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Area lawmakers’ grades divided in BIPEC report

Local Democratic legislators are crying foul over the recentlyreleased 2011 “jobs” report issued by the Mississippi Business andIndustry Political Education Committee, or BIPEC, while localRepublican legislators and BIPEC leaders are defending thereport.

The annual BIPEC report, which was released in late May, gradeseach member of the Mississippi Legislature on how they vote onbusiness, jobs and economic growth issues.

The Republican members of the local delegation, including District92 Rep. Becky Currie and District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith,received “A” grades, the top marks, while Democratic membersDistrict 91 Rep. Bob Evans and District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak received”F” grades, the lowest grade.

Evans, of Monticello, said the split between the local delegation’sRepublican grades and Democratic grades reflects BIPEC’s partisanleanings.

“BIPEC says it’s a nonpartisan, education-related committee whenit’s not,” he said. “It’s a bunch of businessmen who try to figureout the best ways to line their own pockets.”

BIPEC President Van White said the organization exists solely toeducate business leaders and the voting public of how legislatorsvote on business issues.

“We don’t align with any specific party, but that’s a charge weoften get,” said White.

He said that the grades all boil down to jobs and pro-economicdevelopment issues.

“The issues that are important to employers in Mississippi, whetherthey’re mom-and-pop feed stores out in a rural area or if it’s alocal hardware store or if it’s a Fortune 500 company that has abusiness presence here, all of those issues are the same,” he said.”Those are the issues we watch legislators on and grade themover.”

Evans said that none of the “true Democrats” in the Legislaturereceived better than a “D” grade in the report.

“The true Democrats, like me, don’t believe in giving businesseseverything they want that would be detrimental to the workers,” hesaid. “The things that are important to the Mississippi DemocraticParty, that favor workers and the lower to middle classes, are thethings BIPEC will grade you down for if you vote for.”

Evans offered examples of bills that caused BIPEC to grade downlegislators. He cited the 2008 bill that requires Mississippiemployers to use E-Verify, an Internet-based system operated by thefederal government that allows the employer to verify theemployment eligibility of newly hired employees.

“That law makes sure that undocumented workers aren’t coming uphere and getting the jobs that our own people greatly need,” hesaid. “If you voted for that system, you were graded down byBIPEC.”

Fellow Democrat Moak, of Bogue Chitto, said BIPEC’s ratings are theresult of an organization that “picks and chooses its votes.”

“If you look at this objectively, you’d say that BIPEC is apartisan organization that favors Republicans,” said therepresentative.

He said the proof of that is in the things BIPEC has been involvedin over the years.

“For example, they wanted a yes vote on a resolution opposing afederal health care bill,” said Moak. “That was purely a Republicanpolitical statement, and when I voted against it, they graded medown.”

He also said BIPEC graded him down because of his vote for a planto redistrict House districts.

“Republicans voted no; Democrats voted yes,” said Moak, who addedthat BIPEC didn’t want the redistricting.

Moak said his voting record, which favors the common man, is thereason he and BIPEC have never had a good relationship.

“I doubt over the years I’ve gotten higher than a ‘C’ from them atany time,” he said. “My voting record is more in line with folkswho work every day and not with large, out-of-state internationalcorporations.”

Local Republican legislators disagreed with their Democraticcolleagues’ opinions.

“BIPEC is just an organization of business leaders who determineswho’s business-friendly as far as your legislators and who is not,”said Currie, of Brookhaven.

She added that she believed the group’s nonpartisan claim.

“It is so not partisan,” she said. “Some of the Democrats made ‘A’and ‘B’ grades.”

She pointed to Hyde-Smith as an example.

“Cindy Hyde-Smith just switched to the Republican Party last yearand she made an ‘A’ every year she’s been up there,” saidCurrie.

She also countered Evans’ E-Verify bill example, saying that shevoted for the E-Verify system and still received the “A”grade.

“They did not grade me down because I voted for that,” said therepresentative.

Currie said BIPEC is a trusted and respected organization.

“I remember once when Gov. Haley Barbour was asked what legislatorsomeone needed to vote for, and he said ‘If it were me, I’d go byBIPEC, because that means jobs,'” she said.

Hyde-Smith, also of Brookhaven, said she received her ratings notbecause of partisanship but because of her record.

“I’ve always voted in the past 12 years as to what’s best for mydistrict,” said the senator. “I’ve always been a pro-business,pro-job creation vote, and I think that’s why BIPEC has alwaysrated me well.”

White said BIPEC invites the voting public to look over theirresults and decide for themselves.

“Let the voting public decide,” he said.