COVID-19

President Biden to end COVID-19 emergencies on May 11

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www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2023-01-31 19:47:04

Joe B
talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, after returning from an event in Baltimore on infrastructure. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden informed Congress on Monday that he will end the twin national emergencies for addressing on May 11, as most of the world has returned closer to normalcy nearly three years after they were first declared.

The move to end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal…

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Blood Center and Singing River team up to hold blood drive in Pascagoula

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www.wxxv25.com – Ansley Brent – 2023-01-17 17:40:32

There’s no better time to donate blood than Blood Donor Awareness Month!

The Blood Center hosted a at First Presbyterian Church on behalf of Health System.

There has been a nationwide blood shortage since and the blood amount needed is constantly struggling to be met.

The Blood Center is located in New Orleans, but a new donor center has opened in .

People enjoy donating to the Blood Center because they know their blood will be going to one of the three Singing River health locations which means they are helping local…

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Doctor: Health care access ‘scary’ in parts of Mississippi

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www.wxxv25.com – Associated Press – 2023-01-13 13:13:09

A nurse shortage accelerated during the pandemic and the exodus has added further strain on the system in Mississippi. A spokesperson for the health department, Liz Sharlot, said 54% of rural hospitals are in danger of closure or downgrading existing services.

The Greenwood Leflore Hospital in the Delta has been teetering on the edge of permanent closure for months, in part because it can’t pay competitive wages to retain experienced nurses. Its potential closure threatens access to maternal health care just as the is expecting more births each year as a…

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MSDH confirms 14th pediatric COVID death

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www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2023-01-11 17:22:44

The is confirming its 14th pediatric COVID and the first of this year.

Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers says the latest death, a child under a year old, serves as a reminder of the importance of being fully vaccinated against and up to date on boosters, to protect vulnerable individuals who may not be eligible for the vaccine.

There were four pediatric deaths in 2022, seven deaths in 2021, and two in 2020.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended for everyone six months of age and older. Health officials say…

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White House reveals winter COVID-19 plans, more free tests

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www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2022-12-16 15:09:28

Covid
White House Response Coordinator Ashish Jha speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is once more making some free COVID-19 tests available to all U.S. households as it releases its contingency plans with coronavirus cases ticking upward this winter.

After a three-month hiatus, the administration is making four rapid virus tests available per household through covidtests.gov starting Thursday. COVID-19 cases have shown a marked increase after…

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Singing River breaks ground on Mississippi’s first medical apprenticeship facility

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Singing River breaks ground on Mississippi’s first medical apprenticeship facility

— Amber Granger, 38, took her first job more than two decades ago as a nursing assistant.

She went back to school to be a lab technician, then moved into management. She dreamed of becoming a nurse but she couldn’t give up her income – or take on anymore student debt – for nursing school.

Her career aspirations sat on hold until the Academy gave her the nudge she needed. The new academy is the ’s first-ever medical apprenticeship program.

The academy is part of the Singing River Health System’s – and state and local leadership’s – answer to the major staffing shortages plaguing the state’s health care system.

“If I can advance my career, continue to work, and provide for my family then why not apply?” said Granger, a resident. “I got the call that I was accepted and it was surreal until my first day of school.”

Amber Granger, left, poses with nursing instructor Lauren Meaut during the Singing River Healthcare Academy’s groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 10, 2022. (Photo: Sara DiNatale)

Now Granger is on her way to become a licensed practical nurse. She’s in a cohort of 15 in the fledgling academy, which won’t have a dedicated homebase until a new complex is constructed. The program allows students to train for a host of much-needed health care jobs without charge and while getting paid for on-the-job training.

On Thursday, Gov. Tate Reeves gathered with hospital leaders to break ground on the academy’s planned four-story building. The new training center will be a short drive from Singing River’s Ocean Springs hospital campus on Bienville Boulevard.

“This transformative program is going to have a huge impact on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Reeves said during Thursday’s celebration. “And, quite frankly, it’s going to have a huge impact on the entire state of Mississippi.”

Singing River CEO Tiffany Murdock said the program projects to have 1,000 students in the fall of 2024. She plans to more than quadruple that annual count once the academy’s building is open to students.

