Thursday, January 19, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State's Mark Keenum: State is short-sighted in failing to invest in higher education
Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum divided most of his speaking time at Tuesday's Columbus Rotary Club between looking back at the first technological revolution and the one he feels lies just ahead. But his most pointed comments were very much on the here and now, chastising the state for not sufficiently funding higher education at a time when both the challenges and opportunities facing the state's universities are at their highest. "In the eight years I've been at Mississippi State, there's only been one year that we didn't have a cut in (state) funding," Keenum said. "And the one year we weren't cut, we didn't get an increase that year. We just didn't get a cut." Keenum compared those reductions in higher education funding to another growing concern in the state. "Our highways, bridges and roadways are deteriorating because the public sector hasn't done enough to keep them in good condition," Keenum said. "
Mississippi universities sign formal pact to aid development
Mississippi's eight public universities and its business recruitment agency are signing an agreement to work together to improve the state's economy. Higher Education Commissioner Glenn Boyce and Mississippi Development Authority Director Glenn McCullough signed the formal agreement Thursday at a College Board meeting in Jackson. Boyce says universities have worked with MDA for decades to recruit industry to the state. The new agreement formalizes the partnership, calling for universities and MDA to meet jointly with business leaders and to market their strengths together.
Mississippi special needs teen sells bath bombs to pay for college
Seventeen-year-old Morgan Tibbens is just like any other high school student. She loves swimming, hitting high-v's on the cheerleading squad, and floor seats at her favorite concerts. But unlike most of her peers at Lewisburg High, Morgan has Down syndrome. Even so, that doesn't stop high school sophomore from working toward her biggest goal yet: going to college. Thanks to the Mississippi State University ACCESS Program, Morgan can do just that. When a teacher told Morgan about the university's special needs program, there was no doubt in her mind about what she wants to accomplish. "She saw her sister loving the college life, becoming a sorority girl doing all the things that you do in college, and she wanted to also do it," said Morgan's mother, Denise.
Utilities rate increase not expected in Starkville
Starkville Utilities General Manager Terry Kemp says he has no intention of calling for water and sewer rate increases as the city attempts to borrow $1 million for infrastructure improvements through the Mississippi Development Authority's Capital Improvements Revolving (CAP) Loan Program. Aldermen voted 5-1 Tuesday to authorize Golden Triangle Planning and Development District Project Analyst Phylis Benson to move forward with the state application. A public hearing on the loan, which Benson said would be at a 2 percent interest rate with payments spread across 20 years, is expected to be held in late February. The application itself would then be sent to Jackson for review. In other business, aldermen unanimously approved a temporary moratorium on new billboards.
William Yates elected Mississippi Economic Council chair
Philadelphia native William G. Yates III, CEO/President of W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company, was elected the new chairman of the Mississippi Economic Council for 2017-2018. The announcement of new officers was made by outgoing chair Robin Robinson. Prior to Yates becoming president of W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company, he served for several years as executive vice president of the Gulf Coast Division of Yates Construction. Other MEC officers elected included James Daniel "Dan" Rollins, III, chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of BancorpSouth, Inc., as MEC's 2018-2019 chair; William A. "Lex" Taylor, III, president and chairman of the Board of The Taylor Group, Inc., as MEC's 2019-2020 chair; and Rebecca Wiggs, Attorney at Watkins & Eager, as MEC treasurer. Wiggs will also serve as treasurer of the Mississippi Economic Council's subsidiaries, the M.B. Swayze and the Public Education Forum of Mississippi.
Lawmakers Talk Streamlining the State Budget with Business Leaders
State agency budgets should be simple and transparent. That's the goal of the Simplification and Transparency Act, according to Republican Senator Buck Clarke of Hollandale. Clarke chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. He told business leaders at the Mississippi Economic Council's Legislative Scrambler, a review of state agency budgets last year, found some had bank accounts they didn't know existed and agencies paying each other for expenses. "Every agency had to pay rent. DFA controlled the buildings, another acronym department of finance and administration. We'd say how much does it cost to run all our buildings in state government. Well we're not really sure because we just charge rent, kinda what we need. We come up with square footage for the rental amount," said Clarke. Republican John Read of Jackson County, chairs the House Appropriations Committee. He says they're just getting started at the Capitol and don't know the numbers yet. He talked about this summer's state agency budget hearings. They looked at dollars spent on vehicles, travel and contracts.
