Tuesday, June 13, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State's Ben Howland discusses upcoming season at Rotary Club
The Rotary Club's Starkville chapter held its weekly meeting at the Starkville Country Club on Monday, which featured guest speaker Mississippi State Men's Basketball coach Ben Howland. Howland told the SDN Rotary invited him to come speak and give an update on the men's basketball team. "The Rotary here in Starkville does a phenomenal job helping the community in so many ways, these are really the leaders of our community here in Starkville," Howland said. "I'm very happy to be involved and they asked me to speak and give them an update on what we're doing with the program." Howland said they just began their second week of training out of the eight weeks they are allotted to work with the players.
When invasive plants attack, a new tech tool can nip it in the bud
A couple of years ago, a group of Mississippi State University researchers were using new technology to map the Lower Pearl River delta for forecasters when they saw an alien species -- of plant, that is. An invasive plant species called Phragmites Australis, also known as Common Reed, is a tall grass that can be found along coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Gray Turnage and Sathish Samiappan, who are both research associates at Mississippi State University's Geosystems Research Institute, said they participated in a river mapping project using a special drone and cameras such as a multispectral camera -- technology can see what the human eye cannot---attached to collect data. Turnage said this camera technology can identify much more than invasive and native plant species.
Mississippi improves, but state remains 50th in Kids Count report
Between 2010 and 2015, Mississippi's children gained ground in education, health and well being. But the Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual Kids Count report ranks Mississippi last overall. "We need to be building upon the momentum," said Linda Southward, director of Mississippi's Kids Count at the Mississippi Social Science Research Center. "We need to invest heavily in programs we know will work." One of the most significant gains for Mississippi was a 50 percent reduction in uninsured children between 2010 and 2015, dropping from 8 to 4 percent of the state's children. "A very high percentage of Mississippi children are now covered by some kind of health insurance," Southward said. "This is really tremendous for Mississippi." As significant as Mississippi's gains were, they didn't keep pace with other states.
Johnny Moore files petition for judicial review concerning mayoral results
Attorney and Democratic mayoral candidate Johnny Moore will now have his day in court to officially contest the results of the May 16 Democratic Primary runoff. Moore officially filed a Petition for Judicial Review of Election Contest in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court Monday, which requests that all legal ballots cast be accepted or a new municipal election held based on "numerous voting irregularities both on Election Day, as well as throughout the two weeks prior to Election Day when absentee votes were cast." During the judicial review process, a special circuit court judge will be appointed and it would proceed with a hearing and an expedited trial. The election commissioners would act as a special tribunal to advise the judge during the trial. Local property owner and former chief administrative officer for the city of Starkville Lynn Spruill was certified as the winner by six votes over Moore, after numerous affidavit ballots were counted toward Moore's total.
Health Department closing two-thirds of regional offices, including Starkville
The Mississippi State Department of Health is going from nine regional offices to three because of budget cuts. Dr. Mary Currier, the state health officer, said Monday that changes begin July 1 with the new budget year. The department is keeping regional offices in Tupelo, Jackson and Biloxi. Currier said it's saving $1.5 million by closing regional offices in Batesville, Greenwood, Starkville, Meridian, McComb and Hattiesburg. Some jobs will be eliminated through retirements and resignations, and some workers are being reassigned.
House vacancies mean speaker will make new appointments
House Speaker Philip Gunn will have an opportunity to make multiple, additional committee assignments in the coming weeks. The House speaker makes committee assignments at the start of a new four-year term, but because of at least two, possibly three, vacancies, the Republican from Clinton will have an opportunity in the middle of the term to reshuffle House committees. The vacancies occurred because at the end of the 2017 session, Gov. Phil Bryant appointed long-time Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, to the Workers Compensation Commission. And at least one other vacancy was created last week by the municipal elections. Rep. Toby Barker was elected mayor of Hattiesburg. Also, last week Rep. Alex Monsour was elected as an alderman in Vicksburg.
MDE to present ESSA plan for approval, seek public input
The Mississippi Department of Education announced Monday a series of public meeting dates to unveil the state's draft plan for compliance with new federal requirements. The need for a new state plan follows the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the latest version of the nation's main kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade public education law. ESSA replaces the 2001 No Child Left Behind law and aims to scale back the hands-on federal role in elementary and secondary education found in NCLB. According to the MDE, the department's plan, "Mississippi Succeeds," focuses on elevating teaching and learning while focusing on school and district accountability. Public comments from a statewide listening tour informed the development of initiatives outlined in the plan.