Reeves said the academy fits the state’s overall approach to strengthening the through workforce development by ensuring Mississippians have access to training for the state’s most in-demand and high-paying positions.

“This academy will strengthen the pipeline of health care professionals in Mississippi,” he said, “and will help entice people to live, learn and work right here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

Lauren Fernandez, a 33-year-old Ocean Springs resident, is one of the program’s recent graduates. The former Army medic is now a surgical technologist. She aids surgeons from a procedure’s start to finish.

“I had gotten out of health care for a while,” Fernandez said, “and I debated going back for surgical tech school. But then I saw the apprenticeship program and I was like, ‘This is meant to be.’”

In addition to practical nurses and surgical technologists, the program also trains nursing assistants, medical assistants, and phlebotomists.

Hospitals have been facing staffing shortages since before the pandemic, but the issues peaked as the worst of dragged on. Nurses left the field altogether, took on less-stressful nursing jobs outside a hospital setting, or became contracted travel nurses for higher pay.

Mississippi hospitals reported about 3,000 total nursing vacancies at the end of 2021, according to a survey by the Mississippi Hospital Association.

“I can’t be 2,500 people,” Granger said, referring to the state’s massive nursing shortages, “but I can fill the gap of one.”

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

FAQ: Medicaid expansion, what is it, really?

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Q&A: What is Medicaid expansion, really?

Note: This article is part of Mississippi Today’s ongoing Mississippi Health Care Crisis project. Read more about the project by clicking here.

The inner workings of , a federal program intended to provide health coverage to low-income Americans, are wonky and incredibly difficult to understand.

You’ve probably heard the term “Medicaid expansion,” words that have become weaponized by opportunistic politicians, used as a smoke screen to avoid talking earnestly about an extension of the existing federal program that provides even more people with basic health care coverage. 

As Mississippi’s health care crisis continues, we’ve compiled answers to some frequently asked questions to show the direct effects of the policy, how it could change lives across the , and what the state could stand to gain by passing it.

Click on questions below to jump to answers, or scroll down to see it all.

Click to jump to a specific question

What is Medicaid? 

Medicaid is a federal program that provides health coverage to millions of people in the U.S., including low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. States administer the program, which is funded by both states and the federal government. Mississippi currently participates in the traditional Medicaid program.

What is Medicaid expansion? 

Medicaid expansion is a special provision created under President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act that aims to allow more low-income Americans to be covered by the program and decrease the number of uninsured people. Mississippi is one of 12 states that has not opted into the expansion program. In states that have chosen to expand, Medicaid eligibility is extended to adults up to age 64 who have incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level – or about $25,000 for a family of two. 

Currently in Mississippi, non-disabled adults without children generally never qualify for the program, and the income requirements are very stringent for those who are parents ($4,608 in annual earnings for a family of three). 

How many additional people would be insured if Mississippi expanded Medicaid?

Studies have estimated Medicaid expansion in Mississippi would cover over 200,000 additional people. Other states that have expanded have seen a decline in uninsured people – a desired outcome in Mississippi, which ranks 6th in the nation for the percentage of uninsured people. 

What would the economic impact of Medicaid expansion be?

Estimates show Medicaid expansion would bring in more than $1 billion in new revenue each year. Multiple studies have shown Medicaid expansion would save the state money by reducing uncompensated care costs for hospitals, reducing chronic illness through preventive care, and that it would help the by creating thousands of jobs and the “multiplier effect” of the federal dollars. Studies by state economists have shown it would, over time, increase the state’s GDP and population. 

What are the mechanisms that could be used in Mississippi to expand Medicaid? 

Expansion of Medicaid in Mississippi would require action by the state , and approval by the governor.

Who is in favor of Medicaid expansion and why?

Many leaders and physicians in the medical community favor Medicaid expansion because of the financial benefits their institutions would reap. Health care organizations like the Mississippi State Medical Association, Mississippi Hospital Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and countless others support expansion. And top business leaders and organizations like the Delta Council have publicly supported Medicaid expansion because of the broader economic benefits it would create. 

Democrats in the Legislature, who wield little power and influence over major policymaking decisions, and scores of other Democratic elected officials have publicly supported Medicaid expansion for years. Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the leader of the state Senate, has repeatedly highlighted the need for health care for working people, though he stops short of advocating for Medicaid expansion. Several other legislative Republicans and even Republican statewide candidates in recent elections have publicly supported expansion, but none have succeeded in starting earnest debate in the Legislature.