Leaders struggle with state budgeting
State budget cuts prompted by lower-than-expected revenue has prompted another legislative leader to opt for a more conservative budgeting process. "The biggest question you have starting out is: What's our beginning point?" Sen. Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, the Senate Appropriations chairman, said at a Mississippi Economic Council session on Wednesday. "Is it last year's number?" Clarke asked. "We just got cut twice, so should we should start there? Clarke was referencing budget cuts ordered by Gov. Phil Bryant -- most recently last week -- to bring state spending in line with the revenue coming in below estimates. Through the first six months of the fiscal year, the state had an $89 million revenue shortfall from projections.
Mississippi legislator introduces bill to expedite NCAA investigations
The NCAA's investigation into Ole Miss' football program is going on five years, but a bill recently introduced in the Mississippi Legislature aims to speed up the process for all of the state's member institutions. House Bill 1040, which would be referred to as the NCAA Fairness in F.A.C.T. Investigation Act of 2017, has been proposed to limit the time the NCAA has to conduct a probe into rules violations to one year without the governing body facing a financial penalty. The bill would require that schools have three months to respond to an official notice of allegations with the NCAA then having nine months from the time it receives the school's response to complete its investigation. The legislation was drawn up by Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia. Lamar was a walk-on running back at Ole Miss from 2001-02, according to Ole Miss' official athletics website.
Bill introduced to govern NCAA investigations
A proposed bill in the Mississippi legislature seeks to get the NCAA to do what Ole Miss cannot: end the investigation of the Rebel football program. Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, introduced the potential legislation (House Bill 1040), which would force under the threat of financial penalty for the NCAA "to complete its investigation, present findings to the NCAA Committee on Infractions and to render its final decision either imposing penalties for the violations proven in the investigation process or dismissal of the allegations" within nine months of a member institution's response to a letter of inquiry. If the bill passes, it will go into effect and be enforced from July 1 forward. Of course, it's unlikely to pass this stage -- thousands of bills are introduced each year, and most of them never come to a vote -- and even if it did, it's questionable how the Mississippi legislature could enforce it.
Bill to limit AG's powers defeated
A day after Attorney General Jim Hood garnered $26 million in lawsuit settlement funds for Mississippi's cash-strapped general fund, efforts by the House leadership to limit his ability to file lawsuits was voted down by the full chamber. By a narrow 60-58 margin Wednesday, the House defeated a proposal by Judiciary A Chairman Mark Baker, R-Brandon, to require the attorney general to obtain the permission of the Outside Counsel Oversight Commission to file a lawsuit where the settlement obtained by the state was expected to exceed $250,000. The Outside Oversight Commission consists of the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state.
Bill: Wine delivered straight to your front door
Mississippi residents could be able to stay in their home and get their favorite wine shipped directly to them if legislation passes. House Bill 545, filed by Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, would allow wine to be sold and shipped directly to residents if they are at least 21 years old. However, the Mississippi Department of Revenue, which controls alcohol and wine distribution in the state, doesn't support the legislation. Similar measures in past years have died. "DOR is grateful for the 50-year relationship with over 600 package stores statewide and recognizes that allowing direct shipment of wine would be detrimental to these family owned, mom and pop businesses," spokeswoman Katie Lawson said.
Sen. Roger Wicker gets a seat at McConnell's leadership table
In the days after an improbable defense of the GOP's Senate majority, Mitch McConnell came to Sen. Roger Wicker with a reward: A seat at the leadership table. The Mississippi senator had successfully protected Republican control of the Senate even with a host of GOP senators up for reelection in blue and purple states. In return, McConnell told Wicker (R-Miss.) that he would be included in the Monday meetings of party brass in McConnell's sprawling office suite. "It's pretty good company," Wicker cracked dryly in an interview this week. "It pays me twice as much." Wicker had already been one of McConnell's lieutenants as National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman.
Mississippi National Guard to provide support at inauguration
About 150 members of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard will provide support during the presidential inauguration in Washington on Friday. They left from Flowood on Wednesday, officials said. The soldiers and airmen will assist with traffic control, crowd management, communications, public affairs and chaplain support operations. Officials estimate between 800,000 and 900,000 supporters and protesters will be present Friday as President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office.