It's time to scale back film incentives, legislators say
It's Time, a film based on the life of former Ole Miss football player Chucky Mullins, could be one of the last multi-million dollar motion pictures filmed in the state to take advantage of all three rebates offered in the Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive Program. The non-resident payroll portion of the incentive program, which offers a 25 percent cash rebate on payroll paid to cast and crew members who are not Mississippi residents, was not extended by the Legislature this year. This component will expire July 1. The Department of Revenue will not issue any rebates for non-resident productions submitted after June 30. "For every taxpayer dollar spent on that program, the state made 49 cents back on the dollar," said Sen. Joey Fillingane R-Hattiesburg, chairman of the Senate finance committee.
Analysis: Rep's silence after lynch remark strains relations
In 2015, a white Mississippi lawmaker went to the front of the state House chamber and apologized for saying in an interview that black people in his town were getting food stamps and what he called "welfare crazy checks." The apology by a deflated-looking Republican Rep. Gene Alday of Walls lasted only about 30 seconds. It was received by tepid applause, but critics gave him credit for taking responsibility for his own words. Fast forward to 2017...
Mississippi sets tone as opioid drugmakers face rising tide of lawsuits
For two decades, drugmakers have largely dodged the blame for selling drugs that have played a key role in overdose-related deaths of more than twice the number of Americans than were killed in World War I, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. But a growing tide of lawsuits could succeed where many others have failed -- alleging these drugmakers used deceptive practices so they could rake in huge profits from these painkillers while deceiving the public about the risk for addiction. The unlikeliest of states -- Mississippi -- may again lead the way. The lawsuits are borrowing legal tactics the state of Mississippi pioneered against Big Tobacco. Now Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is using a similar argument against opioid drugmakers.
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue delivers four points to drive economy
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue gave the keynote addresses on increasing job growth in rural America at Friday's Delta Council Meeting at the Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland. "The business side of what y'all do here at the Delta Council is so important. Having been formed in 1935, focusing then on economic development at that time, and also looking to the future is also critical as we go forward. What they did then and what you do now is assemble the best and the brightest and hardest working folks from agriculture, business-related professions and look for ways to improve the lives of citizens," said Perdue. Perdue voiced concerns about economic plight of the vast number of rural areas in the country.
AG Jeff Sessions to Testify in Public Hearing on Tuesday
Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify Tuesday in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee for its ongoing probe into Russia's interference in last year's presidential election. The public hearing was announced Monday by Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner. Sessions was originally scheduled to defend the Justice Department's fiscal 2018 budget request to House and Senate appropriators this week, but told the committees in a letter late Friday that he would instead meet with Senate Intelligence. Sessions was originally scheduled to defend the Justice Department's fiscal 2018 budget request to House and Senate appropriators this week, but told the committees in a letter late Friday that he would instead meet with Senate Intelligence.
Business incubator to have new home
Tuscaloosa business, government and community leaders gathered Monday to break ground on a new home for The Edge, the city's business incubator. The Edge helps start-ups and existing businesses in developing business skills and fine-tuning day-to-day operations. The entrepreneurial hub's new home will be at 2627 10th Ave., the site of the former Armed Forces Reserve Center armory. The Edge is a partnership between the University of Alabama, the city of Tuscaloosa and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. University of Alabama President Stuart Bell said that UA is grateful for the opportunity to form a partnership with Tuscaloosa, expand the school's economic outreach and improve the quality of life for West Alabamians. "As the city's largest employer, we recognize the significant impression we have on Tuscaloosa, and this comes with great responsibility," Bell said.
All-female Auburn team to compete in cross-country aviation competition
Kendall Higdon and Ashley Tucker will soon squeeze into a Cessna Skyhawk 172 and travel across the country as the first two Auburn University women to compete in the national Air Race Classic aviation competition. The team, called the War Eagle Women, will take off from Frederick, Maryland, on June 20 and will have three days to make it to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their trip will crisscross the county, traveling more than 2,600 miles as they race against 54 other teams from across the nation. Higdon is an Auburn University senior, majoring in professional flight management. Tucker is a December 2016 graduate and now works as a certified flight instructor at the Auburn University Aviation Center Professional Flight School.