Who opposes Medicaid expansion and why? 

Top Republican leaders in the state, led by Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, have long rejected Medicaid expansion. Many of the arguments against expansion have been overtly political and partisan — opposition against expanding “Obamacare,” which many Republicans opposed from the start. Others are more philosophical arguments against increasing any large government program or that health care should be done through the private sector. But two of the main arguments from Mississippi elected leaders against it have been that the state budget cannot afford it and that the federal government will one day stop paying the largest share and leave state taxpayers holding the bag.

What has happened in other states that have expanded Medicaid?

Other states that have expanded Medicaid have seen a large drop in uncompensated care costs – the costs that hospitals must cover themselves to care for uninsured patients. Louisiana, our neighbor that expanded Medicaid in 2016, saw a 55% decrease in uncompensated care costs for rural hospitals after expanding — and a substantial drop in mortality rates.

Why do states have the choice of whether to participate in Medicaid expansion? 

The in 2012 issued a decision in a case that challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping health care reform law enacted in 2010 that aimed to make health insurance more affordable. One major tenet of the law was to expand Medicaid to cover more people. The high court upheld the law in general, but said that the federal government could not mandate that states expand Medicaid. Based on that portion of the ruling, 12 states, including Mississippi, have not expanded Medicaid. In Mississippi, the few times the issue of Medicaid expansion has been before either full chamber of the Legislature is when Democratic members have offered amendments to other Medicaid-related bills. The Republican majorities have regularly voted down those amendments.

How much do Mississippi hospitals pay to care for people who don’t have insurance or Medicaid? 

The cost of uninsured care for calendar year 2021 is estimated to be $482 million. The cost of total uncompensated care (uninsured plus others who don’t pay the full balance) is $594 million. Hospitals must cover these costs themselves, often leading to budget woes that can close a hospital for good or require drastic cuts in health services offered. The effects of this uncompensated care have only worsened as the pandemic and the accompanying high labor costs have financially strained hospitals. Medicaid expansion would flow millions per year directly to hospitals to help them cover these costs.

Is our current Medicaid program free? Who qualifies for it? 

Medicaid is free for beneficiaries and funded by the federal and state governments. Currently in Mississippi, several categories of people qualify for Medicaid:

  • Infants and children who live in low-income families
  • Uninsured children whose family income does not exceed 209% of the federal poverty level will qualify for Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Parents and caretakers of minor children who live in the home. The parents must be without the support of one or both parents due to disability, , or continued absence or who are unemployed or have very low income. To qualify, the parent or caretaker must cooperate with child support enforcement requirements for each child whose parent is absent from the home.
  • Pregnant women with income under 194% of the federal poverty level. These women will receive benefits for two months postpartum and are then put on the family planning waiver.
  • Pregnant women under 19 years old automatically qualify for pregnancy Medicaid.
  • Disabled children who require a level of care typically provided in a hospital or long term care facility but are living at home. 
  • Working disabled: Adults whose income is below a certain level and who work at least 40 hours per month. 
  • Aged, blind or disabled people who received Supplemental Security Income (SSI), those who formerly received SSI, and those residing in a nursing facility or participating in a Home and Community Based Services Waiver Program.

How much does it cost the state and taxpayers to provide our current Medicaid program? 

Medicaid expenditures are based on usage. The more Medicaid beneficiaries see health care providers for treatments, the greater the cost. For the current fiscal year, the Legislature has appropriated $902 million in state funds for the Division of Medicaid and expects to receive $5.79 billion in federal funds. Mississippi, as the nation’s poorest state, receives the best matching rate with the federal government currently paying 84.5% of the health care costs. The state pays the rest. If not for the COVID-19 emergency that is slated to remain into effect until early in 2023, the federal government would be providing Mississippi a 77.86% matching rate. But currently, the federal government pays 90% of the health care costs for those covered through Medicaid expansion. In addition, the federal government would provide non-expansion states a two-year incentive to opt into Medicaid expansion. For Mississippi that would result in more than $600 million in federal funds over two years.

