REPORT FROM CONGRESS
Today, we welcome U.S. Rep. Greg Harper, who was elected last November to represent Mississippi’s Third Congressional District.
FEDERAL JUDGE NEXT WEEK’S GUEST
Next Monday, our speaker will be The Honorable Sharion Aycock, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Mississippi. The Tupelo native and MSU graduate was nominated to the Federal bench by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in October 2007.
LAST WEEK AT ROTARY
Attendance: There were 114 members (75 actives, 37 exempt, and 2 honorary) present, and 86 (52 actives, 16 exempt, and 8 honorary) members absent. Three members are on leave.
Invocation and Pledge: Grant Arinder.
Visitors and Guests: Visiting Rotarian was Bill Overstreet of West Point. Guests included Andy Hughes of Bill Foster, Jennifer Glaze of Jon Maynard; and Club guests Joe Ammerman of the State Insurance Commission, Jarred Reneau (Ambassador Scholar), Taka Sato (RYE student), and Brian Hawkins (Starkville Daily News).
Meeting Notes: President Chip expressed the condolences of all Rotarians to John and Mary Tkach, whose daughter Julia, was killed in a tragic traffic accident over the weekend
He congratulated Rotarian Bill Robinson on the recent birth of a new grandchild.
Meetings of the Board of Directors and the Membership/Classification Committee were held following adjournment of Rotary.
New Air Service. Monday saw the initiation of new air service from GTR Airport to Memphis. Congratulations to Mike Hainsey for his efforts to expand GTR services for air travelers.
INSURANCE STYMIES COASTAL REBUILDING
When Mike Chaney was elected State Insurance Commissioner in 2007, he knew he’d face major challenges in his new post and “felt like a dog chasing a car!” Two of the most critical issues he’s dealing with are the lack of both affordable housing and insurance standing as barriers to rebuilding the Gulf Coast; and rapidly rising costs of health insurance, especially long-term care policies.
“The lower three counties have 16 percent of the state’s population. As the Coast goes, Mississippi goes with it,” Chaney said, pointing out that 3 ½ years after Katrina, there has been very little change since the initial cleanup. “It’s not the lack of affordable housing alone – we need affordable insurance! Right now, people can’t afford to live there!”
This became sharply clear to him recently when Northrop Grumman representatives told him in no uncertain terms that the company would have to locate its shipbuilding somewhere else if there’s not affordable housing for workers. “The state will lose 5,000 jobs in 24 months if we can’t get affordable housing and insurance,” Chaney said.
Three things have to happen. There must be effective enforceable building codes, we must ensure proper land use, and all building must be above the flood plain (“the Indians knew this 30,000 years ago,” he remarked).
Building codes need to include things that make a building more likely to withstand hurricane force winds. He said that running a small bead of new polymer glue down each rafter fastens it to the plywood decking making the roof more secure. Hurricane clips used to fasten roofs to walls and walls to the foundation or slab can increase the strength of the house by 40 percent. The use of leading edge technology on roof lines can also mitigate hurricane damage. Such things would add about $3,500 to the cost of an average residence, he said.
“We DO care about what we’re doing on the Coast. We’re working with insurance companies to try and get rates down.”
When asked if he’s aware that holders of long-term care insurance have seen costs rise sharply, he replied, “Yes! Long-term care insurance costs have doubled in the last 2 years.” He said these rates can be raised 25 percent without approval by the Insurance Commission.
“I’m looking seriously at health insurance costs as well as the costs of drugs. But this is really a can of worms,” he admitted. “The new bio-engineered drugs that improve the quality of life for individuals with the most debilitating illnesses are unbelievably expensive.”
Commissioner Chaney has many other challenges. Among his concerns are reducing the number of fire deaths in the state. Last year, 78 Mississippians died in fires, the largest per capita loss of life to fire of any state.
His responsibilities include the State Fire Academy that trains volunteer firemen and supports some 1,165 volunteer departments located throughout the state. He oversees a Rural Fire Truck Acquisition Assistance Program that last year spent $27 million for fire fighter apparatus.
He said that on July 1, Mississippi will become the 34th state to join the Insurance Product Regulation Commission, an interstate compact to coordinate insurance regulation.
He used a rapid-paced PowerPoint presentation to review new and existing legislation dealing with everything from firefighter protection to licensing and establishing state fire safety standards.
Before answering a number of questions from the audience, he said he’s proud of the new Insurance Commission website that recently went on line and invited Rotarians to check it out at www.mid.state.ms.us.
Even before he was elected to his present post, Chaney was deeply involved in insurance regulation. As a member of the Senate Insurance Committee he was one of the authors of the 2007 Wind Pool Insurance bills and was named 2007 Legislator of the Year by the Mississippi Homebuilders Association for his legislative work in rebuilding the coast after Hurricane Katrina. The Tupelo native and long-time resident of Vicksburg is a 1966 Business and Finance graduate of Mississippi State and a Vietnam veteran. He was introduced by Rep. Gary Chism.
PROPOSED FOR MEMBERSHIP
Andy Hughes, new president of Merchants and Farmers Bank, is proposed for membership in our Club by Bill Foster. Andy has been a Rotarian in former communities and will hold a Banking classification.
ROTARIANS WITH MAY BIRTHDAYS
Rotarians with birthdays in May include John Robert Arnold, Tom Ball, Larry Box, Melissa Dixon, Carolyn Jackson, Paul Millsaps, Brian Portera, Lynne Richardson, John Simpson, Jim Tisdale, and Tony Vizzini.
OFF AND RUNNING
Incoming President Martha Wells kicked off the 2009-10 club year last Tuesday with a well-organized and ambitious plan enthusiastically endorsed by officers and committee chairmen. The retreat was hosted by Assistant District Governor Larry Mullins.