Monday, January 27, 2020   
Coming in February to the MSU Riley Center
The historic MSU Riley Center in downtown Meridian begins its 2020 Spring/Summer Performing Arts Series with three performances in February: Lyle Lovett and his Acoustic Group, Aquila Theatre's adaptation of George Orwell's "1984" and Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana's "Reflejos Flamencos." Tickets for each performance may be purchased at the MSU Riley Center Box Office, which is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and one hour before showtime. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 601-696-2200. The 2020 Springs/Summer Performing Arts Series will open with a true Texas experience presented by Lyle Lovett and his Acoustic Group on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m.. Meridian Coca-Cola Bottling Company is sponsoring the return of this Meridian favorite to the Riley Center's restored Victorian theater.
Initial success leads to surveillance camera expansion around Starkville
The Board of Aldermen recently approved the lease of five new surveillance cameras to be installed in Starkville. Through close cooperation with the Starkville Police Department, the camera's installation and operation will be handled by the city's information technology department. Department head Joel Clements said the most recent five would go along with the 10 cameras installed last year as part of the plan to have cameras in 40 locations across Starkville by the end of 2023. "You'll see the map filled in pretty well in two and a half more years," Clements said. Police Chief Mark Ballard said the cameras had proven effective over the past year and had been vital to solving various types of crimes, including violent ones. Ballard said the first phase of cameras were put in locations where night entertainment and foot traffic were heavy, as data had shown those areas to be susceptible to crime.
Sun-n-Sand motel gets 'stay' of demolition
The Mississippi Heritage Trust says it has gotten a "stay" of demolition of the Sun-n-Sand Motel in downtown Jackson. The historic structure was bought in early 2019 by the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, which has plans to raze the building and increase parking space for government workers. But the Heritage Trust rallied support for saving the motel by circulating a petition that was signed by 2,600 people and presented to the Department of Archives and History. The department voted on Friday to give the Heritage Trust till June 1 "to get something serious on the table," trust spokeswoman Erica Speed said in a telephone message left with the Mississippi Business Journal. "We have a developer with a buyer ready to go. We also have a ... grant to conduct a feasibility study," Speed said. Famed Mississippi author Willie Morris wrote some of his book "My Cat Spit McGee" at the motel and noted it as the site of "many years [of] egregious political wheeling and dealing, not to mention secretive trysts." The motel was closed in 2001.
Local representatives appointed to State House and Senate committees
The 2020 Mississippi legislative session began earlier this month and with it came new appointments to House of Representative and Senate committees on Jan. 10. Three of the five area representatives for the LOU Community were appointed to serve on several committees that cover many of the issues affecting Lafayette County. In the House, Representatives Steve Massengill and Jim Beckett are serving on a combined 15 committees and both are members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Public Utilities Committee. Newly-elected District 9 senator Nicole Boyd is serving on nine committees: Education; Finance; Housing; Insurance; Judiciary, Division A; Technology; Tourism; Universities and Colleges.
Local leaders get top positions in Mississippi Legislature
State legislators representing Adams County were recently selected to chair several committees in the Mississippi House of Representatives and Mississippi State Senate. District 97 Rep. Sam C. Mims V, R-McComb, has been reappointed Chairman of the Public Health and Human Services Committee. Mims said he would also serve on the Appropriations, Judiciary A, and Medicaid committees "It's an honor to continue the chairmanship of Public Health and Human Services, and I appreciate the speaker's confidence in reappointing me," Mims said. "I think we've really made progress in available quality healthcare over the past several years, and I look forward to continue to work with my colleagues in the House to improve the quality of life for all Mississippians." Mississippi District 94 Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, was recently selected the Mississippi House Democratic leader.
Children with disabilities losing Medicaid coverage
Lawmakers were right: People ineligible for Medicaid in Mississippi have been receiving the health care benefit anyway. But they aren't adults scamming the system. They're children with disabilities, whose middle-class parents relied on the public health insurance loophole to afford expensive monthly medical treatments. Because of a recent crackdown on Medicaid eligibility, many families who had been receiving the Disabled Child Living at Home waiver have been denied the benefits when they've tried to renew them. Following outcry from parents, lawmakers are now working on legislation to restore coverage to the affected families.
