February 25, 2008 Rotogram

HONORS PROGRAM AT MSU

Our guest today is Cade Smith, Director of the Appalachian Leadership Honors Program at MSU.

ROTARY BANQUET NEXT MONDAY

Next Monday (March 3) is our annual banquet at Starkville Country Club. There will be a “social hour”  at 6:00 with dinner at 6:45.

The banquet is our official meeting for the week. There will be NO NOON MEETING next week.
Today is the deadline for reservations.

MARCH PROGRAM LINEUP

March 10: Joan Wilson. Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum.
March 17: Virginia Holtkamp, Starkville Public Library.
March 24: Mike Hainsey, Director of the Golden  Triangle Regional Airport.
March 31: Rotary Exchange Student Maryna Melnik, will tell about her home in Belarus and her Youth Exchange experiences.

LAST WEEK AT ROTARY

Attendance: Whether it was the flu that has been taking its toll throughout the community and campus or the fact that it was Presidents’ Day, attendance last Monday was close to an all-time low for a regular meeting (45.26%). There were 91 Rotarians present – only 59 actives and 32 exempts. The absentees included 78 active, 22 exempt, and all nine honorary members.
Too early for spring fever! Three of our 202 members are on leave. There were no makeups reported.

Invocation and Pledge: Briar Jones

Visitors and Guests: Visiting Rotarians were Bill Overstreet and Eddie Longstreet of West Point.  Guests included Bill Ford of Briar Jones; Hank Williams of Prentiss Gordon; and Club guests Maryna Melnik and Negrita Caicedo (Rotary Youth Exchange students) and Paul Sims (Starkville Daily News).

Rotary Minute: Dinah Jordan’s Rotary Minute was reminding us of next week’s annual banquet. Dinah quoted a glowing  description of the Club’s very first banquet published in the April 25, 1924 issue of East Mississippi Times.

“Through the years, it was called the RotaryAnn Banquet. But after membership was open to women, it became known as the Annual Banquet.” It’s a time of fellowship and presenting awards for outstanding service.

The evening at the Country Club will begin at 6 with a social hour (“a great chance to mingle,” Dinah said).  Dinner will be at 6:45. She assured members that there will NOT be a speaker, but annual Club awards will be given and two community members (non-Rotarians) who have exemplified Rotary’s motto will be recognized and made Paul Harris Fellows.

Meeting Notes:  President Ned Browning altered the program to enable Rep. Zuber to speak early so he and Gary Chism could make a called House session at 2 p.m. in Jackson.

Ned announced a meeting of the Membership – Classifications Committee.
There was also a called meeting of the Board of Directors to discuss the Long-Range Plan.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE  REFORM

State Representative Hank Zuber ( R )  is passionate about cleaning up Mississippi’s campaign finance laws. Specifically, he wants to make it illegal for a public official to convert campaign funds to personal use.

Rep. Zuber, who is from Ocean Springs, represents House District 113 that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. First elected in the Nov. 1999 election, he has been reelected unopposed to his third term.

After expressing gratitude to our club, community, and other organizations and volunteers who have continued to help in the Katrina recovery efforts, Zuber turned his attention to campaign finance reform.

“About a year-and-a-half ago, at the end of a town meeting in my district, a gentleman held up his hand and I recognized him. He said something like ‘I wish someone would do something about public officials  taking unused  campaign money as personal income.’ I told him I didn’t think that was legal but I’d certainly  look into it.”

Zuber was surprised when his research showed that such a practice was indeed legal. “In Mississippi, it is legal to use leftover campaign funds as personal income as long as it is reported as income and taxes paid,” Zuber said.

He authored House Bill 363 to make the practice illegal. The bill was referred to both the Judiciary Aid and Apportionment and Election Committees and Zuber isn’t optimistic it will be reported out for action this session. Rep. Gary Chism is trying to help get it out of committee, but there’s not much support for the bill.

“Rep. Tommy Reynolds, chair of the Apportionment and Elections Committee asked me if this is really problematic. I don’t know if it’s a problem, but that doesn’t make any difference. We need to make sure it’s never a problem in the future.

“Why should anyone be entitled to get a windfall just because they ran for public office?”

His bill would prohibit unused funds from being claimed as  personal income.  It would authorize such funds to be given  to another candidate’s campaign, to a charitable organization, returned on a pro rata basis to donors, or utilized for public  projects within the district.

“I think that once it (HB 363) gets to the floor it will pass.  I have legal staff looking for a bill that we can amend to get this passed,” he said.

He has another bill (HB 57) that extends from 1 year to 4 years the period of time a legislator ending his/her term must wait until he/she can become a registered lobbyist in the state.

Zuber admits that lobbyists are helpful to legislators. But he wants to extend the interval to the same as the legislative term to lessen the likelihood of a former legislator taking advantage of relationships with former colleagues. In Mississippi, anyone can register as a lobbyist with the Secretary of State for a very modest $25 fee.

The problem is greater at the national level where there are more than 35,000 registered lobbyists. There are also 250 different caucuses in Congress (only four in the Mississippi Legislature). All have strong self interests making it difficult to get anything passed.

He challenged Rotarians to get involved and make our voices heard. “The legislative process is actually very open. Contact your representative. It’s really not difficult to get a hearing.  People have the power. Get involved. Hold your elected public officials  at all levels accountable. We need more public input to get the system back in balance.”

He responded to several questions.

Who will have regulation authority under Zuber’s  bill? It would fall under the Secretary of State, who now has jurisdiction.

The current corruption charges against judges has far greater implications than any problems with legislators, Zuber said in response to a question. “If the public loses faith in our judicial system, it’s the first step towards anarchy.”

ROTARY RODEO A BIG SUCCESS

Loren Zimmerman gave a preliminary report on the successful weekend rodeo. There was a good crowd Friday night and a near capacity crowd Saturday. He recognized Rotarians who helped, including RYE’s Maryna and Negrita. He especially pointed to the efforts of Bricklee Miller, Kristi Brown, Carolyn Jackson, and Larry Mullins. But all of us are aware that this wouldn’t have flown without Loren’s efforts. THANKS, LOREN, for a job well done!

WHAT’S DEDUCTIBLE?

How much of our Rotary dues can be deducted this year? Treasurer Jeff Read has calculated that $175.63 of our annual dues go for service projects and can be deducted. If weren’t a member for all of 2007, that amount needs to be proportionately reduced.

In addition, you can deduct your Paul Harris Sustaining Member payments. However, quarterly payments are sent to Rotary Foundation each June, if you’ve been a member since July 1, 2006, you can deduct the full $100. Otherwise only the first two quarters of 2007 ($25 per quarter) can be claimed.  Collections from the two last quarters (July 1-Dec. 31) of 2007 won’t get to the Foundation until June 2008.

Previous post:

Next post: