The second day of political speeches took place Thursday at the 2017 Neshoba County Fair with many politicians looking to their next election.
Public Service Commissioner Cecil Brown was the first to take the stage Thursday morning.
Brown spoke on Mississippi business and touted the new Mississippi Hire Rule which encourages Mississippi utilities to hire Mississippi contractors for all or a portion of their work.
“We want to make sure that the folks in Mississippi have a chance to earn some of their money back ,” said Brown. “We will not require utilities to hire Mississippi companies but we will require them to let state owned contractors know about the projects that are up to bid.”
Brown said a website would be created for the purpose of businesses being able to find out what projects are happening and then allow Mississippi businesses to bid on them.
In closing Brown said, “A lot of people get up here and talk about jobs and creating jobs and education and what they are going to do, but I can tell you that at the Public Service Commission, we are not just talking about it, we are doing it. We’ve got Hire Mississippi, we’ve got our career initiative, we are working hard to make sure that economic development through jobs and creation of jobs in this state is at the forefront.”
However, when Representative C. Scott Bounds, took the stage he criticized Brown and asked him to re-think his decision on the Kemper County Coal Plant.
“I’ve seen over 200 plus people lose their jobs in the last three weeks because of the Public Service Commissioner, and I like the Public Service Commission. They are my friends. I want to encourage Commissioner Brown, y’all re-think that decision.
During his speech, Bounds also spoke on taxes and trying to protect Mississippian’s tax dollars.
“None of us like making the cuts that we do, but we also can’t be spending money that we don’t have. You have sent us down there to be frugal with your tax dollars.”
During Treasurer Lynn Fitch’s time at the podium, she spoke to the changing the challenges that Mississippi faces and focused on a program that is helping to educate students in finance.
“68,700 students across Mississippi have received financial education, 253,000 hours of learning and 1,000 teachers trained,” said Fitch. “That is phenomenal, that’s exciting, and that’s changing the needle in Mississippi.”
Fitch said that through public and private partnerships, students are able to be trained for $1.11 per person at zero cost to the tax payers.
In closing, Fitch stated there is an urgent need for a constitutional amendment to have language in place stating that the state must have a balanced budget.
When Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde Smith took the stage, she spoke of the accomplishments her department made in the past year.
Smith spoke of her trips to DC to sort out a catfish issue which ended in the USDA taking over inspection of foreign catfish coming into the country.
Previously the FDA was in charge of the inspection, however, Smith said they were not doing their jobs properly and were inspecting less than 2% of the foreign catfish.
“We had two loads that came to our port from China and when they found out that the USDA was doing the inspections, they turned around and went back to their home port,” said Smith.
Following Cindy Hyde Smith was Dr. Rodney Bennett, President of the University of Southern Mississippi.
During Bennett’s speech he spoke on the importance of education, the strides that Southern Miss has made and the celebration of the university’s 107th year.
“For more than 107 years, The University of Southern Mississippi’s fundamental purpose has been to is to impact the lives of students, families and our communities through high quality education and research opportunities,” said Bennett.
“At the University of Southern Mississippi we are not insignificant, at the University of Southern Mississippi, we are not free loaders, at the University of Southern Mississippi, we lead confidently, at the University of Southern Mississippi, we lead courageously, and at the University of Southern Mississippi we lead with conviction. We are proud to be Mississippians and look forward to next 107 years of serving the state.”
Next, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney took to the podium and during his speech Chaney talked about healthcare saying that he spends over 50 percent of his time working on healthcare and health insurance.
“We are ready and prepared in the department, regardless of what happens in Washington,” said Chaney.
Closing out his time on stage, Chaney recognized the American Red Cross that will partner with the State Fire Marshall’s office in September and October to provide smoke alarms to people in the state, in an effort to reduce fire deaths in Mississippi.
Dr. Billy Stewart East Central Community College President was next on the docket and during his speech talked about his Community College’s accomplishments.
“The New York Times did a study of over 700 community colleges throughout our nation,” said Stewart. “They followed students from when they entered community college to when they exited and found a job. Out of 690 community colleges included in that study, East Central Community College ranked number 40 in the mobility of our graduates all across the United States. That means this, students coming to East Central, they don’t come in with a whole lot, but they leave with a whole lot.”
Stewart said East Central is the most residential college campus in state and announced the opening of a brand new women’s residence hall for the fall semester.
In closing, Stewart recognized the hard times which the college faced in the past year saying tuition at ECCC was raised the most of any school in the state, however, it remained the least expensive.
Next, Speaker of the House, Philip Gunn took the podium to share his thoughts on government and leadership.
“The federal government has tried to push on us a one size fits all government,” said Gunn. He continued. “I believe that America has drifted away from the vision of our founding fathers and has given more power to the federal government. Governmental power should be concentrated in the states where it can be most responsive to the needs of those who are governed. We need to demand that the federal government and the United States Supreme court return more power and control back to the states, which was the original intent of our founding fathers.”
Gunn went on to say that laws should only be passed in exceptional circumstances.
As government increases, your liberty decreases,” said Gunn. As government decreases your freedom increases.”
Gunn added that governing is not easy, however he said that the people deserve to know what guides and shapes the politicians decisions.
“Over the last six years you have seen leadership in Jackson that has been based off of strong convictions of right and wrong,” said Gunn. “You have seen leaders who have been willing to act on those convictions and you have seen leaders who are willing to make decisions that are not always popular. We have been criticized in the media for that, we have been criticized by those who are not conservative. We will continue to fight for what we believe in. We will not back down, we will not be afraid. Because we know that in the end, even though the fate of the world may not be in the balance, the fate of Mississippi is.”
Lastly, Governor Phil Bryant spoke on topics ranging from Education reform in Mississippi to the job creation in the state and the Canton Nissan plant’s upcoming union vote.
“I don’t think we need a union to come in there and tell us how to make a better automobile,” said Governor Bryant. “They can get back on the Bernie Sanders bus back to New York and I’ll pay their way.”
Bryant went on to say that the state has been recognized for the past six years with a silver shovel as being a leader in economic development.
“We didn’t get on this year,” said Bryant. “We got a gold shovel this year. I like gold.”
Only five states in the nation receive gold shovels each year.
During the course of his speech, Bryant also spoke of the new foster care system which he was instrumental in creating.
Bryant said the Child Protection Services Agency serves over 6,000 children each year.
In closing, Bryant pledged his loyalty to Mississippians.
“We have never forgotten that you are our bosses, you are the sovereigns and we are the servants,” said Bryant. “Everyone here that is an elected official is a public servant. I’ve got two and a half years left, we’re going to finish strong.”
Watch all the speeches below.