Tuesday, March 14, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
School district, board say farewell to Jenny Turner
On March 7, the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District held a reception for departing school board president Jenny Turner. Turner had served five years on the board, and announced on Feb. 1 that she would not seek reappointment. "My son will graduate in May, so I felt that was a good time for me to end my service," said Turner, who's daughter graduated from Starkville High School in 2014. Turner said she originally decided to apply for the board seat in 2012, because she felt her experience as a volunteer and PTA member would be valuable. She the two biggest accomplishments of her board were consolidation and the Partnership School project with Mississippi State University.
No Way Jose to open Thursday on Highway 12
A new restaurant will soon bring a fresh flavor to Highway 12 in Starkville. No Way Jose -- a Tex-Mex family restaurant -- will open on Thursday, March 16, across Highway 12 from Vowell's. The restaurant, which has locations in Cleveland, Greenwood, Grenada, and Houston, is family owned and operated. The business space was previously occupied by Chili's, which closed in July 2016. Owner Julio Martinez is one of four brothers that own and operate the five No Way Jose franchises throughout the state. Remodeling efforts have been underway since Martinez closed on the location in November 2016. "It took a little while, because we had to gut the whole kitchen and put a sprinkler system in," he said. "We updated everything. It doesn't even look like a Chili's. It's been totally remodeled."
Stennis Institute at MSU tells Lafayette County officials now is time to plan
Lafayette County officials are moving closer to completion in updating the comprehensive plan and this past week gained more information about land use and zoning. During a joint session of the Board of Supervisors and the comprehensive plan implementation committee, members of the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University gave officials a presentation that dealt a great deal with the forms of zoning as well as the pros and cons as the county deals with incredible growth. The average growth in the 21 counties who have experienced population increases was just over three percent. That growth is a double-edged sword, according to Dr. Joe Fratesi, Project Director with the Stennis Institute. Fratesi and his colleague Jeremy Murdock told officials now is the time to start planning for more increased growth before it's too late.
House rejects state flag mandate for universities
The Republican House leadership, relying on overwhelming support of Democrats, was able to narrowly defeat a proposal designed to force the eight public universities to fly the state flag, which has the controversial Confederate battle emblem as part of its design. The issue of the flag surfaced Monday in the House as both chambers finished the process of passing the more than 100 bills that fund state government, the universities and local school districts. Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, tried to amend the budget bills that fund the Institutions of Higher Learning to force the public universities to fly the Mississippi flag to receive state funding. None of the eight public universities currently fly the state flag. "IHL will display whatever the flag is in the state, a pink, polka-dotted elephant, I don't care," he said of his amendment. "Whatever the flag is in the state, they will fly."
Flag debate stalls higher ed funding in House
A Republican representative from Quitman has succeeded in holding back bills funding the state's higher education system -- at least for now -- after the House rejected his proposals to require universities and colleges to fly the Mississippi state flag. Rep. William Shirley attempted twice Monday to amend appropriations legislation to require public universities to display the banner. His first amendment offered for a bill providing general support for the State College Board was tabled on a voice vote. Shirley's second try on a similar measure resulted in a roll call vote to table his proposal that broke down mostly across party, and to some extent racial, lines. Rep. Nick Bain of Corinth was the only Democrat to vote against the measure. Fourteen Republicans, including House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton, joined the black and Democrat caucus in voting no. No black lawmakers voted against the motion.
Legislators wield the ax; how sharply will they cut agency budgets?
Senate and House leaders on Monday continued to craft next year's state budget, which is expected to cut money from most agencies. Appropriations bills have become the main focus for lawmakers with the regular legislative session scheduled to end in three weeks. In large part, lawmakers have stuck to their Legislative Budget Recommendation, a $6.1 billion proposal released in December that called for $151 million in cuts, relative to last year's budget, affecting most state agencies as state tax revenues continue to dwindle. The Revenue Estimating Group, which projects how much tax revenue the state will have to spend in its budget for next fiscal year, is expected to release a new revenue projection within the next two weeks.
