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STARKVILLEDAILYNEWS.COM

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

OPINION

Will Mississippi lawmakers follow Alabama’s
BP settlement template?
Across the state
line to the east,
Alabama lawmakers
meeting in a special
session approved a
compromise plan
to spend the lion’s
share of that state’s
$1 billion BP oil
Sid Salter
spill settlement on
Medicaid,
retirSyndicated
ing state debt, and
Columnist
highway infrastructure in two Gulf Coast counties – and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has said he’ll
sign that legislation.
Could that a template of sorts as to how
Mississippi lawmakers choose to spend our
state’s BP settlement funds? Mississippi
will receive almost $2.2 billion in total
compensation for the 2010 BP explosion,
fire, and resulting oil spill on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
The rig was leased to BP by Transocean.
The Deepwater Horizon explosion
killed 11 men (with Mississippians among
the dead), injured others and resulted in an
estimated 210 million barrels of oil being

spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the
nation’s largest offshore oil spill. Mississippi and other Gulf states suffered significant
economic and environmental damages.
Mississippi got a $2.2 billion settlement
from BP, but not all of that is subject to
the unfettered will of the Mississippi Legislature. Specifics of the settlement include,
over time, $750 million in economic damages that will be subject to state legislative
appropriations.
There are other funds with regulatory
strings attached that aren’t completely subject to legislative fiat, including some $183
million in Natural Resource Damage Assessment payments for environmental restoration, $582 million in Clean Water Act
penalties to be used for research and economic development and for environmental
projects.
This year, the Legislature used $42 million of the initial $150 million payment of
the BP settlement to the state to bolster a
stagnant state budget.
Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves,
and Attorney General Jim Hood – along
with Gulf Coast lawmakers – have all spoken to their belief that since the BP oil spill

disaster most directly impacted the Gulf
Coast, that’s where the preponderance of
the settlement funds should be spent.
Bryant’s Go Coast 2020 commission
issued a report that made specific recommendations on focusing the BP settlement funds on Gulf region projects that
bolstered the local economy and created
jobs. Reeves launched his own series of
fact-finding meetings with the same general focus.
But upstate, lawmakers are not yet ready to
concede to a plan that substantially excludes
central and northern counties from benefitting from a portion of the BP settlement.
That’s problematic for the lower six
Gulf Coast counties, who don’t possess the
numbers in either the Senate or the House
to impose their will on the rest of their
legislative colleagues. So most legislative
observers expect a bruising sectional fight
over the BP settlement funds that rivals the
fight over the state’s Hurricane Katrina relief funds back in 2006.
Former Gov. Haley Barbour and the
state’s congressional delegation – led by
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran – worked with
Congress and the Bush Administration to

direct millions in hurricane relief to Mississippi. While the Coast was obviously the
hardest hit area of the state, damage was
evident as far north as Monroe County in
northeast Mississippi.
Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 fury came at
a time when Mississippi was really struggling with budget problems, principally
how to pay for the state’s Medicaid program. Voters will recall that legislators fell
over themselves to use substantial portions
of the federal funds provided for relief
from Hurricane Katrina to meet the state’s
Medicaid expenses.
It’s also not only possible but very likely
that the Legislature could use the state’s BP
money to offset spending they would otherwise make on the Gulf Coast – the so-called
“fungibility” principle – and still share the
wealth with central and northern counties.
Regardless, the looming sectional battle over the state’s BP settlement will be a
prime mover in the 2017 regular session of
the Legislature – or in possible special sessions that may arise earlier.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

OPINION

Larger causes: God, family
and country
“Never forget!”
Those of us who
lived it will never
forget! But, it’s
just another Zinnian history lesson
to the next generation, told in political terms with hateful accusations and Daniel Gardner
divisive innuendo.
Contributing
In a time when
Columnist
whiny protests by
ungrateful and irreverent athletes are mimicked and applauded by a whining generation who know their rights but little else,
much less the truth, we need to make time
to honor real heroes who truly loved family, friends, and country to the point of
sacrificing their very lives to save countless
other lives they did not even know.
September 11, 2001, dawned a beautiful, blue sky day in America. Too soon

smoke and ashes blotted out sunlight and
rained sorrow down on all true patriots.
Two commercial jetliners piloted by radical
Islamic terrorists flew into the two towers
of the World Trade Center in New York
City. A third jetliner hijacked by other Islamic terrorists was flying toward Washington, DC.
Passengers onboard United Flight 93
flying from Newark, NJ, to San Francisco,
CA, knew their aircraft had been hijacked.
Because they had access to telephones on
the plane, they called loved ones only to
learn how dire their circumstances really
were. Then they made a plan.
Ten years later in his speech dedicating
the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville,
PA, President George W. Bush described
the disparate group of passengers on Flight
93 this way:
“Aboard United Airlines Flight 93 were

