Judge cuts Cecil McCrory’s fine from $150,000 to $20,000 in prison bribery case

The monetary fine to be paid by Cecil McCrory, a Brandon businessman who admitted he bribed former Mississippi prisons chief Christopher Epps and helped him launder money, has been reduced from $150,000 to $20,000. U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate lowered the amount Wednesday after McCrory testified Wednesday that his debts outweigh his assets and he doesn’t have enough money to pay the higher amount, the Associated Press reports. Wingate ruled that McCrory should start making fine payments while he is in prison, and be required to pay at least $150 a month once he is released. McCrory, a former state lawmaker, was sentenced in February to serve 8½ years. McCrory was supposed to report to prison April 4, but he remains free on bail so he can testify in lawsuits brought by Attorney General Jim Hood that seek to recover money paid to prison contractors in cases where bribes changed hands, AP says.

Inclusion ‘Starts with (Me)ek’ at Ole Miss

It Starts with (Me)ek, a conference designed to encourage inclusion and respect while rejecting stereotypes, begins April 19 on the University of Mississippi campus. It is hosted by the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The five-day conference, open to all students, faculty, staff and community members, will feature panelists and guest speakers discussing race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion. Shepard Smith, chief news anchor and managing editor for Fox News Network’s Breaking News Division, and Otis Sanford, author of From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Changed Memphis and Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economic and Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis, are among the keynote speakers. “This campaign is particularly important to our Meek School students because as professional journalists, public relations specialists or integrated marketing communications specialists, students will be dealing with and working with many different kinds of people,” said Robin Street, senior lecturer in public relations.

In Jackson airport case, eight lawmakers subpoenaed

Eight members of the Legislature received subpoenas in the yearlong case about control of the Jackson airport. Attorneys for members of the Jackson Municipal Airport authority filed notices on April 6 to serve subpoenas to legislators for documents going back five years related to the authority’s performance in managing the Jackson-Medgar Evers International Airport as well as any information that went into the decision to introduce a bill in 2016 to install a new airport board. In 2016, lawmakers approved legislation that would replace the five-member board of commissioners selected by Jackson officials with a nine-member commission appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and supervisors in Madison and Rankin counties as well as Jackson officials. The bill prompted a lawsuit from the Rev. Jeffery Stallworth, a Jackson resident and former airport commissioner. The city of Jackson, along with each of the city council members, later joined Stallworth’s suit as plaintiffs in the federal suit.

Kemper plant cost bumped up $70M, new start date set

The cost estimate for the beleaguered Kemper County energy facility has gone up by $70 million to $7.2 billion, according to operator Mississippi Power Co. in its February report to the Mississippi Public Service Commission. The added cost breaks down to about $45 million for extending the project’s schedule through April 30; $15 million is related to start-up fuel; and $10 million for outage work and operational maintenance and improvements, Mississippi Power announced Monday. Mississippi Power, a unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co., in March announced the plant had experienced tube leaks in one of the syngas, or synthesis gas, coolers for one of its two gasifiers—machines that convert lignite coal into gas—and temporarily shut down that gasifier to address the problem. In a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week, the utility says this new schedule through the end of April reflects the time it would take to restart the plant’s gasifier A and establish its integrated operation with gasifier B, which has remained in operation since the first one was taken offline.

Chandler confirmed as child protection commissioner

David Chandler was confirmed this week by the Senate as the first commissioner of the newly established Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. The action marked Chandler’s official confirmation to the position he has held since being appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant in December 2015, the Department of Child Protection Services noted in a press release. “This process provided me an opportunity to share with the Senate committee during the confirmation hearing how appreciative I am for their interest and attention to the efforts of all of us who are employed at Child Protection Services in promoting the proper care for our children,” Chandler said in the release. The press release noted that Chandler resigned from the state Supreme Court in December 2015 to accept the appointment to oversee federally mandated reform of Mississippi’s child welfare and foster care system. Chandler first was named executive director of the Division of Family and Children’s Services, a cabinet-level position reporting directly to the governor.

