Speakers included Governor Reeves, Secretary of State Watson, Attorney General Fitch, and more.
The 2022 Neshoba County Fair, “Mississippi’s Giant Houseparty,” started on Friday, July 22, and will conclude on Friday, July 29. This year’s lineup of public and political speakers took place on Wednesday, July 27, and Thursday, July 28.
Thursday’s line up of political speakers included:
- Brent Bailey (R), Public Service Commissioner, Central District
- David McRae (R), State Treasurer
- Shad White (R), State Auditor
- Hon. Michael Watson (R), Secretary of State
- Hon. Andy Gipson (R), Commissioner of Agriculture & Commerce
- Hon. Lynn Fitch (R), Attorney General
- Hon. Willie Simmons (D), Transportation Commissioner, Central District
- Hon. Philip Gunn (R), Speaker, Mississippi House of Representatives
- Hon. Tate Reeves (R), Governor
Below is a highlight of Thursday’s political speeches.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves
The Mississippi Governor highlighted many successes that the State has achieved over the last couple of years.
“When I became lieutenant governor, Mississippi was dead last in fourth grade math. Now, we’re above the national average at number 23,” Reeves said. “Today, 87.7 percent of all Mississippi kids graduate from high school. That’s higher than ever in our state, and better than the national average.”
Governor Reeves celebrated the delivery of the largest teacher pay raise in Mississippi history. Teachers’ starting salaries are now above the Southeast and the national average.
Reeves noted that Mississippi was the 10th best state in the nation for weathering the economic consequences of COVID-19. He added that Mississippi had the largest annual increase in employee payrolls since the last century and from June 2021 to June 2022, the state has increased employment by another 30,000 jobs.
The Governor said that of the 41 states with an income tax, Mississippi now has the fifth lowest marginal rate in the entire nation. Reeves also noted that Mississippi was first in the nation in overturning Roe v. Wade.
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn emphasized the work done by the House of Representatives, not only this past year, but since Republicans gained a majority in the state in 2012. Prior to that time, the Mississippi House was run by Democrats.
Speaker Gunn said because of the current legislature the state is now a leader in fighting human trafficking, is in the best financial state it has ever been in, equal pay was passed, broadband access has expanded, and infrastructure funding has increased.
However, Gunn said the most important of the things to come out of the House of Representatives was the work to end “on-demand” abortions in the state of Mississippi.
“There is no one who has fought harder for the lives of the unborn than the Mississippi House of Representatives,” said Gunn.
The 15-week-abortion bill (HB1510), which was authored in the House, was the catalyst for the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ultimately gave states the power to determine abortion regulations.
Gunn urged the crowd to show up at the polls in November of 2023 and send the lawmakers currently working in the House back to the Capitol.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch
Attorney General Lynn Fitch began her remarks with, “We won, we won Mississippi,” referencing the recent SCOTUS decision on abortion.
“We, the state of Mississippi, stood up and asked a hard question, overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Fitch. “This is a rule of law question that belongs to the people, belongs to you. You get to make that decision. The Justices, believed that and said constitutionally it was not in there and it should be, always should be returned to the people.”
Fitch said the work does not stop here, adding that now it is imperative to come through for mothers, children and families to provide the care and resources they need to thrive. She commended the Legislature for their passage of a tax credit for crisis pregnancy centers across the state as well as the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act for women.
“We say to women, you are valued, you are part of the tapestry of Mississippi,” said Fitch.
Fitch said action is essential and having the hard conversations revolving around this topic are necessary. She said looking at evolving ways to redefine the workforce to allow for more maternity and paternity leave, enforcing child support laws, and encouraging affordable and accessible childcare options as well as many other areas need to be addressed.
>“We asked the Justices for this job and I believe all Mississippians, we are ready,” said Fitch. “Because for 50 years, we did not have this opportunity to have the dialogue, to take action, and now we do.”
State Auditor Shad White
The Auditor’s office is well known for uncovering the largest fraud scheme in the history of the state of Mississippi under Auditor Shad White’s leadership, that being at MDHS. He added that they also finished investigations which led to the largest civil settlement in the office’s history and hundreds of years of jailtime for the defendants.
“We are going to work every single day to protect your money and as long as you let me keep this job, I’m going to continue to do it that way,” said White.
White said his office is forcing people in government to “sit up a little bit straighter.” He said he is glad that the way he is doing his job is forcing people to be a little more concerned if they plan to steal the public’s money. White hopes to deter people from white collar crime by building a reputation of being tough, but fair in every circumstance.
“We are going to hold people accountable to the law, regardless of how famous they are, or where they’re from, or who their mama is, it does not matter to us, we are going to hold people accountable to the law, period,” said White.
He noted that the Auditor’s office does not get to determine who is or is not charged with a crime. That decision is made by prosecutors. He is responsible for finding the facts and presenting them to prosecutors who make that decision. White said with larger cases, like the MDHS scandal, they also have another entity that looks in on their work. For that case, everything was turned over to the FBI for review.
