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New laws would benefit our state
by Wyatt Emmerich Emmerich Newspapers
Feb 27, 2014 | 88 views | 0 0 comments | 98 98 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With more than a million pages of local, state and federal laws and regulations in this country, I'm not sure it's a good thing our Legislature is busy passing new laws.

My favorite politician is Calvin Coolidge. who liked to nap in the White House during the afternoons. He believed the less he worked, the better off the country was.

One step in the right direction comes from Republican state Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon. He proposes to repeal Mississippi's Certificate of Need (CON) law which restricts hospitals and clinics from opening.

Mississippi's CON law was passed in 1974 when the federal government required it. By 1987, the feds realized it was a bad law and since then 14 states, including Texas, have repealed it. Not Mississippi.

It is a basic rule of economics that when you limit supply and demand goes up, you will have high prices and scarcity. Isn't that exactly what we are seeing in the health care industry?

If a private company using private money wants to open a clinic or hospital, why would we want to stop that? Competition helps the consumer and lowers prices.

Since the CON laws were passed we have seen exactly what would be predicted - high prices and scarcity.

Trying to open a new hospital or clinic in Mississippi means years and years of expensive CON litigation. How does that help our state? It is time to repeal this misguided law.

Northside Democratic Sen. David Blount has proposed a law that will allow performance audits for private companies using state-funded incentives. Currently, $482 million in private incentives are exempt from such scrutiny.

Crony capitalism is a real problem in our state, and it gets worse by the year. Private companies need to compete, not lobby the Legislature for sweetheart deals. This type of corporate welfare raises taxes, misallocates capital and hurts job growth in the long term.

"We have no way of knowing if those companies are doing what they said they were going to do," Blount said. "Taxpayers have a right to know if publicly funded incentives are effective in creating jobs."

Northside Republican Sen. Will Longwitz was successful in gaining Senate passage of a bill strengthening domestic abuse laws. The bill, among other things, allows prosecutors to file abuse charges even if the abused spouse refuses to file charges.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has been a champion of school choice. Charter schools need to be able to recruit across district lines, and parents need to have flexibility to send their children to the public school of their choice. Nothing improves without choice and competition, and the current state of our public schools proves that.

The state teachers unions have opposed anything that hints of competition in the education industry. They are a powerful lobby.

Nonetheless, the Senate was able to pass a bill allowing parents of special needs children to remove their child from public school and place the student in a private school. The bill moves to the House for consideration.

Raising a child is hard. Raising a child with special needs can be overwhelming. It is imperative that parents be able to find the best school - public or private - for their special needs child.

Proving that the Republicans are firmly in control of the Senate, the Senate passed several bills strengthening right to work.

Senate Bill 2473 prohibits forcing employees into neutrality agreements, card check agreements and collective bargaining recognition. Senate Bill 2653 prevents using objects, such as a vehicle, to block a business' sidewalk, entrance or exit, during picketing. Senate Bill 2689 allows employers to continue criminal background checks. Senate Bill 2797 prevents cities and counties from using ordinances, zoning, licensure or conditions of a procurement to force employers to use organized labor.

Reeves and the Senate have also been putting the brakes on the blanket teacher pay raise train, although some raise is likely to pass. Reeves doesn't want to spend more money while we are still using one-time funds for recurring expenses.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are still strong in the House and are led by McComb-area Rep. Bobby Moak. House Speaker Philip Gunn's support of the teacher pay raise is a testament to this reality.

Moak spoke recently at the Stennis Institute. Not surprisingly, a teacher pay raise was tops on his agenda. Moak pointed out that the state has never properly funded the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and was short $290 million last year.

It should be pointed out that many teachers have gotten raises over the past seven years. What hasn't happened is a massive across-the-board pay raise for all teachers.

Medicaid is the 800-pound gorilla. By not expanding Medicaid, Mississippi is turning its nose up at a billion dollars a year in federal funding. "That's three million bucks a day. That money is never coming back," Moak said.

In addition to losing the Medicaid billion, hospitals are being cut $145 million this year and $210 million next year.

"We don't accept those federal funds, hospitals are going to cut services, and some will shut down. Jobs will be lost," Moak said.

Moak also took issue with a Republican proposal to drug test recipients of unemployment benefits. "We believe this program is just designed to discourage people from applying," Moak said, pointing out that only a small percentage have tested positive in states with drug testing laws.

Moak lambasted Republican job creation efforts, claiming Gov. Phil Bryant is looking at unemployment statistics "with rose colored cornea implants."

Although fewer Mississippians are looking for jobs, Moak said the total number of people employed today in Mississippi is the same as 1998.

This is just a smattering of the bills proposed. You can find a complete list at www.legislature.ms.gov. That million pages of laws is still growin.

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