Friday, September 22, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Mississippi lawmakers start picking through budget requests
Mississippi government agencies are seeking about $800 million more for the coming year -- roughly a 13 percent increase in a $6 billion budget. But legislators warn that with slow economic growth, there won't be enough new tax revenue to cover all the requests. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee on Thursday held the first of two days of hearings as they start working on a spending plan for the year that begins July 1. When the universities presented their requests, Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum acknowledged that budget writers face difficult challenges. However, he and other education leaders told lawmakers that education is a smart investment to improve the state's economy. "I don't want to see Mississippi left behind as the rest of the world moves forward," Keenum said.
 
Education entities asking for funding increase
State education entities, kindergarten through the university level, will be requesting a funding increase of $436.7 million from the Mississippi Legislature when it convenes the 2018 session in January. All three entities, the state Board of Education on behalf of local K-12 school districts, the community colleges and universities, made their budget requests to the 14-member Legislative Budget Committee Thursday. The universities are hoping to reverse a trend where in 2000 they received 56 percent of their total revenue from the state, but now receive only 28 percent from the state. Boyce, Mississippi State President Mark Keenum and other IHL officials told legislative leaders universities are an economic development tool for the state and people with four-year degrees earn $2.4 million more in income over a 40-year career than does a person with just a high school diploma.
 
Mississippi State flies second drone mission of its kind
An unmanned aircraft system or "drone" performed a mission for only the second time during the Mississippi State University vs. LSU football game last Saturday. In addition to leading Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Homeland Security UAS research, the MSU Raspet Flight Research Laboratory also works with departments of the university to find applications for UAS in their respective disciplines. During the game a UAS performed a mission for Mississippi State Athletics, taking aerial photos of the action. It was only the second such mission approved by the FAA. "While the operation was not particularly complex, the FAA authorization to perform the flight was extremely unique," said Raspet graduate research assistant Madison Dixon.
 
Some Positive Buzz about Honey Bee Numbers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a positive report on honey bee colonies this past spring. The number of commercial U.S. honey bee colonies was 2.89 million as of April 1 -- 3% more colonies than during the same time frame in 2016. The total number of honey bee colonies lost was also lower in 2017. The number of colonies lost from April through June 2017 was 226,000 colonies, or 8%, compared to 330,000 colonies lost, or 12%, in 2016. These are positive signs that honey bee numbers are stabilizing, but the much-needed pollinators aren't out of the woods yet. "It is hard to look at the colony numbers and get a clear snapshot on overall bee health; what the numbers and charts don't show is how much harder the beekeepers are working to keep those bees alive," says Jeff Harris, Mississippi State University Extension research apiculturist and honey bee expert.
 
Starkville sales tax collections highest on record
Starkville's sales tax collections, while down for the month, have closed out the city's fiscal year as the highest on record. The city closed Fiscal Year 2017 with $6.99 million in sales tax revenue, which is up about $115,000 from FY 2016's $6.87 million. Starkville's monthly revenue is slightly down, however, from $565,751 received in September 2016 to $557,801 this month for July collections. Mayor Lynn Spruill said she is pleased with the growth, though she said sales taxes can be a flexible source of revenue for cities. Aldermen recently approved an ordinance change that allows businesses to sell alcohol within 100 feet of schools, churches and funeral homes; until 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and midnight on Sunday through Wednesday; and beer with up to 8-percent alcohol content. She said that ordinance change, along with the continued national success of Mississippi State University athletics and the growth of major events such as Bulldog Bash, should hopefully help drive even more sales tax collections to the city.
 
Road closures set for the weekend
Intersections at Russell Street and Spring Street along with East Lampkin Street and Russell Street will be closed to through traffic to allow for roadway striping and crosswalk construction this weekend. The intersection of Spring Street and Russell Street will be closed on Saturday, Sept. 23, between 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sunday, Sept. 24 between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. the intersection of East Lampkin Street and Russell Street will be closed. Businesses and residences adjacent to the closed areas will be provided with as much accessibility as possible. "It's virtually impossible to do this installation of this type of product without closing the roadway," city engineer Edward Kemp said. "Traffic cannot travel over it, or it will damage the product for a certain period of time after it's installed." These crosswalk and striping projects will continue throughout the city.
 
Partnership names Paige Watson special events, projects coordinator
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership announced today that Paige Watson will join its staff as the new special events and projects coordinator. Watson is a Starkville native and a Starkville High School alumna. She holds a communication degree from Mississippi State University and a master's degree in advertising and public relations from the University of Alabama. In her new role, Watson will be responsible for coordinating and establishing special events that support the Partnership, along with Starkville's business community. Partnership events help draw thousands of visitors to the city each year. She starts at GSDP on Monday. Watson comes to GSDP after working as a communication specialist for MSU's College of Education.
 
Business owner Paul Van Zyverden dies, credited Meridian for his success
Paul Van Zyverden, a Meridian business leader known for his family's floral distribution company, died Monday at the age of 85 at the Anderson Regional Medical Center. Mr. Van Zyverden brought Van Zyverden, Inc. to Meridian and helped grow a family flower bulb distributor into an international business with a headquarters in Meridian. Born in 1932 in Haarlem, Holland, Mr. Van Zyverden and his brother started making sales trips to the United States and Canada in his teens, making calls and finding new customers. By the late 1950s, Mr. Van Zyverden's older brother, Dirk, asked him to travel to the Southeast United States and find new opportunities for expansion. "That's how he first came to the South," Robert Van Zyverden, Paul Van Zyverden's son, said. "Meridian was one of the many towns that he had customers in."
 
Jackson Airport study touts $1.84 billion state footprint
An economic study estimated the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority had a $1.84 billion impact on the state last year. The Jackson State University College of Business study, which examined airport operations and income from 2016, also estimated more than 6,000 state jobs from the airport. "Our airport has a very significant impact on the state of Mississippi, about one and a half billion dollars. Simply, without it, you're looking at a billion and a half less dollars in the state," Jackson Municipal Airport Authority CEO Carl Newman said. The study comes as the city of Jackson fights efforts by the state to seize control and create a regional authority over the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. The city's lawsuit against the state has stalled those efforts. The Federal Aviation Administration has said it will not approve changes if the matter is in litigation.
 
Mississippi economy still lagging nation, economist says
Mississippi's economy continues to lag that of the nation and will do so for the foreseeable future, state Economist Darrin Webb told legislative leaders Thursday. "I believe the only thing we can do for Mississippi to be more competitive is for our people to be more competitive," Webb told members of the Legislative Budget Committee. To do that, Webb said, would take long-term efforts to improve health care, education and in some instances the culture of Mississippians. "Mississippi's growth will not catch the national growth" in the near term, he said. "That is not likely to happen." Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and other legislators lamented the low work force participation rate in the state. Webb told the legislators there were a number of factors contributing to the lowest work force participation rate in the nation and it will take a prolonged effort by policymakers to correct.
 
Lawmakers have cut agencies' spending, but not their own
As lawmakers begin scrutinizing state agencies' spending plans, one budget gets little attention --- usually not even a mention: the Legislature's. Lawmakers over the last couple of years drastically cut most state agencies' spending, but not their own. Many agencies have had large layoffs, but legislative staffing has remained relatively stable or increased in some cases. And even as some legislative leaders this year were criticizing agency directors for giving out raises during tough budget times, many legislative staffers saw substantial salary increases. The Legislature's own spending has increased every year since fiscal 2013, the first budget set by the current legislative leadership.
 
Legislators draw firm line on state agencies' 2019 budgets
Legislative leaders conducting Fiscal Year 2019 budget hearings for state agencies signaled little willingness for increased state spending as hearings got underway on Thursday. "We work for the taxpayers, not the bureaucracy that has been created over the past 200 years," Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said to kick off the hearings that continue today. "And if we will focus our efforts on that, we will make the best decisions for our constituents." Institutions of Higher Learning asked for a $6.7 million general fund decrease. IHL leaders focused on the positives of the university systems but discussed the need to address Ayers settlement funding moving forward. The Ayers case was resolved when the state agreed to provide a fund that would add money to support the state's historically black colleges and universities. However, funds will be depleted in a few years and advocates for those institutions argue that additional funding is still needed.
 