Georgia's Sonny Perdue picked as Trump's agriculture chief
Sonny Perdue was selected Wednesday as Donald Trump's agriculture secretary, giving the first Republican governor to lead Georgia since Reconstruction the opportunity to set the nation's farm policy. The 70-year-old Perdue, a veterinarian by training, has deep ties to agribusiness. That helped him win over Trump, but it could also pose potential conflicts as he seeks confirmation to lead the sprawling $140 billion U.S. Department of Agriculture. Perdue's upset win in the 2002 race for governor triggered a GOP wave in Georgia, a onetime stronghold for Democrats. Since leaving office in 2011, Perdue has helped run a trucking, agriculture and logistics firms from his base in Middle Georgia. He founded Perdue Partners with his cousin.
Donald Trump: Sonny Perdue will do 'great things' in ag role
Donald Trump said Sonny Perdue will do "great things" as his new agriculture chief, formally announcing Thursday the former Georgia governor will be his pick for the nation's top farm guru. "From growing up on a farm to being governor of a big agriculture state, he has spent his whole life understanding and solving the challenges our farmers face, and he is going to deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land," said Trump in a statement. Perdue was selected Wednesday as Trump's agriculture secretary, giving the first Republican governor to lead Georgia since Reconstruction the opportunity to set the nation's farm policy.
Supreme Court delays New Jersey sports betting decision
Supporters of legalized sports gambling in New Jersey and several other states were handed a small victory Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court delayed a ruling on whether it will take up the states' challenge to a federal ban. The court invited the solicitor general to file a brief on behalf of the government, which means a decision on whether the court will hear the challenge could take several more months. The justices turned away more than 75 other appeals Tuesday, and the New Jersey case could have been among them. The court historically chooses to hear less than one percent of cases it considers. New Jersey is challenging a 1992 federal law that restricts sports betting to Nevada and three other states that already had approved some form of wagering. Several states including Mississippi, West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana and Wisconsin have joined New Jersey's effort.
Why America Is Growing The Most Sweet Potatoes Since WWII
Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country. While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II. In 2000, Americans ate about 4 pounds of sweet potatoes per person. Today, it's nearly double that, at 7.5 pounds per person. Outside the country, global demand increased as well. "In the last 10 years there has been a tremendous increase percentage wise of sweet potato exports," says David Trinklein, an associate professor of plant sciences at the University of Missouri. "A lot of them going to Europe." Today, U.S. sweet potato farmers export about 11 percent of the total supply.
UMMC missed patient quality goal by a hair
Last August, 71 percent of front line caregivers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center were observed complying with the established hand hygiene routine, a 17 percent increase from the previous year. Today, UMMC reports a 76 percent compliance rate. But the 2016 year-end goal was no less than 80 percent. UMMC models a hand washing routine after the Targeted Solutions Tool, an innovative application that guides healthcare organizations to overcome barriers within their facilities. According to Targeted Solutions Tool data, implementation of certain strategies such as hand hygiene can prevent at least 130 different hospital acquired infections, the mortality rate will decrease and the hospital will save at least $2.3 million in direct medical costs.
USM's NCS4 hosts first radiological training, exercise
The University of Southern Mississippi's National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) hosted training Wednesday, which helped prepare local and state agencies for incidents involving radiological materials. A first-ever radiological response exercise featured personnel from University Police, Forrest County Emergency Management, the Hattiesburg Fire Department, the Mississippi Department of Public Health and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. It included a training scenario in which different agencies teamed up to search for an unknown source of radiation at M.M. Roberts Stadium. "It's a way for us to study what we should do, lessons learned if an incident should occur in a stadium," said Lou Marciani, director of NCS4. "So, we'll take those lessons learned and put those into best practices and hopefully, we can help other major universities in this country."
Delta State University tuition will increase
Delta State University will raise the sticker price for students by 5 percent this fall. The College Board gave final approval Thursday to the plan to increase total tuition and fees from $6,418 to $6,733 at the 3,600-student university. Delta State charges Mississippi residents and out-of-state students the same price for tuition. Delta State President Bill LaForge has said the Cleveland university planned a 5 percent increase for fall 2018, but says officials decided to move it ahead to fall 2017 to avoid a possible revenue shortfall.
Delta State launches new program offering educational opportunities
Delta State University has launched the Delta Educational Opportunity Center, a Federal TRIO Program. The Federal TRIO Program is under the leadership of LaKisha Butler. The program was designed for young adults, 19 and older, who want to enter or continue a program of post secondary education. Academic counselor, LaSheka D. Bell said, "We are going to help the young adults get either their GED or their HiSet, and the HiSet is one of the new tests that are equivalent to the high school diploma. Participants who go through the program will be referred to the one of the five colleges that is partnering with the Federal TRIO Program. Colleges include Delta State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Coahoma Community College, Mississippi Delta Community College and Holmes Community College.