What services are covered under the current Medicaid program? 

Full Medicaid benefits cover office visits, family planning services, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, prescription drugs, eyeglasses, long term care services and inpatient psychiatric services. Medicaid will also provide transportation to eligible beneficiaries if they do not have other means of getting to medical appointments. 

What are the differences between traditional Medicaid and expanded Medicaid?

The difference is more people are eligible under expanded Medicaid. Expansion would mean people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level — or $25,000 for a family of two — would qualify for benefits. This would mostly include low-income, able-bodied parents; low-income adults without children; and many low-income individuals with chronic mental illness or disabilities who struggle to maintain well-paying jobs but do not currently meet disability requirements for Medicaid.

What is postpartum Medicaid and what is the debate about extending it?

Federal law requires states to provide pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage through 60 days postpartum, but many women, particularly in Mississippi and other non-expansion states, lose coverage at that point aside from basic family planning services and birth control. Health professionals and advocates have argued Mississippi needs to extend that coverage to a year postpartum like 34 other states have done. They say this will provide much-needed improvements in health outcome for mothers and babies in the state, where 60% of births are covered by Medicaid.  

Despite bipartisan support for extending coverage for the tens of thousands of moms covered by Medicaid in Mississippi in the Senate, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn killed the bill in the 2022 legislative session and remains opposed. He cites his opposition to Medicaid expansion, but the legislation would not have expanded Medicaid eligibility – it would’ve extended coverage for people who already qualify.

Mississippi and Wyoming are now the only two states with neither extended postpartum coverage nor Medicaid expansion.

What is CHIP and how is it different from Medicaid?

CHIP stands for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and provides health coverage for uninsured children up to 19 years old and whose family income does not exceed 209% of the federal poverty level.   

The coverage, unlike Medicaid for adults, includes dental care as well as medical services. 

The state recently added mental health coverage as a mandatory benefit – including services necessary to prevent, diagnose and treat a broad range of mental health symptoms and disorders.

What is the history of Medicaid?

The U.S. Congress, at the behest of President Lyndon Johnson, approved Medicaid in 1965 to offer a safety net health coverage for poor Americans. Under the landmark legislation, the federal government and the states would share in paying the costs of the program. Mississippi was one of the last states to opt into the traditional Medicaid program during a 1969 special session. Mississippi Gov. John Bell Williams, who called the special session, voted against the Medicaid program as a member of Congress. As governor, Williams said it would benefit Mississippi to opt into the Medicaid program.

How many people in Mississippi are on Medicaid now?

As of July 2021, about 797,000 were enrolled in either full-benefit Medicaid coverage or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Ole Miss leads state in enrollment, all others fall. See rankings

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rssfeeds.clarionledger.com – Mississippi – 2022-11-02 16:22:49

With the largest freshman class in the school’s history, the University of Mississippi reports an enrollment of 22,967, a 5% increase from 2021.

The 22,967 is not the largest enrollment in the school’s history, as had 24,250 students in 2016, before the pandemic. Yet, with a first-year class of 4,480, the total enrollment is up by 1,111 students.

The numbers at Ole Miss fly in the face of the rest of the public institutions in Mississippi. Every other public university is down in enrollment, with Mississippi Valley down 9% and just 1,879 students. It is the smallest…

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Lawmakers question governor’s plan to give company millions

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Odd coalition of Dems, GOP question governor’s plan to give company millions for aluminum plant

Some Democrats in the Mississippi are questioning plans to dole out about $240 million in incentives to a big company while not addressing and water infrastructure crises facing the . Some Republicans question whether it’s “corporate welfare” or crony capitalism.

Neither group is likely to derail Gov. Tate Reeves’ plan for lawmakers to provide millions in taxpayer funded incentives for a company to build an aluminum plant in the Golden Triangle. But both are asking why they aren’t being given more information and for more time to vet the deal.

The Republican governor announced on Monday that he was calling the Legislature into special session Wednesday at 10 a.m. to take up the incentive package in what he said he hopes will be a one-day special session. As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, rank-and-file legislators still had not seen the particulars of what would be provided to the company, which is yet to be officially named by the state.

“I have been in the Mississippi Legislature for going on 12 years, and I am always concerned when legislators have to rush in and approve economic development projects in one day,” said Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, who is the Senate minority leader.