See GARDNER | Page 5A

OPINION

Bear memories
This was September of 1971. Alabama
had just unveiled a surprise Wishbone offense and stunned No. 3 Southern Cal at
the Coliseum in Los Angeles, reversing a
three-touchdown defeat the year before.
Bear Bryant was back. What’s more, the
Crimson Tide was to next play Southern
Miss. I was an 18-year-old sports reporter
for the Hattiesburg American, dispatched
to Tuscaloosa to cover Bryant’s regular
Tuesday press conference.
With No. 1 ranked Alabama coming to
Ole Miss Saturday, now seems a good time
to recount this story.
Understand, in 1971, in the Deep South,
Bear Bryant was as close as we had to deity
on earth. I had a new Ford Pinto with an
engine that sounded like a sewing machine.
I left 30 minutes early to make the 180-mile
trip with time to spare. Just the Alabama side
of Meridian, my left rear tire blew. This was
during a September heat wave. I couldn’t get
the flimsy jack to work. So I sweated and I
cussed and I got grease all over me. Then I
sweated some more and cussed some more,
knowing I was late. I couldn't make up time
in my sewing machine.

Greasy, sweaty and embarrassed, I got
to Alabama athletic offices a few minutes
after the press conference ended. Charley
Thornton, Alabama’s splendid sports information director back then, looked at me
and asked what happened. I told him, and
added, “Mr. Thornton, if I don’t get an interview with Coach Bryant, they might fire
me back home.”
Thornton said he’d see what he could
do and he walked down the hall. Then he
came back and told me to follow him, and
I did. And we walked into this spacious office with a desk that seemed about as big as
an end zone. Behind that mammoth desk,
leaning back in his chair, eating a barbecue
rib with his huge, socked feet propped up
on the desk, was Paul “Bear” Bryant.
He might as well have been God.
Thornton said, “Coach said he has 10
minutes for you,” and then he left. It was
Bear and me, all alone. He shoved a box of
ribs over and said, “Charley tells me you’re
Ace’s boy. Have a rib …”
I would have choked on it. I was still
hot and sweaty with a parched throat, and
now I was nervous as all Hades, as well. I

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said no thanks, but that I really appreciated
him letting me interrupt his lunch.
“Suit yourself,” he said. “They’re mighty
good. What can I do for you?”
I had prepared questions the night before, rehearsed them on my way over. In
my haste, I had left all that in the sewing
machine. I opened my mouth and … nothing came out. I froze. I choked.
Bryant waited several seconds, smiled
and then he said, “Aw, (rhymes with skit),
son, spit it out ….”
It was as if he knew just what to say. Just
as suddenly as my brain had frozen, everything came back. I got a splendid interview
that was more like a conversation. He of
course told me he was really worried about
Southern, because they always played Alabama tough and he knew his boys might be
cocky after winning at Southern Cal. He
made USM, an average team at best, sound
like the Green Bay Packers.
We went on longer than 10 minutes and
then he invited me to practice. And then
he drove me out to practice in his golf cart.
And then he took me up on his tower with
him. I felt as if I was in heaven, with deity.

Bryant
pretty
much let his assistants handle practice.
And then he directed
me to his favorite
tire store and said to
tell them he sent me.
Later that week, I returned to Tuscaloosa
Rick Cleveland – in somebody else’s
car – and watched
Syndicated
Bryant’s boys disColumnist
mantle
Southern
Miss 42 to 6. I covered many more of Bryant’s games over the years, games against Ole
Miss, State and USM and also in bowl games
that won national championships.
I covered Bear's last game at the Liberty
Bowl and I covered his funeral a month later. Many believe he was the greatest coach
ever. I tend to agree. He’s certainly in
the first sentence when the subject arises.
What's more, he was mighty good to me.

Rick Cleveland is a syndicated columnist
based in Jackson. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

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