Sen. Sally Doty says revenues won't be enough
Mississippi government agencies are seeking about $800 million more for the next budget year -- roughly a 13 percent increase in a $5.6 billion budget -- and a Lincoln County legislator warns that with slow economic growth, there won't be enough new tax revenue to cover all the requests. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee on Thursday held the first of two days of hearings as they start working on a spending plan for the year that begins July 1. Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, in her second year to serve on the bipartisan committee, said she expects the estimated resources to be similar to last year's. "Almost everyone who has come in today has asked for additional money," she told The Daily Leader Thursday. Copiah-Lincoln Community College President Ronnie Nettles opened the presentation from the community colleges in the state. "It was good to see him there," she said.
 
Trent Kelly focused on defense spending, tax reform
U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly is touting efforts by Congress to boost military spending and believes legislation to modify the federal tax code should soon emerge as a major priority. Back in Mississippi's 1st Congressional District for a one-week House of Representatives recess, the Republican Kelly dropped in on Tupelo's Civitan International club meeting Thursday. He talked policy a bit, focusing primarily on appropriations, including defense spending, and taxes and then took questions. The congressman stressed the need to give "our military some certainty." Kelly criticized the reliance by Congress in recent years on a short-term maneuver called a "continuing resolution" to fund the federal government.
 
Mercedes-Benz to build electric SUVs at Tuscaloosa plant
Carmaker Mercedes-Benz announced Thursday that it will invest $1 billion to set up electric vehicle production at its Tuscaloosa, Alabama plant and to build a battery factory nearby, moves it said would create 600 new jobs. The luxury division of Germany's Daimler AG said it plans to manufacture electric SUVs under Mercedes' EQ sub-brand at the Alabama plant by the start of the next decade. At the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International facility in Tuscaloosa, workers assemble the GLS, GLE and GLE Coupe SUVs for the global market as well as the C-Class sedan for North America. The company says it employs 3,700 people and supports another 7,000 jobs at the 1,000-acre (400 hectare) site. Daimler also said it will build a new global logistics center and after-sales North American hub in Bibb County, about five miles from the Tuscaloosa plant.
 
Southern Miss student accused of sexual battery claims encounter consensual
A University of Southern Mississippi student accused of sexually assaulting a female student says the Aug. 18 encounter was consensual and claims text messages support his version of events. Sophomore nursing student Eric Camp, 19, is charged with sexual battery and is free on $10,000 bond. Patricia Burchell, Forrest County district attorney, said no court dates are pending in his case. Camp said he faces a Title IX hearing Sept. 29 at Southern Miss in relation to the incident. University of Southern Mississippi officials cannot confirm the date of the hearing. "Information of this type would be an educational record and therefore protected from disclosure under applicable state and federal law, including FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)," according to a statement from Jim Coll, chief communication officer at Southern Miss.
 
Southern Miss hosts Women in Science and Engineering Conference
The University of Southern Mississippi hosted its first Women in Science and Engineering Conference. The conference, titled "Rise with WISE: The Power of You!" was put together to build professional development and networking skills among high school, collegiate and professional women. The event was organized by WISE on campus through a grant provided by Retention of Women in STEM or "ROWS." WISE Treasurer Jessica Davison said the purpose of the event was to teach young women about the opportunities waiting for them after college through discussion sessions with guest speakers. "They're giving detailed talks about either work life balance for people in science along with looking into conflicts you may have in a job application," Davison said.
 
Jackson State University issues warning for wild dogs on campus
Jackson State University officials sent out a notice to students and the campus community about a pack of dogs that have been spotted roaming around the area. The university said it has been flooded with reports of a pack of dogs that are barking and threatening pedestrians on campus. Officials said staff and students who are feeding the animals, are making the problem worse. The university asked for people not to feed, approach or pet the animals. The dogs are not only a risk to safety by being bitten or scratched, but the animals could also carry parasites and pests that could pose a serious health risk to those on the grounds of the campus, officials said.
 