State flag, lottery amendments rise and fall yet again
Attempts to establish a lottery and require Mississippi colleges and universities to fly the state flag failed once more after the House of Representatives voted Monday against multiple amendments to appropriations bills. Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, tried to insert amendments into two appropriations bills that would require institutions of higher learning to "prominently display and fly the state flag each day of the year" to receive the appropriations and the tax-exempt provisions put forth in the bills. On Monday afternoon, Shirley tried again with two Senate appropriations bills for the state Institutions of Higher Learning, SB 2954 and 2955. Schools that accept money from the government should fly the state flag no matter what it looks like, he said.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran to serve on Eisenhower Memorial Commission
Mississippi senior Sen. Thad Cochran, has been appointed to serve on the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. The Eisenhower Commission was created in 1999 for the purpose of creating a memorial in Washington, D.C., honoring Dwight D. Eisenhower for his service to the nation in both his roles as president and as a military leader. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission consists of a bipartisan group of 12 commissioners: four from the U.S. House of Representatives; four from the U.S. Senate; and four citizen commissioners appointed by the president of the United States. Cochran was appointed to the commission by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Sen. Thad Cochran names new Deputy Chief of Staff, Legislative leaders
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) announced personnel changes recently, including the naming of Linda Good as Deputy Chief of Staff, and promoting Mary Martha Henson and Ty Mabry to be legislative director and deputy legislative director, respectively. The staff shifts are the result of Cochran's current deputy chief of staff/legislative director, Adam Telle, being named majority clerk of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Telle replaces Kathy Kraninger, who accepted a position with the White House Office of Management and Budget. "I have confidence in the experience and depth of knowledge that Linda, Mary Martha and Ty bring to my office and to my work for the people of Mississippi and our nation," Cochran said.
Mississippi's 2 U.S. attorneys resign
Both of Mississippi's U.S. attorneys, Gregory K. Davis and Felicia C. Adams, were on the list of those Attorney General Jeff Sessions called on Friday to submit their resignations. Southern District spokeswoman Sheila Wilbanks confirmed Davis submitted his resignation on Friday as requested. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Lamar, Northern District spokesman, said Adams did the same. "On Friday, March 10, upon request, Ms. Adams submitted her letter of resignation. Her resignation was accepted, and Robert H. Norman is serving as acting U.S. Attorney Northern District in Mississippi," he said. Both were appointed by former President Barack Obama. It is not uncommon for presidents to appoint new U.S. attorneys upon taking office.
CBO: Lower Deficit, More Uninsured Under House Health Plan
The House Republican leadership's legislation to partially repeal and replace the 2010 health care law would reduce the deficit by $337 billion over a decade while increasing the number of uninsured by 24 million people by 2026, the Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday. The nonpartisan budget scorekeepers predicted that under the House GOP plan --- which was scheduled for consideration by the House Budget Committee on Thursday to be packaged as a reconciliation bill that would only require a majority to pass in the Senate -- the biggest savings would come as a result of decreased funding to Medicaid and cutting off subsidies for individuals to purchase insurance on the health care exchanges. It would also lower average premiums enough to stabilize the individual health insurance market, according to the "score" of the legislation.
Lawmakers protest White House plan to cut Coast Guard budget
White House plans to slash the Coast Guard budget by $1.3 billion sparked a protest letter from a bipartisan group of 58 House lawmakers to lead House appropriators on Monday --- part of a growing chorus in Congress against the cut. The lawmakers, led by Coast Guard and Maritime subcommittee chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., sent a letter to leaders of the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee to argue the Coast Guard must be included in President Trump's plans to rebuild the military. The letter targets a proposal floated by the White House Office of Management an Budget. There have been other letters on the topic --- Hunter wrote the president and Trump's budget chief Mick Mulvaney last week calling for the Coast Guard cut to be reconsidered. Alaska Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker were the only three Republicans among 23 senators to sign another letter.
Agriculture nominee Sonny Perdue to distance himself from businesses
Agriculture secretary nominee Sonny Perdue says he will step down from several positions at companies bearing his name, restructure family trusts and create blind trusts to avoid a conflict of interest if he is confirmed. In a written agreement with a government ethics agency, the former Georgia governor said he will step down from positions at the National Grain and Feed Association and the Georgia Agribusiness Council. Senators have been waiting for more than seven weeks for the agreement, which is dated March 7 but was posted on the Office of Government Ethics website over the weekend. President Donald Trump nominated Perdue on Jan. 18, but the formal nomination was only sent to the Senate last week.
Agriculture Nominee Moves Closer to Confirmation Hearing
Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue agreed to extricate himself from a web of interests and restructure two family trusts to remove himself and his wife from active involvement if he wins confirmation as Agriculture secretary, according his disclosure documents at the Office of Government Ethics. The release of Perdue's financial disclosure and ethics agreement sets the stage for the Senate Agriculture Committee to schedule a confirmation hearing. Perdue, 70, appears to have the support of major agriculture and agribusiness groups, whose leaders say they want someone familiar with commercial agriculture and government agencies to lead the Agriculture Department. Their support does not appear to have weakened despite several stories by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution delving into Perdue's business dealings while governor.