Auburn University taps retired general and former football player as newest trustees
Auburn University has selected a retired general and a former football player as the newest members of its board of trustees. Retired U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin and former Auburn football player Quentin Riggins have been selected to take on two new at-large seats which were created after Alabama voters passed a state constitutional amendment in November. Raymond Harbert has also been select to be reappointed to another term as an at-large member of the board of trustees, according to an Auburn University press release. he Alabama State Senate must confirm the selections.
U. of South Carolina, Clemson students grade lawmakers on support for higher education
Students at South Carolina's two largest universities are grading lawmakers on their support for higher education, kicking off a new push to give college students a louder voice at the State House. Twenty-nine of 46 state senators and 66 of 124 House members were listed as supporters of S.C. colleges and universities on the first "Student Higher Education Report and Honor Roll," released Wednesday by student governments at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina. The students evaluated college-related bills from the last legislative session and assigned lawmakers points based on how they voted, giving more points for high-profile measures, including the state budget. Student leaders say they want lawmakers to put more money in the state's $7.9 billion general fund budget for higher education and to pass a borrowing bill for college building projects.
UAB cancels 'partisan' Trump Inaugural counseling group
Officials with UAB say an event that was billed as an opportunity for employees to express feelings and reactions during Friday's inaugural ceremony for President-Elect Donald Trump has been canceled. The event was billed with a flier that has been shared on social media. The flier, under the heading, UAB Employee Assistance and Counseling Center, announced an "Inaugural Process Group" meeting Friday at noon during the scheduled swearing-in of the president-elect. UAB Spokesperson Jim Bakken said school officials were made aware of the session last night. "It is clearly partisan and not an appropriate use of institutional resources," Bakken said.
Key Federal Studies Face Hazy Future Under Trump
he past eight years have marked an unprecedented push to expand and use federal data systems, both in education and across the federal government. As education watchers await the Trump administration, there has been little clarity and some concern about the future of key education studies. "With this new administration, there are so many things to keep your eye on," said Laura Speer, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's associate director for policy reform and advocacy, "and this [federal education data issue] is one of those things that can completely fly under the radar---and before you know it, some critical things can be lost." Some of the biggest ongoing federal studies have in recent years faced budget cutbacks and criticism, particularly by Republican members of the House of Representatives.
Assessing President Obama's far-reaching impact on higher education
Lyndon Johnson oversaw the creation of the federal student aid system. Bill Clinton's administration invested heavily in college preparation and created a multibillion-dollar program of college tax credits. But as President Obama's eight years in office near an end, history is likely to remember him as the higher education president. We can already hear the shouts of dissent from those who felt the brunt of the administration's all-out regulatory blitz against for-profit colleges. Expect demurrals, too, from higher education leaders who felt betrayed by their natural ally, believing that President Obama's rhetoric about rising college prices and questionable value battered their institutions and convinced some would-be students that college was unaffordable. Surely the administration's record on higher education is a mixed one, where ambition was often undermined by flawed implementation and tactical errors. But no president in history has, with his rhetoric, so clearly embraced the idea that postsecondary education is a must for individuals and essential for the country's economic and societal well-being.
At Long Last, Agency Completes Overhaul of Rules on Use of Humans in Research
With two days left in the Obama administration, the federal agency charged with protecting human beings in research on Wednesday issued an overhaul of rules that had been caught up in more than five years of acrimonious debate. The rule changes, which will begin to take effect next year regardless of the change in presidents, will generally allow for a single review of human protections in studies that occur at multiple universities, and will allow broader exemptions from such reviews for researchers whose study interactions are limited to interviews. Many of the changes enjoyed wide support in the research community but were delayed by extended debate over the details. The federal Office for Human Research Protections, which oversees the rules, received more than 2,100 public comments on the plan, which it first announced in 2011.
U.S. issues final version of 'common rule' on research involving humans
The federal government on Wednesday issued a new 543-page rule to govern the way researchers study human subjects. The new "common rule," as it is known, follows years of debate over appropriate ethics standards. And many experts in the field haven't had time to carefully study all of the regulations. But in a major win for the associations that lobby on behalf of research universities, the final rule does not include a provision that was in earlier drafts that would have applied principles of informed consent to biospecimens, such as tissue, blood, saliva and urine. Current rules allow research to be performed using previously collected biospecimens without informed consent as long as the specimens are not linked to an individual. But earlier draft regulations would have required researchers to obtain ongoing informed consent and to track whose biospecimens were being used so that the consent could be obtained.