Bomb threat made against Jackson State dorm, authorities say
Firefighters, police and paramedics responded to Jackson State University after someone called in a bomb threat. The Jackson Fire Department said they were on the scene to assist, and campus police or the Jackson Police Department were investigating. McAllister dormitory was evacuated, and the Prentiss Street entrance to the campus was blocked off. Security was checking people's ID. There was no report of a device found in the building.
 
LSU to partially reinstate Greek activities Sunday including homecoming events, tailgating
LSU officials announced Thursday night that some Greek activities, including tailgating on Sept. 30, will be allowed starting Sunday, following a week-long suspension after the death of freshman fraternity pledge Maxwell Gruver. While most social events and all new member activities are still suspended, all university-sponsored homecoming events, philanthropy or service events, intramural events and meal services at the houses, including new members, will be allowed, according to a memo issued by LSU Director of Greek Life Angela Guillory sent to Greek chapter presidents and advisers. Though tailgating is still suspended for the Saturday home game, it will be allowed at the Sept. 30 homecoming game with new tailgate procedures for student organizations.
 
U. of Tennessee invests only private funds in LGBT pride center, hires coordinator
The University of Tennessee Knoxville is using private funds to invest in its LGBT pride center following last year's decision by state lawmakers to strip state dollars from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, including the pride center. UT announced this week it has hired Bonnie Johnson, a 2013 graduate, to lead the pride center as its first full-time coordinator. Her salary of $41,000 will be paid for with private funds, said UT spokeswoman Karen Simsen. Since 2016, the pride center has run strictly on private dollars after lawmakers approved a one-time diversion of $445,882 from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion to minority engineering scholarships. Those funds were unspoken for in the 2017-2018 budget and a complete breakdown of how they will be spent was still unavailable Thursday, though a university spokeswoman said they will not be spent at the pride center.
 
Dean plans no further action in U. of Arkansas speaker's cancellation
No formal action resulted from a University of Arkansas, Fayetteville dean's review of an April decision to cancel a Skype talk by a speaker known for remarks critical of Islam, UA spokesman Mark Rushing said Thursday. The UA administration in May criticized "the decision to disinvite a participant for his or her views" as "not reflective of the values and practices of our institution," according to a statement made at the time by Rushing. The university in May suspended geosciences professor Tom Paradise from his administrative duties as director of UA's Middle East Studies center for his decision to cancel a presentation by Phyllis Chesler at a UA academic symposium April 13-14 on honor killing in Western countries. Chesler has written that academics wrongly ignore the role of Islam when discussing honor killings and similar violence in Western countries.
 
Tennessee Promise students more likely to succeed in college, less likely to drop out
Students using Tennessee's free community college scholarship are significantly more likely to succeed in college than their peers outside the program, according to data released Thursday. Fifty-six percent of Tennessee Promise students who entered college in 2015, the program's first year, had graduated, transferred to a four-year university or remained in school two years later. Only 39 percent of recent high school graduates outside of Tennessee Promise had done the same --- a difference of 17 percentage points. The data, part of a wide-ranging analysis done by the state's community college system, the Tennessee Board of Regents, provide the clearest picture yet of the landmark program. Proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014, the program was the first in the nation to offer almost every graduating high school senior in a state the chance to go to college tuition-free.
 
U. of Kentucky endowment returns 10.2 percent
The University of Kentucky, Lexington, returned an estimated 10.2% on its $1.4 billion endowment for the fiscal year ended June 30, ahead of its 9.4% policy benchmark, said Todd Shupp, chief investment officer, in an email. A breakout of asset class returns was not immediately available. The endowment's fiscal year return is still subject to change as not all managers have reported values as of June 30 yet, Mr. Shupp noted. Last fiscal year, the endowment returned -1.5%. Its long-term return target is 7.5%.
 
