*Each day's House Business is provided in the hyperlinks below.
Monday, February 1st
Gaveled in at 4. Later that evening, the trailer caucus was invited over to a home cooked meal at the offices
of Karyn Thornhill. She is a lobbyist who has converted an old home close to the capitol into her offices, and with all of the additional unneeded space in the building, she lets area missions and non-profits use as their office space. There was no agenda other than giving us in the trailer caucus a close space and a hot meal. Over dinner, about 8 of us Reps debated the need for ABC and our current liquor and licensing laws.
Tuesday, February 2nd
Early this morning I attended the Legislative Bible Study which was led by David Parker. He talked about
the need for judgement, as well as the foundational need for self assesment. He had a great prop that he borrowed from his pastor, making it look like he had a beam in his own eye. Want to know more about that passage of scripture? Read it here: http://biblehub.com/matthew/7-5.htm . After the study, I went down and checked on my bills being drafted. We gaveled in at 2, and upon completion headed to a Banking Committee Dinner. I am finding that now that all of the committees are finalized, the next step is usually a dinner, and then an organizational meeting to follow during the regular schedule of things.
Wednesday, February 3rd
The Public Health Committee had a welcoming lunch. From there we headed into Session. After taking care of the day’s business, we adjourned for the week (in light of the Governor’s Special Session that had just been called by the Governor). There was an informational meeting across the street for legislators to attend about the next day’s bond authority request. MDA (Mississippi Development Authority) gave us a
breakdown, along with the numbers and potential payback periods with the deal. There was a Q&A afterwards, and even after everyone else had left, a good portion of the Desoto Delegation held back and continued grilling the MDA folks. In the evening I attended a dinner with the Sustainable Farming folks, and listened to speakers from a myriad of agencies that deal with our farmers and Agricultural industry in Mississippi. It is an absolute
shame that we are an agricultural state, and yet we import 90% of our foodstuffs to feed our residents. We spend $8.5 Billion dollars on feeding our state, imagine if we could bring just 10% of that back, that would be $850 million dollars staying here annually. I have a bill that I authored which would help to do just that, HB 1143 Mississippi On Farm Sales and Food Freedom Act: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2016/pdf/history/HB/HB1143.xml.
Thursday, February 4th
We began the day early with the Governor’s Special Session that was called with regards to getting bond authority approval in order to finalize a deal with two major corporations that have been being courted for several years to locate within Mississippi. Everything in the process, came at us fast and furious. Within hours after the vote, there seemed to be a lot of controversy and anger about the vote by many in the conservative right, or with libertarian leanings. On its surface and in their defense, had I not been here in the thick of it, I would probably have felt exactly the same way as some of them. This morning when we showed up early to a 200 page bill that was about to be voted on. After the Desoto delegation expressed our concerns with each other, we acted as quickly as possible. Ashley Henley frantically combed through the bill, Jeff Hale headed to the Secretary of State and gots an audience with him, I headed to the Speaker of the House's office and shared all of my concerns with him, and the other Desoto guys sought out senior conservative members of the House (that we trust), and got their take on all of it and how it was going down. Not one of us liked how it went down, and we shared that with every audience that we entertained. But regardless of how we felt about how it was going down, it was going to go down. All we could do was try and be the best informed that we could possibly be. In the end we had to vote. All of us voted “Yes” except Ashley who voted “Present.” My inclination was to vote present as well, just because I hadn’t been able to fully process everything. The reason that I ultimately didn’t, was that I felt the people of my district didn’t elect me to not take a stance, but to vote in the best interest of our county and state. So that was what I did. The argument I felt leaned much more heavily for the authority, than not. So what is this deal all about? I liken it to the very house that most all of us live in. We could rent it, and after years and years have nothing to show for it; Just get by, never make a commitment, and never take a risk. Or, we could buy, and after it’s paid off, we own it outright and it is now an asset. That asset has very real value, and in the end saves us money...we all know that a penny saved is a penny earned, or in this case millions saved is millions earned. Mississippi could go on doing nothing in the way of economic development, and in the end ultimately have nothing to show for it. The 3500 jobs (and possibly more down the road), could have gone to North Carolina or any one of the other states that were courting them (and just as willing to offer incentives might I add). In a perfect world, companies would locate merely based on location, available workforce, tax structure, and local ordinances and laws. Sadly, and as much as I hate it (as it conflicts with some of my libertarian leanings), that isn’t the only factors in the equation anymore. As to the speed with which it was rammed through the legislature, it was explained by multiple folks that some deals have to come fast to secure the desired outcome. I'm not saying that the speed at which it was pushed through didn't leave a bad taste in my mouth, cause believe me it did, but I was assured that this is how these kind of deals go down. Having no previous experience in this type of matter, I had to lean on those seasoned liberty minded legislators that I trust. Contrary to some of the accusations by those who were against the bond issuance, this I feel is not a tax. No individual’s tax structure was raised. The bond money will be floated by investors. The state will start to see net revenues generated by 2017. Those net revenues are what will pay the bonds off in our state, not increased taxes (but the increase of the taxed revenue base). It's like buying a house, and renting it out. We incur the debt, but ultimately with the added income stream of the renter, we pay our monthly note. In the end, we own the house, and it continues to generate revenue for us. We retire bonds every year for previous incentives and expansions. Add $100 million dollars a year in new payrolls to the state, and guess what positive spin-offs comes with it? People paying income taxes, buying houses, paying property taxes, buying things, paying sales taxes and creating new businesses to support all the additional revenues to the economy. What about the economic impact of getting folks off of welfare? I wish we were all as up in arms about the millions of dollars we flush down the toilet on entitlements every year that will never yield a net positive to our state. Moving people from joblessness and unemployment (or underemployment) to a job or better paying job is a real solution. And getting people off welfare and into a job wasn't even factored in
figuring the payback. There are also clawbacks in the bill. A clawback is a contract that says if the companies don't deliver the jobs promised, they pay all of the money back. Any good businessman will weigh the options on an investment. What is the cost? What is the payback? What is the cost of doing nothing? It’s not corporate welfare if we are the ones getting the greatest benefit. Went to the Value Pacs summit/meeting this evening and had a great time talking with Mike Hurst and many Desoto County residents (Bruce Prewett and family, Heather Fox, and others) who have been instrumental in the formation of this PAC which supports candidates who support conservative Mississippi values. Spent the rest of the evening answering calls and texts related to the bond deal earlier in the day.
Friday, February 5th
There was no session today since the legislature broke for the week after the special session. I woke up and had more correspondence with those who weren’t happy about the bond deal, and later in the day had the opportunity to have lunch with the Speaker of the House. We talked about how the bond deal that went down the day before, as well as how some of the folks back home felt about it and responded to it. He was very gracious and attentive to the matter, as well as encouraging to me personally. After lunch, I packed up my things and headed out for my three hour drive home.