“And I’ll tell you this right now, the FBI has not arrested a soul in that case that we have not already arrested in the last two years so apparently we’re doing a pretty damn thorough job,” said White.
White said his mission is influenced by the question: “Am I making a better Mississippi for my daughters?”
He said they deserve a Mississippi that is as free from corruption as possible.
Mississippi Treasurer David McRae
Treasurer David McRae provided updates on what the office has been able to accomplish in the last few years. Most importantly, the Treasurer has returned a record amount of $55 million to the taxpayers in unclaimed property. The office is also currently on pace to return $70 million.
“This is something I’m extremely proud of for this office,” said McRae.
He said this is the people’s money, which is going back to communities.
McRae said 1 in 10 Mississippians have unclaimed property. For instance, in Neshoba County there is over $1 million in unclaimed property waiting to be given back to the taxpayers.
McRae then touched on college savings, a large effort in the Treasurer’s office. The plans offered by the Treasurer’s office allow families to make smart choices when saving for college.
He said that this type of fiscal responsibility allows the state to rely on itself versus extended reliance on the federal government.
McRae announced today that the Legacy Plan was back to being fully funded and on solid footing.
Secretary of State Michael Watson
The Mississippi Secretary of State addressed three pieces of legislation that passed during the 2022 Mississippi Legislative session that Watson described as “progress in the right direction.”
The first was legislation that ensures only U.S. citizens vote in Mississippi elections. The second legislation is one that modernizes voting machines in Mississippi counties. The third, is the Election Support Fund.
Secretary Watson said every month on the Secretary of State’s website, his office has started publishing a report that shows the percentage of registered voters based on the voting-age population in that county.
“If it’s 90 percent or above, I need you to engage,” Watson said. “Start talking to your elections commissioners. They’re the ones who have the jobs to make sure our voter rolls are maintained.”
Following his speech, Watson spoke with Y’all Politics about possible issues or pieces of legislation he hopes to see in the 2023 session.
Watson said that the big issue that people will see is post-election audits.
“We got really close with that one last year. There were some concerns from some of our circuit clerks about timelines and who did what,” Watson said. “We’ve got those, I think, figured out with them. Towards the end of the session they were a lot more comfortable with that.”
“We’re 54 counties in to a 82 county tour, building those relationships, and talking through hard issues like post-election audits,” Watson added. “How do we get that figured out? That’s important for Mississippians, so I think that we are going to get to a workable solution and then get our Legislature on board as well.”
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson
On Thursday, Commissioner Andy Gipson spoke about policies that would make Mississippi agriculture and commerce flourish in the future.
“Every farmer knows this, you don’t get what you plant, you’re going to get more than you plant, and your’e going to get a harvest after you plant if you do the work necessary,” Gipson said.
Following his speech, Commissioner Gipson spoke with Y’all Politics, saying that inflation, high energy costs, and out of control environmental protection agency under the Biden Administration are the key issues facing farmers today.
“We got to have some relief,” Gipson said. “And there’s nothing more important than getting that relief for Mississippi farmers.”
PSC Central District Commissioner Brent Bailey
The PSC Central District Commissioner said that the Public Service Commission needs to be “a watch dog for consumers, to regulate the utilities that we’re entitled and instructed to do so, and most of all, we need to assist customers on the issues that come before them.”
Bailey said that from January 1st to today, they have taken 827 complaints.
“We do our best to represent, work, and resolve the issues as quickly as possible,” Bailey noted. “And that’s just the complaints on the utilities side.”
The Central District Commissioner said that for the first six months they have taken in 5,570 complaints on robocallers and telemarketers. Bailey said that the PSC has 175 telemarketers registered in the State and that they are not the problem, saying it is the ones that do not register.
Commissioner Bailey said that his team has been very active this year and has traveled coast to coast representing the Central District, trying to learn, bring back information, and get new ideas.
“We have been on the move doing what we can for you at the PSC,” Bailey added.
The Commissioner discussed the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s $300 million settlement with Entergy Mississippi and other unnamed parties. Bailey also spoke on the PSC’s updated Net Metering Rules.
Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons
The Central District Transportation Commissioner thanked attendees for all of the support and said that those working for the Department of Transportation want to continue to do more.
Simmons thanked all of the leadership in the Legislature, noting that the Speaker and the Lt. Governor led the state so well.
You can view clips of speeches and commentary from the political speaking at the 2022 Neshoba County Fair below.
Political speeches kicked off at the Neshoba County Fair today. Stay tuned to this thread for clips from the speakers that will take the stage Wednesday and Thursday. #Neshoba2022
You can check out the schedule of speeches here: https://t.co/N9MObKEQ3h
— Yall Politics (@MSyallpolitics) July 27, 2022
**Contributions from Capitol Correspondent Sarah Ulmer**