U. of Missouri System hired high-profile PR firm for damage control after fall 2015
After the campus unrest at the University of Missouri in fall 2015, the University of Missouri System quietly hired the world's largest private public relations firm to help craft its message and avoid perception crises. Edelman PR, which Penn State hired after its child molestation scandal, was paid between $250,000 and $350,000 from June 2016 to July 2017 and was hired again through next June for an additional estimated $123,600. he strategy Edelman presented was to limit media access, mostly in the form of written "pre-determined statements," push positive stories about the university and create a strategy for all representatives to answer expected tough questions the same way. The firm has been helpful to MU, campus spokesman Christian Basi said. The agreement between Edelman and the UM System was not publicly announced. "We do not send out press releases on every consultant that we hire," Basi said.
 
Advocates warn against immediate changes to campus assault policies
As advocates for survivors of sexual assault await more information on the Department of Education's new approach to sexual misconduct on campus, they're raising concerns that Secretary Betsy DeVos and her team are doing exactly what they slammed the Obama administration for: making new policy without sufficiently consulting the public. The department is widely expected to issue as soon as today new instructions spelling out how colleges and universities should comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 after DeVos indicated she would rescind 2011 guidelines issued by the Obama administration. Those instructions to campuses are expected be issued on an interim basis until a federal regulation is produced via a formal comment period. DeVos has argued that a formal comment period should have preceded the 2011 federal guidelines that have become a focus of debate over federal policy on campus assaults. She promised in a speech earlier this month to end "rule by letter" while blasting the current approach as a failed system.
 
In-State Tuition Increases Sharply at Some Public Schools
Most colleges and universities raise their sticker price every year, but a few state institutions have made more drastic increases recently. "When it comes to public institutions, they have lower tuition levels and have more room to increase than private institutions," says Anil Prahlad, chief content officer at Hanover Research, a firm specializing in higher education market research. U.S. News data show that among National Universities, tuition and fees have soared the most for in-state students over the last 10 years. The state that has had the most notable increases is Louisiana. Louisiana State University raised tuition and fees from $5,086 in 2007-2008 to $11,374 in 2017-2018. The school increased its tuition and fees the most among public flagship schools in the U.S. and is now priced above the average in-state rate among National Universities. Ernie Ballard III, media relations director at LSU, said in a statement to U.S. News that the university increased its price because of the swap in state funding.
 
PETA goes after a postdoc for her research on birds, and academics cry foul
Christine Lattin, a postdoctoral researcher in biology at Yale University, describes herself as a bird lover. Yet she and her work with birds have become targets for animal activists, in particular People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The organization has called on its supporters to demand that Yale stop backing Lattin's research, and she's been the subject of protests, including a small one in front of her home earlier this month. She's also received emails telling her to kill herself. PETA has responded to Lattin's public attempts to defend her research, including in a point-by-point rebuttal called "PETA to Bird Torturer: Here Are the Facts." The organization says Lattin's work is unnecessarily cruel and essentially pointless, despite her assertions that her studies on stress in birds could be applicable to other species. Along with critics, the controversy has earned Lattin some senior supporters who say that her work is not only ethically managed but vital.


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State's defensive front, offensive line may give it edge over Georgia
Darryl Williams anticipated in training camp that there would be questions about Mississippi State's offensive line and then, sure enough, the Bulldogs' starting left guard heard them. How would Williams fare as a starter? Would redshirt freshman Stewart Reese be able to hold his own at right tackle? How reliable will first-year center Elgton Jenkins be at his new position? Would left tackle Martinas Rankin live up to the draft-hype surrounding him? Even dependable guard Deion Calhoun was limited in the spring because of injury. "We knew we were going to get criticized a lot," Williams said, "but we're just working and communicating to get better each week." After three games, there isn't a lot to be critical of in regards to Mississippi State's offensive line, which has allowed only one sack.
 
Mississippi State offensive line will face another challenge at Georgia
Elgton Jenkins provided a brief distraction from the real focal point of the Mississippi State offensive line. When Jenkins' first start at center began with a few lower-than-desired snaps, suddenly all of the attention on new starters Darryl Williams (left guard) and Stewart Reese (right tackle) vanished. With two more games in the books, Williams and Reese aren't under such scrutiny anymore. In the MSU offensive line's impressive performances to start the season, the new additions to the group have been the standouts. Williams was named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week for his efforts last week while Reese held renowned LSU defensive lineman Arden Key in check many more times than not. The task doesn't get easier for them as MSU (3-0, 1-0 SEC) goes to Georgia (3-0) 6 p.m. Saturday at Sanford Stadium, but those around them show no concern.
 