'There was not the remotest chance this would convince me Donald Trump deserved to be removed,' Wicker says of trial
Only a handful of U.S. senators participated in the past two presidential impeachments. Roger Wicker, the senior senator from Mississippi, is one of them. A longtime Tupelo resident and conservative, Wicker is also a staunch defender of President Donald Trump. This week, despite strongly asserting that he does not agree with Democrats that the president committed impeachable offenses, Wicker has appeared committed to intently listening to Democratic prosecutors' case. After the U.S. House of Representatives voted in December 2019 to impeach Trump, seven House members are now presenting their case to the Senate, which will in coming days decide whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. On what was expected to be the final day of Democratic arguments, Wicker sat down with Mississippi Today moments before the day's proceedings began to discuss his approach to the impeachment trial, whether he's been impartial and how historians may recall the moment.
Romney says Bolton may upend Republican fight against witnesses
It's "increasingly likely" that more Republicans will join calls to seek testimony from John Bolton in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, Sen. Mitt Romney said on Monday, with Bolton's new revelations throwing into doubt how Trump's trial will proceed. Just days ago, the Senate GOP appeared ready to defeat a vote to hear more witnesses sought by Democrats. But that dynamic appears shaken after Trump's former national security adviser revealed in an upcoming book that the president allegedly told him directly that he withheld aid to Ukraine because he wanted the country to investigate his political rivals. Senior Republicans and Democrats alike are unsure whether the president will still get a quick acquittal with no new witnesses before week's end.
House members considering ending ban on earmarks
House appropriators are considering lifting a nearly 10-year ban on congressionally directed spending, known as earmarks. While no decisions have been made, a House Democratic aide said lawmakers are in the "early stages" of considering allowing earmarks in spending bills for the coming fiscal year. "There is considerable interest in allowing members of Congress to direct funding for important projects in their communities," the source said. Earmarks have been banned in the House since 2011, when a Republican majority ended the practice of inserting special projects in spending bills because of concerns about corruption. But in recent years, lawmakers have cautiously expressed growing interest in lifting the ban with new safeguards. Supporters of a policy change say earmarks can help build broader political support for a spending bill and could smooth the appropriations process. Critics worry that earmarks would again allow for special favors and corruption.
Belhaven scholarship honors young adult fiction author Angie Thomas
A university is creating scholarships to honor one of its graduates who is the author of bestselling young adult novels. The Angie Thomas Writers Scholarship program will be at Belhaven University, based in Jackson. Thomas wrote "The Hate U Give," about an African American teenager who sees a police officer shoot and kill her best friend, and "On the Come Up," about a young rapper who finds her identity and confronts stereotypes through music. One creative writing major at Belhaven will receive a scholarship to cover all expenses for tuition, room and board for four years, the university said in a news release Thursday. Other top applicants may receive smaller awards. Thomas graduated from Belhaven with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 2011.
Auburn University Culinary Center construction begins
City and Auburn University officials are rolling up their sleeves and getting ready for more construction in downtown Auburn, while school officials are excited about new culinary offerings to come. The new Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center project at the corner of East Thach Avenue and South College Street will affect students and residents alike. "[The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center] is an educational center that is going to provide for a mix of theory and hands-on practice in a very direct sense," said Martin O'Neill, department head and professor of nutrition, dietetics & hospitality management in the college of human sciences. The program has used the Auburn University Hotel and Dixon Conference Center to train students in the past.
UGA student designs winning 'Kinda Tiny' home
There is no technical definition of a tiny house, but the working understanding is a home that is 400 square feet or smaller. So what is a "Kinda Tiny" home? Well, it's a little bit bigger, but not much. The home design that won Athens' first "Kinda Tiny" housing competition was 794 square feet and designed by UGA student Jacqueline Menke, who is currently finishing up a Master of Landscape Architecture at the College of Environment and Design. The contest was the brainchild of Athens Area Habitat for Humanity and Georgia's U.S. Green Building Council, and the home designed by Menke is currently under construction in Athens. The family selected by Habitat will move into the house this spring. The average size of a home in the United States has doubled since the 1960s to 2,600 square feet, but there is a movement underway to embrace smaller, more energy efficient homes.
MLK speaker at U. of Missouri: 'One man can make a difference'
Being told you don't belong should motivate you to prove that you do, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Boyd on Thursday told a crowd in the Missouri Theatre. It worked for her, she said. "There will always be people who discredit you and discount you," Boyd said during the University of Missouri's Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. Around 660 attended the event in the 1,200-seat theater as snow fell outside. Boyd is a motivational speaker and a promoter of education. Her professional career at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory included work on nuclear submarines and spanned more than three decades. She was the first African-American woman to earn a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Yale University. She became Alabama State University's first female president in 2014, leaving in 2017.