READ MORE: Gov. Reeves calling in lawmakers to pass incentives for $2.5 billion aluminum plant

Members of the small but vocal Mississippi Freedom Caucus of conservative Republican lawmakers on Tuesday complained about a lack of information being provided ahead of Wednesday’s special session and questioned whether they were being asked to provide “corporate welfare” to a business.

“With no advanced warning, the governor is calling a special session for Wednesday to consider some kind of ‘economic development’ legislation,” Rep. Dana Criswell, R-Olive Branch, said in a Freedom Caucus release. “We don’t have many details at the moment, but we’re concerned that GOP leaders will try to push some kind of corporate welfare package through with little debate and oversight … We will also not sit back as state leaders spend your money on pet projects and on crony capitalist ideas.”

But Simmons said calling the special session quickly with legislators convening with little or no information and being asked act quickly “is par for the course.” He said that is dangerous because there have been instances when the companies did not meet commitments they made, “leaving taxpayers on the hook” for those funds.

Democrats are also voicing concern that the extraordinary special session is being called for the Columbus project while other emergency needs in the state are not being addressed. Both Simmons and his counterpart, House Minority Leader Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, said other emergencies facing the state need to be addressed as soon as possible.

“The governor describes the economic development project as an emergency,” Johnson said. “It is not an emergency. But if he is going to call it an emergency, we need to look at other issues that are emergencies while we are in session.”

Those emergencies, Johnson and Simmons said, include hospitals potentially closing, particularly in the Delta; lack of reliable, clean water in Jackson; and a government corruption scandal involving at least $77 million in welfare money for the poor being stolen, misspent or diverted to supporters of powerful state leaders.

Johnson said he supports the economic development project, but he does not rule out voting against it “to call attention to those who are not being heard.” He said the state has the revenue, including hundreds of millions in federal relief funds that can be used to address those emergencies.

Simmons said, “I have always supported economic development projects anywhere in the state,” but said there needs to be efforts to bring economic development projects to depressed regions of the state, such as the Delta and areas of southwest Mississippi.

READ MORE: Hosemann pushes to overhaul business incentives, avoid boondoggles of past

Reeves, who previously served eight years as lieutenant governor presiding over the Senate, said on Tuesday he understands the frustration of legislators concerned about the lack of notice for the special session.

“At the end of the day (legislators) come together to pass economic development projects” by large bipartisan margins, Reeves said, adding he is moving quickly to pass the project at the behest of the company. He said the talks on the project began four months ago and have moved quickly. He said the legislation would have “claw back” provisions where the state would be reimbursed if the company did not live up to its commitments.

“I am of the utmost confidence this deal is going to get done and benefit the taxpayers of this state significantly,” Reeves said.

He said there is a good chance that more than 1,000 will be employed and that the average salary, when factoring in bonuses, will be more than $93,000 the company has committed to pay.

Impromptu, hurry-up-and-vote special sessions have become the standard for Mississippi governors to push major incentives for corporations through the Legislature, at least since the Nissan auto plant deal in 2000. Citing the need for secrecy to complete such deals and prevent other states from swiping them, governors and their economic development teams have often provided scant details to only a handful of others before the deals are agreed to.

Nearly three years into his first term, this is Reeves’ first major economic development and incentives deal, but his predecessors, including Gov. Phil Bryant, had several such deals, including the Continental Tire plant near Clinton in 2016.

Some such mega-deals, such as the Nissan plant, have created thousands of sustained jobs for and spinoff growth. Others have been taxpayer-funded boondoggles.

Scratching for jobs and development for a poor state, governors and lawmakers over many years have provided dozens of tax breaks, credits and incentives for new or expanding businesses. Lack of oversight on the incentives has in the past resulted in businesses taking the incentives then defaulting on providing promised jobs and investments, leaving the state on the hook for millions with little way to recoup.

Around 2010, the state gave seven “green” energy companies more than $400 million in loans and incentives on the promise of them creating at least 5,000 jobs. Instead, many of the companies failed or floundered, creating a little over 600 jobs. KiOR, a company pledging to make cheap bio-crude, received about $75 million in loans and other state incentives, but went bankrupt leaving taxpayers a $69 million bill.

