Mike’s Missives: Presley, Pickin’ and Grinnin’ & Pay Raises in 2015

By: Mike Biggs

It’s Presley’s move

I’m used to standing in a crowded room while Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and his band, O’Malley’s March run through a set that would include a mix of Celtic, rock-n-roll and country music hits. How cool is it to have a governor who could lose the suit and wow the crowd? In clogs Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley of Nettelton. In case you’re wondering, yes he is an Elvis Presley “Presely” and an even better public service commissioner. On a good day you’ll find him at the Carolina Community Center working the room in a pair of the finest Nocona ostrictch boots.

Presley, elected to the PSC in 2007, is currently serving his 2nd term on the commission and is widely seen as one of the few Democrats who could run and win statewide in 2015. He has held town hall meetings in all 33 counties of the northern district. Brandon presents Democrats with their best shot at a statewide office because of his appeal in the Northeast Mississippi region, ability to excite and energize the base while running a populist campaign in the vein of Billy McCoy and William Winter.

Presley still has some time to make a decision as to whether or not he’ll run for re-election to the PSC or seek a higher office. A weakened Republican brand and a Democratic Party itching for a win may be enough to nudge Brandon towards a statewide office but either way, the field is wide open for him.

[Presley@ Carolina singing "I Can't Stop Loving You"](

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It’s Education Stupid!

There is no doubt that public education will be front and center at the capitol in 2015. Not only that though, it will also be the most talked about issue on the campaign trail next year. Recently, Better Schools, Better Jobs, the ballot initiative supporting a constitutional amendment to keep the promise of adequate K-12 funding, announced at a news conference that they had secured 121,691 signatures of registered voters. Impressive considering that’s almost 15,000 more than needed to place a citizen-sponsored initiative on the ballot.

This initiative, known as Initiative 42, is a rarity in that it is enjoying bipartisan support from usually Democratic leaning teacher organizations and some of the most conservative school superintendents and districts in the state. Passing the initiative “is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue,” Sondra Odom, president of the Pearl School Board, described as a Republican Party activist, said at the news conference.

Pay Raise for Mississippi Teachers brought teacher pay raises to the top of the heap during this past session and enabled a discussion that otherwise would have happened in committee rooms and out of the public eye. Pay Raise for Mississippi Teachers forced everyone from Gov. Bryant to Speaker Gunn to stake out a position and most importantly exposed to those of us who believe Mississippi teachers, who are paid the lowest salaries in the country, were deserving of a much needed pay raise.

I for one am thrilled that we’ll have the opportunity to vote to ensure the legislature fulfills its obligations to adequately funding our public schools while simultaneously fighting to ensure our teachers and public employees are given much deserved pay increases. While teacher pay raises were a hot topic this past session, so were pay raises for state employees. Mississippi state workers typically earn $9,000 less than that of state employees in the 4 surrounding states and most of them haven’t had a pay raise in over 7 years.

Efforts like this by Better Schools, Better Jobs, the Pay Raise for Mississippi Teachers campaign and MASE/CWA are shaping up to be the hot-button issues as we head into the legislative session which also happens to fall in an Election Year.

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