Millsaps to honor Edgar, Kaplan, Mabus

A ground-breaking journalist, a nationally-known litigator, and a former Mississippi Governor and Secretary of the Navy have been named honorary degree recipients for the 2017 commencement exercises on May 6 at Millsaps College. Joanne Edgar, Roberta Kaplan, and Ray Mabus will receive the degrees during the 9:30 a.m. commencement on the Millsaps campus, the college said in a press release. “We are proud to welcome these outstanding individuals back to the Millsaps campus, and to recognize their contributions to our state and our nation,” said Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps College. “Each of them has made a lasting impact across the country and beyond.”

Joanne Edgar, a 1965 Millsaps graduate, is a founding editor of Ms. magazine, where she worked from 1971-1989. Today she is a strategic communications consultant and writer, working with foundations and nonprofit organizations to support social change, the release said.

Formby confirmed for Workers Comp Commission

Rep. Mark Formby will soon depart the Mississippi Legislature as he starts a new position with the Worker’s Compensation Commission next month. The Senate confirmed the Republican from Picayune Tuesday morning. Formby will begin serving on the commission starting April 15. Formby will resign from his House seat on April 14 to take the post. The Workers Compensation Commission consists of three commissioners and up to eight administrative law judges, who consider cases of injured workers.

Hinds CC honored on centennial

The Legislature recognized Hinds Community College on March 24 with resolutions in the House and Senate for its centennial, the college noted in a press release. The House resolution was authored by Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg, and co-sponsored by Reps. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson; Credell Calhoun, D-Jackson; Mark Baker, R-Brandon; Oscar Denton, D-Vicksburg; Deborah Butler Dixon, D-Raymond; Andy Gipson, R-Braxton; Ray Rogers, R-Pearl; Sara Thomas, D-Indianola; Tom Weathersby, R-Florence, and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, R-Clinton. The Senate resolution was authored by Sen. David Blount and co-sponsored by Sens. Albert Butler, D-Port Gibson; Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson; Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg; Robert Jackson, D-Marks; Dean Kirby, R-Pearl; Sollie Norwood, D-Jackson; Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville; Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, and Sampson Jackson II, D-Preston.

McRae Foundation gift boosts Millsaps Christian Center renovation

Millsaps College on Thursday announced a $4 million gift from the Selby & Richard McRae Foundation toward a campaign to renovate the Christian Center on campus. The Christian Center, a beloved fixture on the Millsaps campus since its construction in the 1950s, is scheduled for a transformative renovation project that will establish new classrooms and office space for the Humanities division, a new 175-seat lecture hall, and a new chapel and center for the chaplaincy on campus, the college said in a press release. Upon completion, the building will be rededicated as the Selby and Richard McRae Christian Center, Millsaps said. The press release noted that the Selby & Richard McRae Foundation was established in 1965 to support the arts, education, and social service organizations in central Mississippi. The foundation is today managed by the children of Mr. and Mrs. McRae: Richard D. McRae, Jr., Susan McRae Shanor and Vaughan W. McRae.

Lawmaker: Need public input before ed funding vote

A state representative is urging members of the public and other lawmakers to sign an online petition urging the legislative leadership to seek more input from the public on a new education funding formula before bringing any bills to a vote. Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Escatawpa, sent out a statement Wednesday urging people to sign the petition as a follow up to last week’s “Seat at the Table” rally at the State Capitol. Despite the hundreds in attendance at the rally, only three people have signed the online petition as of Wednesday afternoon. “I urge my colleagues to join me in voting against any new education funding legislation that has not been properly vetted or presented in a series of public hearings,” Anderson said in his statement. The legislative leadership has declined in recent weeks to reveal specific details of progress towards finalizing legislation rewriting the state’s public education funding formula.

Tupelo starts construction on Vietnam Wall replica

A groundbreaking ceremony in Tupelo on Monday marked the beginning of construction on a smaller version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Daily Journal reported. “We’ll actually start turning dirt this week,” Tupelo Parks & Recreation Department director Alex Farned told the Daily Journal. “We hope to have everything complete by this fall so we can have a ribbon-cutting on Veterans Day in November.” The simple, black granite “V” will be 60 percent of the size of the official monument in Washington, D.C., the newspaper reported. “It will be a little over 6 feet tall at the center,” landscape architect Shipman Sloan said to the Daily Journal.