Lawmakers seek agreement on medical clinic grants
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi House and Senate will attempt to work out their differences on a proposal to expand state subsidies to health clinics.
The plan, proposed by Gov. Phil Bryant, is meant as a partial alternative to expanding the Medicaid insurance program for poorer people.
The House passed an amended version of Senate Bill 2117 Thursday. House Public Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Sam Mims, a Natchez Republican, says the two chambers will confer to work out differences.
The House proposes adding $4 million a year to current subsidies to underwrite expanded operations for an existing set of federally-qualified or nonprofit rural clinics.
The Senate proposes spending $3.2 million and opening the grant program to any health care provider that cares for patients in an underserved area.
Miss. Senate OKs version of criminal justice bill
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Senate has advanced a bill designed to make the criminal justice system more efficient and less expensive.
House Bill 585 is a centerpiece of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant's legislative agenda for 2014.
Only three senators voted against the latest version of the bill when it passed Thursday.
Because the Senate made some changes, the bill returns to the House for more work in the next few weeks.
Mississippi has the second-highest incarceration rate in the nation, and the supporters of the bill say the proposed changes could reduce prison costs by $266 million, spread over 10 years.
Among other things, it would put more emphasis on drug courts that focus on rehabilitation rather than imprisonment.
BARKSDALE READING INSTITUTE
Barksdale to retire from reading institute
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Claiborne Barksdale, who has led the Barksdale Reading Institute since its inception, will retire this summer.
The 63-year-old Barksdale will step down on June 1 as BRI's chief executive officer. He'll be succeeded by Michael Cormack, who has worked with the organization since 2010.
Barksdale tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that he is leaving the institute in good hands.
The Oxford-based BRI was created in 2000 by former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and his late wife Sally. They put $100 million into efforts to help children in their home state learn to read before they reached third grade.
Claiborne Barksdale, Jim's brother, has been its CEO since 2000.
Cormack is a Boston College graduate and has a master's degree from Columbia University's Teachers College.
HORN LAKE-USED CARS
Board changes zoning laws for used car dealers
HORN LAKE, Miss. (AP) - Horn Lake aldermen have voted to make it easier for used car dealerships to locate in the city but opted against easing guidelines on live advertising.
On the recommendation of the Planning Commission, The Commercial Appeal reports the board voted 5-1 this week to amend zoning ordinances to allow dealerships in the M-1, M-2, C-3 and C-4 zoning districts.
Previously, used car dealerships were allowed only in conjunction with new car dealerships. Some aldermen, however, wanted to ease restrictions to allow upscale, high-volume used dealerships.
On the live advertising issue, the board didn't question a Planning Commission recommendation to deny increased use of live advertising.
The issue had been raised by a tax preparation business that wanted to use costumed roadside advertisers more than allowed currently.
Former housing leader pleads guilty in bribe case
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - The former director of a nonprofit housing agency has been sentenced to a year's probation and ordered to pay $89,400 in restitution.
Linda Balducci of Shelby pleaded last year to one count of conspiracy to embezzle money. Court documents show she was sentenced in Feb. 28 in U.S. District Court in Oxford.
The Bolivar Commercial reports that Balducci was indicted in an embezzlement and bribery scheme related to federal grant funds and the construction of community housing projects in the Mississippi Delta.
Federal prosecutors say a contractor, Jimmy Stokes, paid kickbacks totaling $90,000 back to Balducci when she ran Southeastern Development Opportunities.
In exchange, prosecutors say Balducci approved $358,500 in invoices that Stokes submitted to dig a drainage ditch for the Isola apartments when the work only cost $20,000.
Hospital bankruptcy bill signed by governor
NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - The bill that will allow Natchez Regional Medical Center to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy has left the governor's desk, clearing the way for the county-owned hospital to proceed with the appropriate court filings.
Because the hospital is county-owned, declaring bankruptcy requires legislative approval. Hospital officials sought permission to file for bankruptcy last month, saying the hospital faced at the time $3 million more in financial liabilities than it had in assets.
The Rev. Leroy White, chairman of the hospital's board of trustees, tells The Natchez Democrat he plans to go to Jackson to meet with the bankruptcy attorney, Eileen Shaffer, who also worked with the hospital during its 2009 bankruptcy.
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