Analysis: Demand for housing at USM's Gulf Park campus
Last year, the University of Southern Mississippi spent $47,000 to hire MGT, a market demand analysis firm, to look at housing options in the Gulf Coast area to see whether building dorms on the Gulf Park campus would be feasible. Gulf Park currently does not have on-campus housing for students. The company also conducted student focus groups and student surveys and talked to administrators and staff about the possibility. Last month, Southern Miss officials held a community meeting to share the results of the analysis. It found there was an interest in having housing on the Gulf Park campus. Steve Miller, vice president for the Gulf Park campus, said officials need to look at what type of housing might be competitive with the current rental market on the Coast and how much should be charged for it. They also need to pursue financing. Miller said the university would try not to go into debt to build the housing.
U. of Southern Mississippi students problem-solve for US military in new course
This summer, students at the University of Southern Mississippi could help U.S. military personnel who have encountered problems identifying and tracking individuals in crowded environments. Or they might come up with wearable sensors to help Navy divers work at any depth or temperature. A new course offered at USM beginning this summer session will have students solving problems for the military and federal national security organizations. "All the problems are sponsored by Department of Defense, Homeland Security and the Intelligence Community," said Dan DeMott, a member of the class teaching team. "They have a problem they have little time to solve, so they're asking for today's student to help solve these real-world problems."
Last call for public input in search for new Jackson State president
It's the last call for input concerning the next president of Jackson State University. The Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning arranged an online survey to assist in the presidential search. The deadline to complete the survey is Friday, March 17 -- also the date the board expects to compile a list of best individuals to consider. The survey is part of the president search website, which provides news, answers to frequently asked questions and an update on the search to fill the position vacated by Dr. Carolyn Meyers last October. Last month, the board hosted five consecutive listening sessions at JSU as part of its search. Dr. Rod Paige, who became interim president Nov. 7, members of the Campus Advisory Search Committee present and IHL trustee C.D. Smith opened the floor for input from the university's students, faculty, staff, alumni and community individuals.
Bill would change Alabama campus residency requirements
A Cullman lawmaker has introduced a bill that would standardize the distance undergraduates may live from campus and be exempt from mandatory residency requirements at public colleges and universities in the state. Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, introduced a bill that would prohibit any public four-year institution from requiring students who are state residents to live on campus if they reside within 60 miles of campus. The distance was originally 75 miles but an amendment after its introduction changed it to 60 miles. The bill was inspired by concerns from a constituent whose son would have to reside on campus at the University of Alabama in Huntsville as a freshman, though he could commute to Huntsville from home, Bussman said. UA System spokeswoman Kellee Reinhart said the system has been in contact with Bussman about the bill.
Passion for serving: Auburn students giving back during spring break
While some Auburn University students are relaxing at the beach this week for spring break, 45 others are lending a hand with various service projects as part of the Alternative Student Breaks organization. Students in Alternative Student Breaks, or ASB, are traveling to Kissimmee, Fla., Hendersonville, N.C., Quito, Ecuador, and San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, to volunteer their time and talents over Auburn's spring break. "College students often do not have a lot of money or physical resources, but what they do have is a passion to serve those around them," said program advisor Robert Powers. "It is incredible to see Auburn students realize how rare this opportunity is to have a week to use as they wish, and many of them are choosing to use that time giving back to others."
Louisiana's best grad program is in... petroleum engineering at LSU
Graduate and doctoral programs at Louisiana universities did not make much of a splash in U.S. News and World Report's annual listings for 2018, which were released late Monday. Tulane University ranked among the nation's best in one area: Its law school tied for No. 51 with Baylor. Seventy-two percent of its class of 2015 was employed 10 months after graduation and 76 percent of graduates passed the Louisiana bar exam, 8 points better than the exam average. The state's best showing was at Louisiana State University, where the petroleum engineering school ranked 10th best in the country. Library studies at the flagship university also got a nod, placing 37th. Its law and education schools slipped in the rankings.
U. of Arkansas Names Interim Director of Economic Research Center
The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville on Monday named Mervin Jebaraj interim director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at its Sam M. Walton College of Business, effective April 17. He is its assistant director and is leading the center during a national search to replace Kathy Deck, who had been director since April 2007 but is leaving for a new role at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Jebaraj has a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in economics and international relations from UA. He has worked at the center since 2007.
U. of Tennessee graduate programs climb in U.S. News & World Report rankings
University of Tennessee graduate programs in business, law, engineering, information sciences, nursing and education are listed among the best in the country in the U.S. News & World Report 2018 rankings. Three of UT's graduate programs moved up significantly. "Having strong graduate programs is key to our success as a top research university," UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport said in a news release. "We provide students, across all disciplines, an opportunity to participate in research alongside some of the country's most recognized faculty who are addressing some of the world greatest challenges."
