Were hurt feelings driving MAC bill?

Published 7:47 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Was the Mississippi Arts Commission at risk of losing its status as an independent agency because the governor didn’t have input over the annual Governor’s Arts Awards?

A House bill authored by Rep. Becky Currie that would dissolve the commission and give its duties to the Mississippi Development Authority is reportedly dead in the House. A similar bill was filed in the Senate.

According to Mississippi Today, Gov. Phil Bryant questioned the arts awards when talking about the consolidation on Supertalk radio Monday.

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“I remember one day I was driving into Jackson on State Street, and I saw this banner that said ‘Governor’s Arts Awards,’” Bryant said, according to Mississippi Today. “It had the date underneath it. I had no idea when the date was taking place, I didn’t know I was giving out awards.”

“Then I found out that they’re really not arts awards,” Bryant continued. “In fact, I can’t even recommend anyone to receive Governor’s Arts Awards. That’s just the title they have for them.”

“I called our tourism director and he said, ‘I have no idea about that. They don’t let us know,’” the governor said. “So we’ve got two agencies doing the same thing.”

The legislation to move the Arts Commission to MDA has been described as a cost-savings measure. And that might be true to some extent.

But the MDA and the Arts Commission are not doing the same thing, as Bryant put it. The arts are an important aspect of this state’s heritage and future (see the MS School of the Arts in downtown Brookhaven). The MAC plays a key role in making sure the arts remain a priority for the state. 

It would have been a shame if the MAC was dissolved because the governor didn’t get to choose the awards that carry his title.