Student Loan Collector Cheated Millions, Lawsuits Say
Navient, the nation's largest servicer of student loans, has for years misled borrowers and made serious mistakes at nearly every step of the collections process, illegally driving up loan repayment costs for millions of borrowers, according to lawsuits filed on Wednesday by a federal regulator and two state attorneys general. Navient handles $300 billion in private and federal loans for some 12 million people -- touching about one in four student loan borrowers. Every customer may have been affected by Navient's misdeeds, said Lisa Madigan, the attorney general of Illinois, announcing her own lawsuit with the one filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Navient does not make the loans, but it holds lucrative contracts to collect payments each month on behalf of banks, government and other lenders.
So, you're thinking of running for mayor
Columnist Phil Hardwick writes in the Mississippi Business Journal: "With the March 3rd qualifying deadline only a few weeks away, decision time is drawing nigh for those considering running for mayor or other municipal office. To assist in that endeavor, we have put together a list of questions that should be answered by any person considering a run for mayor. The first question is the most important one because it is the one candidates should ask themselves and the one which will be the first that others ask. And it is this: Why are you running for mayor? And while 'I want to make my community a better place' is the stock answer, and which is undoubtedly true, the prospective candidate should delve deeper into their real motivation."
Wage discrimination: Bills are good politics, but...
Jackson-based consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "At the Neshoba County Fair, Republican State Treasurer Lynn Fitch called for the Legislature to pass a fair pay act to ensure equal pay for women. Representative Becky Currie (R-Brookhaven) heeded the call and introduced HB818 -- an act to provide equal pay for equal work. Representatives Carolyn Crawford (R-Pass Christian) and David Baria (D-Bay St. Louis) cosponsor the bill. Baria introduced his own bill as well: HB9 -- the Evelyn Gandy Fair Pay Act. The bills are good politics. Who can argue against equal pay for equal work? Well, I can."

No. 4 Mississippi State not content to be 19-0
Humble and hungry. Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer is going to try to follow that way of thinking the rest of the season. It might sound like a difficult proposition, especially since the Bulldogs are off to a program-record 19-0 start and have climbed to all-time high rankings in The Associated Press and the USA Today polls (No. 4). But Schaefer knows the records MSU has broken in the first three months won't mean anything when it enters the one-and-done phase of the season in March. That's why he wants his players to stay focused for each step, starting with the next one at 7 tonight when MSU (19-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) takes on Alabama (14-4, 2-3) at Coleman Coliseum.
No. 4 Bulldogs take aim at 20-0 with Alabama visit
No. 4 Mississippi State will try to stay undefeated and also extend its winning streak to 20 games as it travels to Alabama tonight at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs are also off to their best start in conference play at 5-0 and seeking a fourth straight win over the Crimson Tide. Alabama owns a 36-19 advantage in the series but the Bulldogs have won 15 of the last 20 meetings including six of the last seven in Tuscaloosa. MSU won last year's meeting 61-52 in Starkville. Victoria Vivians leads the Bulldogs scoring 17.3 per game while Meoshonti Knight paces Alabama with 13.1 points.
U. of Tennessee close to hiring search firm to help find AD
The University of Tennessee is in the final stages of selecting a firm to help conduct its national search to find a new athletic director. "The university is in the middle of the procurement process to hire a firm to assist with the search for the athletic director," UT spokeswoman Karen Ann Simsen said Wednesday. "We are hoping to wrap up the process soon." Once the firm has been selected, Simsen said, UT will provide a general timeline for the search and announce the members of a search committee that has been appointed by new UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport. "The members of the committee at that point will work closely with the search firm on beginning to recruit candidates," Simsen said.
LSU coordinators likely highest-paid duo in college football
Dave Aranda isn't the only assistant on new coach Ed Orgeron's staff making the big bucks. LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada is set to make $1.5 million per year as part of a three-year contract that he and the school agreed upon, according to documents obtained by The Advocate. Canada's contract with the school will run through the 2019 season, ending in March 2020. It pays him a base salary of $500,000, with $1 million more coming from media rights compensation and other sources. Canada signed a memorandum of agreement Dec. 14, the date he was hired. A copy of the agreement was obtained by The Advocate through a public records request. LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M led all schools last year in coordinator pay, each doling out a combined $2.5 million for their coordinators. LSU's new coordinator pay will be $3.3 million, potentially the highest ever.

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