South Carolina lawmakers could end state pension plan for new employees
South Carolina lawmakers eventually could walk away from the state's pension plan. In passing a fix to the state's underfunded pension system, the state Senate last week approved closing the current retirement system to new employees once it is made financially whole. But that could take about 30 years, officials estimate. Still, lawmakers are planning to explore changing the retirement options for state and local government employees, including teachers. A special panel already has agreed to look at who is eligible to join the pension system and possibly change the plan. Advocates for state employees oppose closing the retirement system to new employees. They say public-sector workers covered by the pension system -- state, city, county and school system employees -- do not make enough to benefit from a 401(k) style plan, used by many businesses.
Texas A&M's engineering graduates to have ceremony at Kyle Field due to large class size
Engineering graduates at Texas A&M will be the first to receive their diplomas at the renovated Kyle Field this May, thanks to a trend of increasing class sizes. The ceremony for graduate and undergraduate engineers will be at 9 a.m. May 13. It will be preceded on May 11 and May 12 by ceremonies for the rest of the A&M colleges, all of which are scheduled to be held at Reed Arena. Texas A&M Associate Vice President for External Affairs Chad Wootton said while a final count for May graduates still is uncertain, trends over the past few years along with the number of current applicants for graduation made it clear that Reed Arena would not be large enough to support the ceremony. In brainstorming ideas for the upcoming ceremony, Wootton said officials with the College of Engineering expressed a desire to unite the graduate and undergraduate students and avoid using the ticket system once again.
Communication professor establishes rules with his students on talking about Trump in class
Love him or hate him, there's lots to say about Donald Trump. But how should instructors handle class discussions about the new president, if they allow them at all? An assistant professor of public and strategic communication at American University established with his students a set of ground rules for talking about Trump, which he says may be useful to colleagues elsewhere as they engage with policy and other issues. "Trump's election has led to questions and concerns and confusion about how to handle Donald Trump, which is true, too, for people on Capitol Hill and across the country and across the world -- academe's not the only one," said Scott Talan, who teaches communications classes at American. "From my perspective, what I did not want was it to derail, distract and take over class. ...These are classes that existed before Donald Trump and that will exist after Donald Trump."
Speakers discuss economic demands placed on higher education
Colleges and universities face a steep challenge separating fact from fiction in the eyes of working-class and middle-income voters, according to recent focus group work conducted by the American Council on Education. These groups believe that the economic value of a college education is declining, ACE Senior Vice President Terry W. Hartle told attendees at the group's annual meeting Monday. One focus group participant believed the average student loan borrower takes on more than $13,000 in debt per year, and a majority of participants said that colleges and universities are indifferent to costs students pay. A majority of participants also said that colleges and universities are for-profit institutions. Reality is a different story, however.

Mississippi State women earn No. 2 seed, will face Troy on Friday
The Mississippi State women's basketball team earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament on Monday night and will play host to 15th-seeded Troy at 1:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN2) in the first round at Humphrey Coliseum. Seventh-seeded DePaul will take on 10th-seeded Northern Iowa at 11 a.m. Friday (ESPN2) in the first game of the doubleheader. The winners will play Sunday. The winner of that game will advance to the Sweet 16 in Oklahoma City. This will be the second-straight year MSU (29-4) will play host to the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. Last season, MSU, as a No. 5 seed, defeated Chattanooga and Michigan State to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history. Tickets are on sale and can be ordered online at www.hailstate.com/tickets or by calling 1-888-GO-DAWGS.
Mississippi State women excited to be No. 2 seed
Dominique Dillingham knew it was coming. Mississippi State's senior guard sat inside the Humphrey Coliseum on Monday evening alongside her teammates and several hundred MSU fans as the Bulldogs learned their placement in this year's NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. Then, there it was. MSU popped onto the big screen at center court as a No. 2 seed with opening round games to be played later this week here in Starkville. "It's exciting," Dillingham said. "It's the highest seed in school history and, just to see all our hard work pay off and see our name on the board, it's incredible." Mississippi State is in the Oklahoma City Region, but for the second-straight season, MSU starts its postseason run on its home floor.