Nearly two decades ago, the state saw the famous “beef plant scandal,” where a Yalobusha County beef processing plant heavily subsidized by the state cost taxpayers millions when it went belly-up after just three months.

In a recent report on economic development programs and tax incentives, the state Institutions of Higher Learning reported that of 20 state incentives it examined for 2020, only nine “generated a positive return on the state’s investment and two generated a negative return.” Others had not been used in recent years, and “five could not be analyzed because of insufficient information.”

It noted that the Department of Revenue had no info available on how much tax breaks for the Tax Rebate Program had cost in forgone taxes, despite 11 projects receiving the rebates, including the and Pearl baseball stadiums, a children’s , the outlet mall at Pearl and the King Edward Hotel in downtown Jackson.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Will Supreme Court rely on literal reading when deciding legality of public funds to private schools?

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Will Supreme Court rely on literal reading when deciding legality of public funds to private schools?

The will most likely have an opportunity to rule on whether the Constitution prevents the appropriation of public funds to private schools or explain why the Constitution does not mean what it says.

In recent years the nine members of the Mississippi’s highest court have sometimes adhered to the plain-reading-of-the-law principle in their decisions, while at other notable times they have not.

It has just depended on the issue and perhaps the mood of the court.

Plain meaning in legal parlance, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined “the language is unambiguous and clear on its face,” and “the meaning of the statute or contract must be determined from the language of the statute or contract and not from extrinsic evidence.”

Or, according to the Congressional Research Service, it is defined as: “The starting point in construing a statute is the language of the statute itself. The Supreme Court often recites the ‘plain meaning rule,’ that, if the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous, it must be applied according to its terms.”

On Oct. 13, Chancellor Crystal Wise Martin ruled, based on the plain reading, that legislation passed earlier this year providing government funds to private schools was unconstitutional. The state provided $10 million in federal relief funds to private schools. It was added to legislation late in the session. Gov. Tate Reeves, long a private school proponent, signed off on the proposal.

Parents for filed a saying the appropriation was not valid based on that aforementioned plain reading of the Mississippi Constitution.

Martin sided with Parents for Public Schools in the case, but her ruling most likely will be appealed. That appeal means the Supreme Court will again have the chance to decide whether the text of a law, a constitutional provision in the case, should be adhered to or ignored.

In 2017, in a unanimous decision, the justices ruled that just because a law said “effective with fiscal year 2007, the Legislature shall fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program” did not really mean the Legislature had to actually fully fund the program that provides the state’s share of the basics for the operation of the local school districts.

On the other hand, the justices did adhere to a law that said they “shall” receive a pay raise if recommended by the state Personnel Board. A little noticed section of a 2012 bill passed by the Legislature essentially gives the judiciary the authority to award itself a pay raise sans action of the Legislature. This judicial pay process seems in conflict with the fact the Constitution gives the Legislature the authority to appropriate funds. Plus, pay raises for elected officials normally are awarded based on the action of the Legislature not the judiciary.

Or to put it another way, when a law says local schools “shall” be fully funded, the plain reading is ignored by the Supreme Court. But when the law says the judiciary “shall” award itself a pay raise, the plain reading is followed.

The plain reading also was ignored in 2020 when the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s ballot initiative process was invalid. The court ruled unconstitutional the language approved overwhelmingly by the Mississippi electorate in the early 1990s that requires a mandated number of signatures to be gathered equally from five congressional districts to place an initiative proposal on the ballot.

The court found that because the state no longer has five congressional districts, the initiative process was unconstitutional. The court made that ruling without taking into account that the members of the Mississippi Community College Board, as well as other boards in the state, also are selected from the same five now defunct congressional districts. Perhaps the state Community College Board also is unconstitutional.

Section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution reads, “No religious or other sect or sects shall ever control any part of the school or other educational funds of this state; nor shall any funds be appropriated toward the support of any sectarian school, or to any school that at the time of receiving such appropriation is not conducted as a free school.” 

Hinds County Chancellor Martin said that language is clear. It says what it says — no public appropriation to a school “not conducted as a free public school.”

It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court will adhere to that plain language or find a way to uphold language supported by the leadership of the Mississippi Legislature and Gov. Tate Reeves.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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