U. of Tennessee proposes lowest tuition increase since 1984
Members of the University of Tennessee board of trustees will consider the school's lowest tuition increase since 1984 when they gather for a subcommittee meeting Tuesday in Knoxville. The proposal to be looked at by the subcommittee on tuition, fees and financial aid would put in place a 1.8 percent increase in tuition for undergraduate in-state students in 2017-2018. Most out-of-state undergraduates would see a less than one percent increase in tuition, according to documents obtained from the university Monday. At the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, where tuition and fees for most in-state undergraduates is currently $12,724 per year, the proposed increase would bring that number to $12,970. Most out-of-state students at UT Knoxville currently pay $31,144 in tuition and fees and would pay $31,390 under the new proposal.
Myths undermine any honest jobs-welfare talks
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "Mississippi now leads the nation in the 'starve the beast' approach to governance with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves as champion of the movement. The beast is government. The approach starves the beast by cutting funds. The appeal is that if government grows smaller, personal freedoms increase. It sounds pretty good, and works pretty good on the campaign trail, too. Few speak out for higher taxes and more government. To no one's surprise, a mailer praising Reeves and sent across the state smacked of preparation for a 2019 bid for governor. There is another side to the coin, though. The sweet sound of 'smaller government' translates to 'eliminating services.'"

Mississippi State Inks New Tailgating Service Contract
After a competitive review and scoring process, Mississippi State is awarding an exclusive contract for reserved tailgating and tent services to Southern Tradition Tailgating for the 2017 and 2018 football seasons. The university approved the sole vendor Monday in an effort to enhance the overall gameday experience for fans and visitors at the 139-year-old land grant institution, ranked by Bestcollegereviews.org as a Top 50 Most Beautiful Campus in Autumn. "In making this decision, Mississippi State is maximizing value for its growing fan base, enhancing safety and security, and ensuring efficiency and best use of university resources," said MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter.
Twins take Mississippi State's Brent Rooker again in first round
Last year, Brent Rooker chose to return to Mississippi State for his redshirt junior season after being drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 38th round. Needless to say, it was a smart decision. Following a monster spring at the plate, Rooker was once again selected by the Twins but this time it came as the 35th overall pick. "I worked really hard last year after the season ended and throughout the course of the offseason and season to put myself in the best position possible to begin my professional career," Rooker said. Rooker's draft slot carries a $1,935,300 value and was the second player picked by the Twins, who drafted high school shortstop Royce Lewis with the No. 1 overall pick.
Twins draft Mississippi State's Brent Rooker
Brent Rooker's decision to return to Starkville for the 2017 season after the Twins drafted him in the 38th round last year paid off in a major way. The Twins again drafted Rooker but this time with the No. 35 overall in the supplemental first round Monday night after he produced one of the best offensive seasons in SEC history. The slot value for Rooker's pick is $1,935,300. Rooker said he intends to sign with the Twins. "Man I'm overwhelmed," Rooker said via D1Baseball.com. "I'm so thankful for everyone who has helped me get to this point. My family has been the best support system I could have ever asked for and I've been blessed to play for some of the best coaches in America. Turning the down the Twins offer last year was a really hard decision for me but I'm ecstatic to see that it eventually paid off and that I get the opportunity to still join an unbelievable organization."
How some SEC schools view idea of a uniform drug policy
Offseason player arrests are something that commonly confronts college football programs. But how they are dealt with varies from campus to campus. In the SEC, Florida, Alabama and Georgia all have had players arrested on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges this offseason. Scott Stricklin, who was Mississippi State's athletic director from 2010-2016 before replacing Jeremy Foley at Florida, said it would be "challenging" to come up with an across-the-board drug policy in the SEC "especially when it's being administered on a campus by campus basis. Even if you had one policy, you're not bringing in one entity to administer all that. I just think it's hard to do anything more than what we do right now." SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, when asked if there was any momentum for such a policy at the league's spring meetings in Destin, Fla., said simply: "It's not an agenda item here."
Last Chance U's Brittany Wagner to launch academic counseling service for athletes
Last Chance U star Brittany Wagner could soon be coming to a school near you. Wagner will soon launch 10 Thousand Pencils, LLC, a company that will specialize in academic counseling and life skills coaching for at-risk athletes. It's similar to what Wagner did for eight years at East Mississippi Community College, the setting for Last Chance U, Netflix's wildly successful documentary series that debuted last July. The company's name is a play on Wagner's "Do you have a pencil?" catchphrase from Last Chance U, which turned the small town single mother into a household name nearly overnight last summer. Wagner left East Mississippi in February to take a marketing job in Birmingham with Newk's Eatery, a Mississippi-based food chain. She said she discovered quickly that her passion was still in helping athletes, and has since parted ways with Newk's.

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