Bulldogs will open NCAA tourney at home as No. 2 seed
For the second straight season, the NCAA Women's Tournament will originate at Humphrey Coliseum for No. 7 Mississippi State. The Bulldogs, a national second seed, have hosting privileges for the first two rounds of the tournament and also earned the highest seed in school history. MSU will take on No. 15 seed Troy on Friday at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2. "It's a reward and playing at home in front of our fans is amazing," said MSU guard Dominique Dillingham. "We have the best fans in the country and they always help us and give us that extra energy that we need. We love playing in front of our fans." MSU is making its ninth NCAA appearance and is 9-8 all-time in the Big Dance. The Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet 16 last year before being eliminated by eventual national champion Connecticut.
Mississippi State to face Troy in NCAA tournament
Mississippi State will host Troy Friday in its first round matchup of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are in the Oklahoma City Region as a No. 2 seed, which is the highest MSU has ever been seeded. Should Mississippi State advance past 15-seed Troy (the game starts at 1:30 p.m.) the Bulldogs will play the DePaul-Northern Iowa winner Sunday in Starkville. "We are in an awfully good region, but this time of year everyone is good," Vic Schaefer said. "Troy scores a lot of points. I know that, but we are excited about the opportunity." This year's Final Four will take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. "I hate that we have to play a Friday afternoon at 1:30, but last year we got 5,100 and this year, I'm wanting 7.500 or 8,000," Schaefer said. "I may have to send out that letter again excusing everyone from the office early, but I'd be glad to do that."
Mississippi State women play Troy in NCAA Tournament
The Mississippi State women will take on No. 15 seed Troy in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 1:30 p.m. on Friday at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville. MSU is the No. 2 seed in the Oklahoma City Region, the NCAA announced on Monday. The other two teams in the Starkville subregional are No. 7 DePaul and No. 10 Northern Illinois. They will play at 11 a.m. on Friday. MSU features a pair of Coast products: Former Harrison Central star Jazzmun Holmes, a sophomore, has played in 32 games this season, averaging 2.4 points and 2.7 assists as a backup point guard. Freshman forward Ameshya Williams has participated in 23 games, averaging 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds.
Brent Rooker powers Mississippi State to come-from-behind win
Mississippi State won its fourth straight game on Monday by rallying to beat Columbia 11-8 at Dudy Noble Field in a wild, cold, rainy affair that started at 10 a.m. The Bulldogs (11-6) took the lead for the first time when Brent Rooker clubbed a two-run homer to right field to make it 10-8 in the sixth inning. MSU scored six runs in the third to tie it at 6 despite recording only one hit. The Bulldogs drew seven walks in the frame. The lone hit was Rooker's three-run double. Ryan Gridley went 3-for-3 with a walk, three runs and a solo homer that tied it at 7 in the fourth inning. Tanner Poole was 1-for-2 with a home run and two walks. Poole's blast tied the score at 8 in the fifth inning.
Bulldogs finally wake up for victory
Mississippi State started the final game of its four-game round robin series at 10 a.m. on Monday. But Columbia appeared to be the only team awake at that hour. The Lions roared out to a 6-0 lead by the third inning before MSU managed to rally back for an 11-8 victory in a game to complete the weekend sweep. "The first 2 ½ innings weren't very good at all for us," said MSU skipper Andy Cannizaro. "Today we didn't do a good job at all coming out ready to play. We were down 6-0 after 2 1/2 innings. But as bad as the first two innings were for us, I though the next six or seven innings were really good." The Bulldogs will play their fifth game in as many days at 6:30 tonight hosting Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Experience, depth should help improve Mississippi State's secondary
There are a few things different about Mississippi State's secondary this spring -- especially regarding the cornerbacks -- in comparison to last season's group, but one change in particular may be the most significant. "Now," cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley said, "I have enough guys that played before." That helps -- or it should, at least. Corner was a problem in 2016 for Mississippi State, which allowed the most passing yards in the SEC at 281.5 yards per game -- 31.5 more than any team in the league. The Bulldogs also allowed 31.8 points per game, which ranked 13th in the SEC. The issue stemmed from a lack of depth and inexperience. Both concerns may now be resolved.
U. of Missouri to pay search firm $80,000 to find basketball coach
The University of Missouri will pay Parker Executive Search $80,000 for its services in its ongoing search for a new men's basketball coach. The contract was released Monday night. The school paid the firm $40,000 at the start of the search. It will pay $40,000 after 30 days or when a new coach is hired, whichever comes first. That fee does not include direct expenses, which "include items such as teleconference calls with the committee, secure site access for the search committee, research and delivery services, as well as travel and interview expenses for the search consultants." The cap for expenses is $9,600. Athletic Director Jim Sterk told Mike Kelly on Tiger Talk last week that the school was using a search firm primarily for privacy's sake.

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