Some colleges report possible coronavirus cases; experts emphasize importance of planning
The coronavirus has come to U.S. campuses. Arizona public health officials announced Sunday that "a member of the Arizona State community who does not live in university housing" had tested positive for the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The person had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. Baylor University announced that one of its students was being tested by public health officials. Baylor said the student had recently traveled to China. As of Sunday evening there had been five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., including the case of the individual connected to Arizona State. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those infected with the virus experience mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, coughing and shortness of breath. CDC officials believe the symptoms can manifest as few as two or as many as 14 days after exposure. The CDC said it considers the virus a serious public health threat and that outbreaks of novel viruses are always a cause for concern. Nonetheless, the agency considers the immediate risk to the American public to be low at this time.
Discussion about the future of the academy
David Staley believes the university's future has yet to be determined. While punditry about higher education suggests otherwise, said Staley, director of the Humanities Institute and an associate professor of history at Ohio State University, the academy has the power to imagine a different future from the headline-grabbing innovations of online learning, upskilling and mega-university models. "Ours is a particularly fertile moment to imagine something new," he said to a packed room Friday at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities in Washington. Staley and others were discussing what the "college of the future" might look like. Johann Neem, chair of the history department at Western Washington University, said a key piece of that imagining is to separate the academy from the university.
Will there really be a 'coming together' in Jackson this year?
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: In his inauguration speech new Gov. Tate Reeves promised, "This will be an administration for all Mississippi," as reported by the Clarion-Ledger. "Governing is about coming together," he said and proclaimed a new motto for his first term, "For. All. Mississippi." Faced with his first crisis as governor -- prison rioting, deaths, and deplorable conditions -- Reeves appeared to be on track with his promise. He appointed a bipartisan committee to lead a national search for the next prison commissioner with the Mayor of Vicksburg, former state Rep. George Flaggs, as chairman. ... Meanwhile, new Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann also exhibited some bipartisanship in his appointment of Senate committee chairs, naming Democrats to chair 13 of the Senate's 42 committees.
Legislative rule limits lawmakers' ability to boost spending for underfunded agencies
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: If history repeats itself, it is likely that legislators will vote in the coming days to limit their ability to have input in perhaps their most important function -- funding state government. The state currently boasts more than $1 billion in reserve funds -- money in the so-called rainy day fund and in other funds -- yet, the average rank-and-file legislator under rules in place for the past eight years cannot offer an amendment to spend that money. Members cannot offer an amendment to take any of those funds to add more money, for instance, to the budget for the troubled Department of Corrections or to add more funds for efforts to deal with the state's beleaguered foster care system. A rule adopted by Republicans in 2012 when they took control of both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature for the first time since the 1800s requires a member when trying to boost spending for one agency to specify from which agency he or she is taking the money. The rule makes it difficult to add additional money to a budget bill because legislators do not want to take funds from one underfunded agency to boost spending for another.
Fiscal, Political Realities Align Against Medicaid Expansion in Mississippi
Frank Corder writes for Y'all Politics: Barring significant financial or political changes in the State of Mississippi, Medicaid Expansion in the Magnolia State is unlikely any time soon. Under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the federal government agreed to pay for the entire cost of Medicaid expansion for the first three years after its passage. However, states were required to pay 5% of the cost after 2017 if they then chose to expand the government run insurance program, and now if states seek the expansion, their buy-in increases from 5% to 10%. That equates to roughly $100 million extra per year. Initially Medicaid had no buy-in required. Now the state would have a 10% price tag attached. Medicaid expansion does not solve the issue of uncompensated care for hospitals, nor is it a cure all for the financial realities facing Mississippi health care providers. Medicaid expansion would put taxpayers on the hook to a far greater extent than they are now to provide for funding of the government run health insurance program. That's partially because in every state that has expanded, far more people take advantage than are anticipated. And many who are eligible for private insurance put further stress on Medicaid by switching.

Louisiana Tech games, tournament help to revitalize Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson
Smith-Wills Stadium has had a host of tenants since it opened in 1975, from high school teams in the Jackson area to Double-A professional baseball. This spring, it's going to be one of the busiest college baseball hubs in Mississippi. KSG-Overtime Sports, which manages the facility, has announced plans for a three-day tournament and for Louisiana Tech to play three Conference USA series there this season. Belhaven University also will play 19 home games there between February and April. "Our plan is to renovate and create a place where local high schools, colleges and universities from all over the country are invited to come and play games at Mississippi's oldest professional baseball facility -- Smith-Wills Stadium -- and get a taste of true southern hospitality," Overtime Sports owner and founder Tim Bennett said.

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