Franks faces tough questions at Boys State

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2007

WESSON – Delegates to the 2007 American Legion Boys State on thecampus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College heard Rep. Jamie Franksspeak about a variety of subjects Wednesday night, but pinned thelieutenant governor candidate on his views on abortion.

The 12-year legislator representing Itawamba, Lee and Tishomingocounties campaigned and moved to position himself to the right ofmuch of the Democrat Party by proclaiming his support of the SecondAmendment and saying he voted in favor of banning abortions,same-sex marriages and homosexual adoption. He said he also foughtto put prayer back in school and Bible quotes in publicbuildings.

It was the legislator’s stand on abortion, however, that drewthe most comments from delegates and dominated the question andanswer period at the end of Franks’ address.

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When questioned about his beliefs by a pro-choice delegate, thelegislator said the delegate was in the minority inMississippi.

“The majority of people in this state are for the protection ofthe unborn,” said Franks, D-Mooreville.

When a delegate provided Franks with a hypothetical situationinvolving rape, the legislator said he voted against any exemptionsto the law making abortions illegal in the state.

Another pro-choice delegate asked him how he would resolve the”filling up of orphanages” issue and the cost to the government ofsupporting all of the orphans.

Franks did not have an answer.

“I favor adoption. I would rather see that than murdering anunborn child,” he said. “We’ll have to come up with asolution.”

He suggested the state do more to handle social issues that leadto unplanned pregnancies.

Franks added the advantage of being a Democrat is that the “BigTent” ideology of the party welcomed both pro-life and pro-choicemembers. Republicans, he said, were in lockstep with the partyideology.

A delegate responded that if that were the case, then why wasRudolph Guiliani, a presidential hopeful whose position on theabortion issue has been difficult to ascertain, leading in theRepublican polls? Franks clarified he was referring to MississippiRepublicans.

“I don’t think there’s any flexibility in this state,” he said,adding Republicans receive daily emails from the governor and must”toe the line” on various party issues.

Franks, whose wife is the Lee County elementary curriculumdirector, also encouraged delegates to support efforts to providemore funding for education.

“Education, I think, is the number one priority we should haveas Mississippians,” he said. “I couldn’t afford an education. I hadto work my way through (college). Education has allowed me theopportunity to fulfill the American Dream. Every child should havethat opportunity.”

He said he helped pass the Mississippi Adequate EducationProgram and was disappointed it has only been fully funded onelection years.

“That’s wrong,” he said. “Our children should be taken care ofeach and every year, not just an election year.”

Franks also rebutted figures presented by State Treasurer TateReeves, a Republican, Tuesday on education funding levels. Reevessaid that not only was the MAEP fully funded this year but thestate has increased funding for grades K-12 by $500 million duringthe last four years while funding institutions of higher learningat their highest level since 2001 and giving them the largestsingle increase in state history.

“What they won’t tell you,” Franks said, “is that there is stillless money going into the classrooms because of increases insalaries and insurance premiums.”

Despite the additional funding, Franks said education had $300million less actually entering the classrooms than last year.

Education is also a key element in economic development, hesaid, but local officials must be willing to do what must be doneto secure industry.

He referred to the Wellspring site in his district, whichrecently secured the Toyota plant, as an example of what could bedone. After failing to generate interest in the state Legislatureto fund the purchase of property, the supervisors of the threeaffected counties worked together to secure $10 million in bonds topurchase the land before the options expired, Franks said.

Joint efforts are necessary to achieve goals, he said.

“We’ve done that in my part of the world … but that was donebecause of local leaders going out on a limb,” Franks said.

The legislator disparaged Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, forhis veto on two separate bills to eliminate or decrease the grocerytax while raising cigarette taxes.

“The one tax that really needs to be cut is the sales tax ongroceries. It really bothers me that we have poorest population inthe Union and the highest grocery tax,” Franks said. “The cigarettetax could help offset that. It’s not just about dollars and cents.Smoking is killing our people. It’s about public health.”

He proposed a tax increase of $1 per pack on cigarettes to bothencourage smokers to quit and to reduce the state’s burden of illsmokers on Medicaid and Medicare.