass a bill, as the Senate did when it passed health care reform on Christmas Eve, it’s effectively offering to make that bill a law, pending the other chamber’s approval. And that offer is good through the end of the Congress, even if the chamber’s membership changes.

Would House Democrats go along? It's hardly a given. Centrists, many of them as ambivalent about reform as their Senate counterparts, would be tempted to use Coakley’s defeat as an excuse for voting “no.” Liberals, meanwhile, would chafe at supporting a bill that includes so many unpleasant compromises.

But there are good substantive reasons why both sides should be willing to vote “yes.” And there are some good political reasons, as well.

For centrists, the substantive reason is that the Senate bill is, in most respects, closer to what they originally wanted anyway. Centrist Democrats skittish about the House bill typically complained that it was just too much--too much spending and too much regulation. But the Senate bill has less of both.

The Senate bill also has two key cost-control provisions, the tax on expensive benefits and the commission for calibrating Medicare payments, that many centrists have at least claimed to support. If they are truly concerned about cost control, as they claim, the Senate bill should address those concerns.
Watch for this maneuver. It may even be the best idea for health care reform after all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Jackson Water Crisis of 2010

I've been seeing commentary on local area blogs that seeks to place blame for the massive outbreak of leaking water mains on Mayor Harvey Johnson.  That's just flat wrong. We've had 14 straight days of subfreezing temperatures in Jackson, folks.  THAT''S why the water mains are breaking all over town.  Jackson wasn't built to handle weather like this.  If people want to fix the blame, rather than the problem, then it lies with the past 30 years of Jackson leadership in both the mayor's office and on the city council.  But let's be honest with ourselves:  Replacing water lines at a cost of over $300M in order to avoid a week's worth of trouble every 20 years or so isn't exactly high on anyone's priority list.  And I'm not sure it should be.  That being said, if there's a cost-effective way to avoid this in the future, let's explore it.

By the way, Jackson city workers and workers from Greenville and other cities seem to be doing a great job repairing the breaks.  Here's a map showing the work they've done and the task still ahead of them.  It's worth a look to get an understanding of the size of the problem and the amount of work already completed.

New blog added to our blog list

I've added Downtown Jackson Partners' blog Jackson Now! to our list over on the right.  As many of you know, I'm a resident of Downtown Jackson, and couldn't be happier about it.  DJP has done a wonderful job promoting and supporting Downtown businesses, and their blog is a good place to learn what's happening Downtown.

Check out this post from Jackson Now! by my friend Matt Allen about the King Edward.  It's good stuff.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Advertising Brains and Boneheads on Wild Card Saturday

Ad Agency That Needs to Give a Refund: whoever placed eHarmony ads on ESPN today.  I don't see a commercial that starts: "you don't want a date, you want love" resonating with those viewers.

Ad Agency That Deserves a Bonus: whoever placed Rogaine ads on NFL Network today.  'Nuff said.

Rudy Guiliani is an idiot, and thinks you are, too

I don't know which is worse; that Rudy Giuliani might actually believe the following statement, or that he thinks that you will:

"We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We’ve had one under Obama."
Giuliani to George Stephanopoulos on GMA on 1/07/10.  (YouTube here.  Check the 30-second mark.)

Rudy, I guess you and the guy wearing the scowl were talking about the Yankees in this photo?

And another thing: While I personally don't count failed attempts as "attacks," maybe you've heard of this before:

It'll be interesting to see how long it takes Rudy's lie to become "accepted fact" amongst the American Right.