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Top priorities must become main focus now

Mississippi lawmakers are near unanimous in their assessmentthat crafting a budget and redistricting are the top priorities forthis legislative session. That hasn’t stopped some lawmakers fromrunning several rather dubious ideas up the proverbial flagpole tosee if anyone will salute.

One bill that died under an earlier committee deadline would havemandated that Colonel Rebel be the University of Mississippi’smascot and that the band play “Dixie” and “From Dixie With Love,”during football and basketball games.

The proposal generated a fair amount of discussion but no action,as many maintained the Legislature had no business being involvedin such matters. An unscientific DAILY LEADER online poll rejectedthe legislative proposal by a 9-1 margin.

Thursday was another legislative deadline in which some proposalswere allowed to keep breathing, while the plug was pulled on othersthat failed to garner enough support. Whether the right outcomeswere reached lies in the eye of the beholder.

A bill to authorize a state civil rights museum died under thedeadline, despite the support this year of Gov. Haley Barbour.Location concerns likely influenced this year’s outcome, but moreattempts at passage will surely be made in the future.

Bills to ban the sale of candy cigarettes and set up penalties forpossession of tobacco by minors were two smoking-related bills thatdied under the deadline. The merits of both bills werequestionable, but it is clear anti-tobacco advocates are pursuingall avenues to stop smoking or even the appearance of it.

While those and other bills died, those that survived are alsotelling about lawmakers’ activities this year. Some measures appearto capture public emotions while others seem to have politicalmotives behind them.

An immigration enforcement bill stirs conservative sentiments ofthose who seek to keep illegals out of the country. Regardless ofwhat bills Mississippi’s or other states’ legislatures pass, theU.S. Supreme Court will be the final arbiter on the laws.

An animal cruelty bill is gaining steam this year after severalunsuccessful attempts in the past. The bill would set up a felonylevel offense for torturing or maiming a domesticated dog orcat.

The political correctness winds are blowing behind a bill to cleanup state law language referring to a parentless child. The billcalls for “suitable” replacements in state laws.

Another bill continuing to fly at the Capitol calls for anyoneusing the state plane for personal business to pay 10 times thecost of the plane’s operational expense. Obviously, Barbour’sexcursions out of state as he pursues state business while alsopondering a presidential run have gotten someone’s attention in theLegislature.

As in every session, hundreds of bills were introduced this year.Legislative deadlines have pared the number considerably.

But the heavy lifting on the budget work and redistricting remainsto be resolved. As lawmakers start to approach the 2011 session’smidpoint, it’s time to move beyond the opening acts and focus onthe main events.