Mississippi State's Keith Mixon proving doubters wrong one catch at a time
Even though Keith Mixon netted over 5,100 all-purpose yards and 64 touchdowns during his final two years of high school, only a few numbers seemed to matter to college recruiters. Sixty-eight inches and 176-pounds. Mixon's small stature as a recruit scared most schools away when it came time to offer a scholarship. "I feel like I've been overlooked all my life," Mixon said. "Every camp I went to it was basically always about my size." The lone Southeastern Conference school that gave Mixon a chance was Mississippi State. Three years and 11-pounds later, the sophomore from Birmingham, Alabama is now the Bulldogs' leading receiver through three games. Mixon is coming off his best career game last week against LSU. He hauled in six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 37-7 victory.
 
Fast start for UGA defense doesn't include interceptions
A lot has gone right for Georgia's defense under coordinator Mel Tucker this season. The Bulldogs rank in the top 20 nationally in three categories including total yards allowed and rushing yards given up. One area Tucker has harped on with his players this week is the lack of interceptions. Georgia is the only SEC team still without one. "He lets us know if we get tips and overthrows, we have to get those," safety J.R. Reed said. "If they hit our hands, we've got to get those, too." There's hardly any panic about Georgia having zero picks. After all, Georgia is 3-0 heading into Saturday's top 20 matchup with Mississippi State and snagged 15 last year, which ranked third in the SEC. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has one interception in 70 pass attempts this season after having 10 in 361 attempts last year.
 
Mississippi State to host MHSAA volleyball championships
The state high school volleyball championships will be hosted by Mississippi State this year, the Mississippi High School Activities Association announced Thursday. The semifinals will be held on Thursday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 28 at MSU's Newell-Grissom Building. Mississippi College hosted the championships in Clinton before scheduling conflicts necessitated a change in 2014. The tournament shifted to multiple Jackson-area sites the past three years.
 
U. of Kentucky athletics director condemns 'offensive' Hurricane Irma sign before Florida game
Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart on Thursday condemned an offensive banner that has been floating around social media this week that references Hurricane Irma and the Florida football team. "An insensitive and offensive sign has been making the rounds online this week. I want to be clear: That's not us," Barnhart said on Twitter on Thursday morning. "We will show the respect and care due our opponents and those affected by natural disasters." The banner, made in the style often seen draped from houses near campuses, says words to the effect: If Irma didn't mess you up, the Cats will. The banner is shown laid out on someone's floor. It is not clear who the source of the banner or the photo is.
 
Sources: LSU, John Chavis working towards settlement in buyout case
John Chavis' 30-month-old fight with his old employer might be coming to an end. Chavis and LSU are working towards settling their lawsuit over a buyout the school alleges he owes the program, multiple sources told The Advocate. Details on a potential settlement are not known. Attorneys involved in the suit either did not responded to messages for comment or declined comment Thursday. The bitter fight between Chavis and the university is over a $400,000 buyout the school says he owes for leaving for Texas A&M, in December 2014, before the buyout clause in his contract ended. Chavis, in Year 3 as A&M's defensive coordinator, claims he did not leave before Feb. 1, 2015, the buyout end date. Photographs, however, have emerged showing Chavis recruiting in Aggies gear in January 2015.
 
Don't look now but football's much-discussed 'targeting' rule is working
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: "Question: Can football be made less violent and safer without changing the nature of the game? Answer: It's already happening. Don't take it from me. Listen to Steve Shaw, coordinator of officials for the SEC and NCAA secretary-rules editor for football. 'The targeting rule is working,' Shaw said Wednesday in a telephone interview from the SEC's Birmingham office. 'In fact, it is working very well. I think if you watch football closely, you have seen player behavior change over the past few seasons. I know I have. There are fewer purposeful helmet-to-helmet hits.' That's as it should be. ...Something had to be done to get players' and coaches' attention. The targeting penalty increasingly has."



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